Dispositional accounts of evil personhood

Philosophical Studies 149 (2):231 - 250 (2010)
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Abstract

It is intuitively plausible that not every evildoer is an evil person. In order to make sense of this intuition we need to construct an account of evil personhood in addition to an account of evil action. Some philosophers have offered aggregative accounts of evil personhood, but these do not fit well with common intuitions about the explanatory power of evil personhood, the possibility of moral reform, and the relationship between evil and luck. In contrast, a dispositional account of evil personhood can allow that evil is explanatory, that an evil person can become good, and that luck might prevent evil persons from doing evil or cause non-evil persons to do evil. Yet the dispositional account of evil personhood implies that some evil persons are blameless, which seems to clash with the intuition that evil persons deserve our strongest moral condemnation. Moreover, since it is likely that a large proportion of us are disposed to perform evil actions in some environments, the dispositional account threatens to label a large proportion of people evil. In this paper I consider a range of possible modifications to the dispositional account that might bring it more closely into alignment with our intuitions about moral condemnation and the rarity of evil persons. According to the most plausible of these theories, S is an evil person if S is strongly disposed to perform evil actions when in conditions that favour S's autonomy

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Luke Russell
University of Sydney

Citations of this work

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The Asymmetry of Good and Evil.Philip Pettit - 2015 - In Mark Timmons (ed.), Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics, Volume 5. Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press UK. pp. 15-37.
An exploration of the evil-god challenge.Asha Lancaster-Thomas - 2021 - Dissertation, University of Birmingham
In defense of the mirror thesis.Peter Brian Barry - 2011 - Philosophical Studies 155 (2):199-205.

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Lack of Character: Personality and Moral Behavior.John M. Doris - 2002 - New York: Cambridge University Press.
A Materialist Theory of the Mind.D. Armstrong - 1968 - Philosophical Quarterly 19 (74):73-79.

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