Necessary Evil: Justification, Excuse or Pardon? [Book Review]

Criminal Law and Philosophy 5 (3):333-347 (2011)
  Copy   BIBTEX


The problem of necessary evil is a sub-class of the problem of moral dilemmas. In cases of genuine moral dilemmas the agent cannot avoid doing evil whatever he does. In some cases of genuine moral dilemmas, the options facing the agent are incommensurable. But in some other cases of genuine moral dilemmas, though wrong doing is inescapable, there is a rationally best course of action. These are cases of necessary evil. There are several views regarding the doing of necessary evil. On the closure view it is never necessary to do what is evil. This is the view of some utilitarians and of Kant. Then there are people who believe that it is sometimes necessary to do evil. Of these some (like John Gardner) believe that evil in such cases is justified even though it remains an evil; while there are others (like Gandhi) who believe that evil in such cases can never be justified but it can at best be excused or pardoned. Some even think that in some extreme cases the individual who does evil (even if it is the lesser evil) should be punished even though the individual could not avoid doing evil whatever he chose. The paper stresses the significance of the distinction between justified wrong doing, pardonable wrong doing, and excusable wrong doing



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 89,764

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

A philosophy of evil.Lars Fr H. Svendsen - 2010 - Champaign, IL: Dalkey Archive Press.
Is All Evil Really Only Privation?John F. Crosby - 2001 - Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association 75:197-209.
This side of evil.Michael Gelven - 1998 - Milwaukee, Wis.: Marquette University Press.
Kant on the Limits of Human Evil.Paul Formosa - 2009 - Journal of Philosophical Research 34:189-214.
A Conception of Evil.Paul Formosa - 2008 - Journal of Value Inquiry 42 (2):217-239.
Is evil just very wrong?Todd Calder - 2013 - Philosophical Studies 163 (1):177-196.
The myth of evil: demonizing the enemy.Phillip Cole - 2006 - Westport, Conn.: Praeger.
Dispositional accounts of evil personhood.Luke Russell - 2010 - Philosophical Studies 149 (2):231 - 250.
The Problem of Evil and Moral Scepticism.Brice R. Wachterhauser - 1985 - International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 17 (3):167 - 174.
The nature of evil a reply to Garrard.Christopher Hamilton - 1999 - Philosophical Explorations 2 (2):122 – 138.


Added to PP

89 (#173,394)

6 months
9 (#143,289)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Citations of this work

Violence in a spirit of love: Gandhi and the limits of non-violence.Vinit Haksar - 2012 - Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 15 (3):303-324.
Violating Strict Deontological Constraints: Excuse or Pardon?Rudolf Schuessler - 2015 - Criminal Law and Philosophy 9 (4):587-601.

Add more citations

References found in this work

The metaphysics of morals.Immanuel Kant - 1797/1996 - New York: Cambridge University Press. Edited by Mary J. Gregor.
Utilitarianism.J. S. Mill - 1861 - Oxford University Press UK. Edited by Roger Crisp.
The Right and the Good. Some Problems in Ethics.W. D. Ross - 1930 - Oxford: Clarendon Press. Edited by Philip Stratton-Lake.
Philosophical papers.John Langshaw Austin - 1962 - New York: Oxford University Press. Edited by J. O. Urmson & G. J. Warnock.
Moral thinking: its levels, method, and point.R. M. Hare (ed.) - 1981 - Oxford: Oxford University Press.

View all 21 references / Add more references