The case is discussed for the doctrine of hell as posing a unique problem of evil for adherents to the Abrahamic religions who endorse traditional theism. The problem is particularly acute for those who accept retributivist formulations of the doctrine of hell according to which hell is everlasting punishment for failing to satisfy some requirement. Alternatives to retributivism are discussed, including the unique difficulties that each one faces.
J.L. Mackie’s version of the logical problem of evil is a failure, as even he came to recognize. Contrary to current mythology, however, its failure was not established by Alvin Plantinga’s Free Will Defense. That’s because a defense is successful only if it is not reasonable to refrain from believing any of the claims that constitute it, but it is reasonable to refrain from believing the central claim of Plantinga’s Free Will Defense, namely the claim that, possibly, every essence (...) suffers from transworld depravity. (shrink)
I extend my direct virtue epistemology to explain how a knowledge-first framework can account for two kinds of positive epistemic standing, one tracked by externalists, who claim that the virtuous duplicate lacks justification, the other tracked by internalists, who claim that the virtuous duplicate has justification, and moreover that such justification is not enjoyed by the vicious duplicate. It also explains what these kinds of epistemic standing have to do with each other. I argue that all justified beliefs are good (...) candidates for knowledge, and are such because they are exercises of competences to know. However, there are two importantly different senses in which a belief may be a good candidate for knowledge, one corresponding to an externalist kind of justification and the other corresponding to an internalist one. I show how the account solves the new evil demon problem in a more satisfactory way than existing accounts. We end up with a view of knowledge, justification, and rationality that is plausible, motivated, and theoretically unified. (shrink)
This essay consists of two parts. Part I offers an explanation of Berkeley's understanding of the relationship between materialism and evil. Berkeley regards materialism as the chief instrumental cause of evil in the world. It is the belief in matter that encourages us to believe that God is not immediately, intimately present in every aspect of our life. Immaterialism, by contrast, makes God's immediate presence vivid and thereby serves to undermine the motivation to vice. Part II locates Berkeley's (...) view on matter and evil within the Christian Neoplatonic tradition. I compare Plotinus' minimalist approach to matter and his identification of matter with evil to Berkeley's eliminitivism about matter and his corresponding identification of materialism as the chief source of evil. (shrink)
This chapter discusses the two most prominent recent evidential arguments from evil, due, respectively, to William Rowe and Paul Draper. I argue that neither of these evidential arguments from evil is successful, i.e. such that it ought to persuade anyone who believes in God to give up that belief. In my view, theists can rationally maintain that each of these evidential arguments from evil contains at least one false premise.
What distinguishes evils from ordinary wrongs? Is hatred a necessarily evil? Are some evils unforgivable? Are there evils we should tolerate? What can make evils hard to recognize? Are evils inevitable? How can we best respond to and live with evils? Claudia Card offers a secular theory of evil that responds to these questions and more. Evils, according to her theory, have two fundamental components. One component is reasonably foreseeable intolerable harm -- harm that makes a life indecent (...) and impossible or that makes a death indecent. The other component is culpable wrongdoing. Atrocities, such as genocides, slavery, war rape, torture, and severe child abuse, are Card's paradigms because in them these key elements are writ large. Atrocities deserve more attention than secular philosophers have so far paid them. They are distinguished from ordinary wrongs not by the psychological states of evildoers but by the seriousness of the harm that is done. Evildoers need not be sadistic:they may simply be negligent or unscrupulous in pursuing their goals. Card's theory represents a compromise between classic utilitarian and stoic alternatives (including Kant's theory of radical evil). Utilitarians tend to reduce evils to their harms; Stoics tend to reduce evils to the wickedness of perpetrators: Card accepts neither reduction. She also responds to Nietzsche's challenges about the worth of the concept of evil, and she uses her theory to argue that evils are more important than merely unjust inequalities. She applies the theory in explorations of war rape and violence against intimates. She also takes up what Primo Levi called "the gray zone", where victims become complicit in perpetrating on others evils that threaten to engulf themselves. While most past accounts of evil have focused on perpetrators, Card begins instead from the position of the victims, but then considers more generally how to respond to -- and live with -- evils, as victims, as perpetrators, and as those who have become both. (shrink)
It has often been noted that evil – by which I mean evil in human motivation and action – is difficult to understand. We find it hard to make sense of what ‘drives’ a person to commit evil. This is not because we cannot recognise or identify with some aspect of the psychology of evil; we all experience feelings of envy, spite, cruelty, and hatred. But somehow this shared experience can seem insufficient, and we are left (...) at a loss as to how such natural, universal human motivations could have resulted in this. The aims of this paper are modest, to do no more than point in a particular direction our attempts to understand the psychology of evil. §2 is a synoptic overview of what I shall call the ‘traditional’ picture of the psychology of evil. In §3, I argue that this picture is explanatorily inadequate. §§4-6 develop the traditional picture by suggesting some resources drawn from psychoanalytic theory that can meet the explanatory challenge. My argument here is schematic, seeking only to motivate a research project. It would take a much longer exploration of these resources, providing far more psychological detail, to work out what can rightfully be called an account of the psychology of evil. §7 situates the psychology of evil in relation to ‘normal’ psychology by noting the positive functions of mental processes involved in the psychology of evil. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that there is a kind of evil, namely, the unequal distribution of natural endowments, or natural inequality, which presents theists with a new evidential problem of evil. The problem of natural inequality is a new evidential problem of evil not only because, to the best of my knowledge, it has not yet been discussed in the literature, but also because available theodicies, such the free will defense and the soul-making defense, are not (...) adequate responses in the face of this particular evil, or so I argue. (shrink)
Although Greek virtue theory, Kantian ethics, and utilitarianism contend that evil and moral tragedy can be avoided, my paper will argue that our recognition of their inevitability provides the only means toward taking full moral responsibility for one’s agency. It is especially tragic to observe that wrongdoing is often inescapable. An agent may have overriding moral reasons to pursue one course of action over another, and yet in making the morally best choice the individual nevertheless transgresses a moral value. (...) My paper will argue that recognizing the inevitability of evil and moral tragedy and the connection between them provides the resources for diminishing them both. Conversely, faith in the ability of reason and decency to conquer evil leads to tragedy. To deny the inevitability of evil and moral tragedy is to deny essential features of moral life. Such a denial clearly leads to an inability to respond to others in the face of evil and tragedy. The proper response to the inevitability of evil and moral tragedy is not the fabrication of an abstract moral principle that denies their existence, but inquiry into their nature. (shrink)
If there is one lesson that Hannah Arendt drew from her encounter with Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem it was that the moral and political dangers of thoughtlessness had been grossly underestimated. But while thoughtlessness clearly “has its perils”, (LMT 177) as the example of Eichmann illustrates, thoughtfulness has its own problems, as the example of Heidegger illustrates. In the course of her 1964 interview with Günter Gaus, Arendt recalls her distaste for “intellectual business” that arose from witnessing the widespread and (...) “relatively voluntary” Gleichshaltung (co-ordination) of German “intellectuals” with the Nazis in 1933 (EU: 10). This was the year that Heidegger, Arendt’s former teacher and friend, “entered the Nazi Party in a very sensational way” (EU: 187). But Heidegger is for Arendt also a paragon of thoughtfulness who exposes the “incomprehensible triviality” (or banality) of “the they” and their “mere talk” (MDT: ix). This raises the following question: how can thoughtfulness, in the guise of Heidegger, and thoughtlessness, in the guise of Eichmann, both (though to a very different extent) lead to ‘co-ordination’ with the Nazis? What does this tell us about the relation between thinking and evil? (shrink)
The problem of evil is the most prominent argument against the existence of God. Skeptical theists contend that it is not a good argument. Their reasons for this contention vary widely, involving such notions as CORNEA, epistemic appearances, 'gratuitous' evils, 'levering' evidence, and the representativeness of goods. We aim to dispel some confusions about these notions, in particular by clarifying their roles within a probabilistic epistemology. In addition, we develop new responses to the problem of evil from both (...) the phenomenal conception of evidence and the knowledge-first view of evidence. (shrink)
This study examines a model involving income, the love of money, pay satisfaction, organizational commitment, job changes, and unethical behavior among 211 full-time employees in Hong Kong, China. Direct paths suggested that the love of money was related to unethical behavior, but income (money) was not. Indirect paths showed that income was negatively related to the love of money that, in turn, was negatively related to pay satisfaction that, in turn, was negatively associated with unethical behavior. Pay satisfaction was positively (...) related to organizational commitment. Thus, the love of money is the root of evil, but money is not. (shrink)
In common with traditional forms of epistemic internalism, epistemological disjunctivism attempts to incorporate an awareness condition on justification. Unlike traditional forms of internalism, however, epistemological disjunctivism rejects the so-called New Evil Genius thesis. In so far as epistemological disjunctivism rejects the New Evil Genius thesis, it is revisionary. -/- After explaining what epistemological disjunctivism is, and how it relates to traditional forms of epistemic internalism / externalism, I shall argue that the epistemological disjunctivist’s account of the intuitions underlying (...) the New Evil Genius thought experiment is at best incomplete. As presented, therefore, epistemological disjunctivism is unable to accommodate the core guiding intuitions of epistemic internalism. Given the stated aim of not being revisionary on this score, the view is at a dialectical disadvantage over the traditional forms of epistemic internalism the position is meant to replace. Unfortunately, therefore, at present, the impasse between internalism and externalism remains. (shrink)
Many people think that the amount of evil and suffering we observe provides important and perhaps decisive evidence against the claim that a loving God created our world. Yet almost nobody worries about the ethics of human procreation. Can these attitudes be consistently maintained? This chapter argues that the most obvious attempts to justify a positive answer fail. The upshot is not that procreation is impermissible, but rather that we should either revise our beliefs about the severity of global (...) arguments from evil or develop new and better defenses of human procreation. Although both possibilities are worthy of pursuit, this chapter focuses on the latter possibility. (shrink)
Raimond Gaita's Good and Evil is one of the most important, original and provocative books on the nature of morality to have been published in recent years. It is essential reading for anyone interested in what it means to talk about good and evil. Gaita argues that questions about morality are inseparable from the preciousness of each human being, an issue we can only address if we place the idea of remorse at the centre of moral life. Drawing (...) on an astonishing range of thinkers and writers, including Plato, Wittgenstein, George Orwell and Primo Levi, Gaita also reflects on the place of reason and truth in morality and ultimately how questions about good and evil are connected to the meaning of our lives. This revised edition of Good and Evil includes a substantial new preface and afterword by the author. (shrink)
The existence of evil is held to pose philosophical problems only for theists. I argue that the existence of evil gives rise to a philosophical problem which confronts theist and atheist alike. The problem is constituted by the following claims: (1) human beings must trust in a good-enough world; (2) the actual world is not-good-enough (i.e., sufficient evil exists). It follows that every successful human being maintains a state of epistemic ignorance regarding the nature of the actual (...) world. Theists resolve this problem by rejecting (2), only to confront the problem of evil as traditionally understood. Atheists also reject (2), but without adequate grounds for doing so. (shrink)
The vast amount of suffering in the world is often held as a particularly powerful reason to deny that God exists. Now, one of the world's most distinguished philosophers of religion presents his own position on the problem of evil. Highly accessible and sensitively argued, Peter van Inwagen's book argues that such reasoning does not hold: his conclusion is not that God exists, but that suffering cannot be shown to prove that He does not.
I try to differentiate evil from ordinary wrong-doing without succumbing to a demonic account of evilthat makes the motivation for awful actions different in kind to that for less awful ones. I argue that much - not all - evil is perpetrated by people disturbingly like the rest of us. I discuss the possibility that evil is a dangerous and self-perpetuating concept, licencing us to label people in ways that encourage atrocity. I allow that there is a (...) lot to this suggestion while also insisting that the distinction between wrong and evil is robust. I raise the possibility that evil and ordinary wrong are in some ways orthogonal, so that one act may be more wrong but less evil than another (and conversely.) I might add that my account has nothing to do with theodicy. In fact I think the traditional 'problem of evil' is a distraction from more important issues. (shrink)
Natural disasters would seem to constitute evidence against the existence of God, for, on the face of things, it is mysterious why a completely good and all-powerful God would allow the sort of suffering we see from earthquakes, diseases, and the like. The skeptical theist replies that we should not expect to be able to understand God's ways, and thus we should not regard it as surprising or mysterious that God would allow natural evil. I argue that skeptical theism (...) leads to moral paralysis: accepting skeptical theism would undermine our ability to make any moral judgments whatsoever. Second, and more briefly, I argue that skeptical theism would undercut our ability to accept any form of the argument from design, including recent approaches based on fine-tuning. (shrink)
The category of metaphysical evil introduced by Leibniz appears to cast a sinister shadow over the goodness of creation. It seems to imply that creatures, simply in virtue of not being gods, are to some degree intrinsically and inescapably evil. After briefly unpacking this difficulty and outlining a recent attempt to deal with it, this paper returns to the texts to propose a novel and multilayered understanding of Leibniz’s category of metaphysical evil by reading it against the (...) backdrop of the traditional typologies of evil with which he was unquestionably familiar. It comes to the conclusion that metaphysical evil plays two key roles for Leibniz. First, it captures what Aquinas and especially Suarez meant by ‘natural evil’. Contrary to the common assumption that it is Leibniz’s category of physical evil that holds the place of natural evil, the paper shows that Leibniz’s physical evil corresponds to Augustine’s category of evil of punishment for sin whereas natural evil – intended as a kind of evil which is not related to moral responsibility -- is subsumed under metaphysical evil. Secondly, the category of metaphysical evil covers also the notion of original creaturely imperfection. In classifying creaturely limitation as a kind of evil Leibniz breaks from the Augustinian-Thomist-Scholastic tradition and its distinction between negatio and privatio. On the other hand, notwithstanding this important break, Leibniz’s notion of metaphysical evil is intended to account for something which is firmly within the broadly Augustinian-Scholastic tradition, namely the ascription to all creatures of a limitation that stems from their being created ex nihilo. Finally, the paper returns a verdict of non-guilty to the charge that Leibniz’s metaphysical evil implies that creatures qua creatures are to some extent necessarily intrinsically evil. More generally, in typical Leibnizian fashion, the notion of metaphysical evil will appear to be a complex mix of indebtedness to tradition and bending of received doctrines into something significantly different. (shrink)
The new evil demon problem is often considered to be a serious obstacle for externalist theories of epistemic justification. In this paper, I aim to show that the new evil demon problem also afflicts the two most prominent forms of internalism: moderate internalism and historical internalism. Since virtually all internalists accept at least one of these two forms, it follows that virtually all internalists face the NEDP. My secondary thesis is that many epistemologists face a dilemma. The only (...) form of internalism that is immune to the NEDP, strong internalism, is a very radical and revisionary view – a large number of epistemologists would have to significantly revise their views about justification in order to accept it. Hence, either epistemologists must accept a theory that is susceptible to the NEDP or accept a very radical and revisionary view. (shrink)
The problem of evil -- Aquinas, philosophy, and theology -- What there is -- Goodness and badness -- God the creator -- God's perfection and goodness -- The creator and evil -- Providence and grace -- The trinity and Christ -- Aquinas on god and evil.
Moral reasoning traditionally distinguishes two types of evil:moral (ME) and natural (NE). The standard view is that ME is theproduct of human agency and so includes phenomena such as war,torture and psychological cruelty; that NE is the product ofnonhuman agency, and so includes natural disasters such asearthquakes, floods, disease and famine; and finally, that morecomplex cases are appropriately analysed as a combination of MEand NE. Recently, as a result of developments in autonomousagents in cyberspace, a new class of interesting (...) and importantexamples of hybrid evil has come to light. In this paper, it iscalled artificial evil (AE) and a case is made for considering itto complement ME and NE to produce a more adequate taxonomy. Byisolating the features that have led to the appearance of AE,cyberspace is characterised as a self-contained environment thatforms the essential component in any foundation of the emergingfield of Computer Ethics (CE). It is argued that this goes someway towards providing a methodological explanation of whycyberspace is central to so many of CE's concerns; and it isshown how notions of good and evil can be formulated incyberspace. Of considerable interest is how the propensity for anagent's action to be morally good or evil can be determined evenin the absence of biologically sentient participants and thusallows artificial agents not only to perpetrate evil (and forthat matter good) but conversely to `receive' or `suffer from'it. The thesis defended is that the notion of entropy structure,which encapsulates human value judgement concerning cyberspace ina formal mathematical definition, is sufficient to achieve thispurpose and, moreover, that the concept of AE can be determinedformally, by mathematical methods. A consequence of this approachis that the debate on whether CE should be considered unique, andhence developed as a Macroethics, may be viewed, constructively,in an alternative manner. The case is made that whilst CE issuesare not uncontroversially unique, they are sufficiently novel torender inadequate the approach of standard Macroethics such asUtilitarianism and Deontologism and hence to prompt the searchfor a robust ethical theory that can deal with them successfully.The name Information Ethics (IE) is proposed for that theory. Itis argued that the uniqueness of IE is justified by its beingnon-biologically biased and patient-oriented: IE is anEnvironmental Macroethics based on the concept of data entityrather than life. It follows that the novelty of CE issues suchas AE can be appreciated properly because IE provides a newperspective (though not vice versa). In light of the discussionprovided in this paper, it is concluded that Computer Ethics isworthy of independent study because it requires its ownapplication-specific knowledge and is capable of supporting amethodological foundation, Information Ethics. (shrink)
Card argues that we should not give injustice priority over evil. I agree. But I think Card sets us up for some difficult balancings, for example of small evils against middle sized injustices. I suggest some ways of staying off the tightrope.
Is evil evidence against the existence of God? Even if God and evil are compatible, it remains hotly contested whether evil renders belief in God unreasonable. The Evidential Argument from Evil presents five classic statements on this issue by eminent philosophers and theologians and places them in dialogue with eleven original essays reflecting new thinking by these and other scholars. The volume focuses on two versions of the argument. The first affirms that there is no reason (...) for God to permit either certain specific horrors or the variety and profusion of undeserved suffering. The second asserts that pleasure and pain, given their biological role, are better explained by hypotheses other than theism. -/- Contributors include William P. Alston, Paul Draper, Richard M. Gale, Daniel Howard-Snyder, Alvin Plantinga, William L. Rowe, Bruce Russell, Eleonore Stump, Richard G. Swinburne, Peter van Inwagen, and Stephen John Wykstra. (shrink)
A commonly accepted claim by philosophers investigating the nature of evil is that the evil person is, in some way, the mirror image of the moral saint. In this paper I will defend a new version of this thesis. I will argue that both the moral saint and the morally evil person are characterized by a lack of conflict between moral and non-moral concerns. However, while the saint achieves this unity through a reconciliation of the two, the (...)evil person does so by eliminating moral concerns from her character. (shrink)
I formulate and defend a version of the many universes (or multiverse) reply to the atheistic argument from evil. Specifically, I argue that (i) if we know that any argument from evil (be it a logical or evidential argument) is sound, then we know that God would be (or at least probably would be) unjustified in actualizing our universe. I then argue that (ii) there might be a multiverse and (iii) if so, then we do not know that (...) God would be (or at least probably would be) unjustified in actualizing our universe. It follows that we cannot know that the atheistic argument from evil is sound, in which case we cannot be certain that the argument succeeds, and so it is rational to refuse to reject theism because of such arguments. (shrink)
I show that Kavka's toxin puzzle raises a problem for the “Responsibility Theodicy,” which holds that the reason God typically does not intervene to stop the evil effects of our actions is that such intervention would undermine the possibility of our being significantly responsible for overcoming and averting evil. This prominent theodicy seems to require that God be able to do what the agent in Kavka's toxin story cannot do: stick by a plan to do some action at (...) a future time even though when that time comes, there will be no good reason for performing that action. I assess various approaches to solving this problem. Along the way, I develop an iterated variant of Kavka's toxin case and argue that the case is not adequately handled by standard causal decision theory. (shrink)
Stewart Cohen’s New Evil Demon argument raises familiar and widely discussed concerns for reliabilist accounts of epistemic justification. A now standard response to this argument, initiated by Alvin Goldman and Ernest Sosa, involves distinguishing different notions of justification. Juan Comesaña has recently and prominently claimed that his Indexical Reliabilism (IR) offers a novel solution in this tradition. We argue, however, that Comesaña’s proposal suffers serious difficulties from the perspective of the philosophy of language. More specifically, we show that the (...) two readings of sentences involving the word ‘justified’ which are required for Comesaña’s solution to the problem are not recoverable within the two-dimensional framework of Robert Stalnaker to which he appeals. We then consider, and reject, an attempt to overcome this difficulty by appeal to a complication of the theory involving counterfactuals, and conclude the paper by sketching our own preferred solution to Cohen’s New Evil Demon. (shrink)
In this article, I assess three contemporary criticisms levelled at Kant’s theory of evil in order to evaluate whether his theory can be saved. Critics argue that Kant does not adequately distinguish between evil and mundane wrongdoing, making his use of the term ‘evil’ emotional hyperbole; by defining evil as the subordination of the moral law to self-love his analysis is seemingly overly simplistic and empirically false; and by focusing solely on the moral character of the (...) perpetrator of evil, Kant’s theory apparently ignores the most salient aspect of evil – the suffering of victims. While I will not claim that Kant provides us with a fully adequate theory of evil, I respond to each of these criticisms and conclude that Kant’s theory can still provide significant insight into both the nature of evil and the moral psychology of perpetrators of evil. (shrink)
Typically, philosophers interested in evil have typically been concerned with reconciling (or not) the apparent existence of gratuitous suffering with the existence of an omnipotent and omniscient and supremely loving and caring Deity. Undeniably, ‘evil’ functions as a mass noun: note the intelligibility of asking “Why is there so much evil in the world?” But ‘evil’ sometimes functions as an adjective and is used variously to describe persons, actions, desires, motives, and intentions; Joel Feinberg even speaks (...) of “evil smells.” In what follows, I shall consider the relationship between evil actions, evildoers—that is, persons disposed to perform evil actions—and evil people. Roughly, I defend the simple thesis that being an evil person just is being an evildoer. (shrink)
This paper aims for a more robust epistemological disjunctivism (ED) by offering on its behalf a new and better response to the ‘new evil genius’ problem. The first section articulates the ‘new evil genius challenge’ (NEG challenge) to ED, specifying its two components: the ‘first-order’ and ‘diagnostic’ problems for ED. The first-order problem challenges proponents of ED to offer some explanation of the intuition behind the thought that your radically deceived duplicate is no less justified than you are (...) for adopting her perceptual beliefs. In the second section, I argue that 'blamelessness' explanations are inadequate to the task and offer better explanations in their place—that of ‘trait-level virtue’ and ‘reasonability’. The diagnostic problem challenges proponents of ED to explain why it is that classical internalists disagree with them about how to interpret 'new evil genius' considerations. The proponent of ED owes some error theory. I tackle this problem in the third section, arguing that classical internalists overlook disjunctivist interpretations of new evil genius intuitions owing to a mistaken commitment to a ‘vindicatory’ explanation of perceptual knowledge. (shrink)
It is widely agreed that the ‘Logical’ Argument from Evil (LAFE) is bankrupt. We aim to rehabilitate the LAFE, in the form of what we call the Normatively Relativised Logical Argument from Evil (NRLAFE). There are many different versions of a NRLAFE. We aim to show that one version, what we call the ‘right relationship’ NRLAFE, poses a significant threat to personal-omniGod-theism—understood as requiring the belief that there is an omnipotent, omniscient, perfectly good person who has created our (...) world—because it appeals to value commitments theists themselves are likely to endorse. The ultimate success of this NRLAFE will rest on developing a theological ethics of right relationship that rejects as morally flawed the exercise of omnipotence first to sustain horrors and then to redeem them. Yet a vindicated NRLAFE of this sort need not require atheism, but only rejection of the standard conception of God as a personal omniGod. (shrink)
In his recent book on the problem of evil, Peter van Inwagen argues that both the global and local arguments from evil are failures. In this paper, we engagevan Inwagen’s book at two main points. First, we consider his understanding of what it takes for a philosophical argument to succeed. We argue that while his criterion for success is interesting and helpful, there is good reason to think it is too stringent. Second, we consider his responses to the (...) global and local arguments from evil. We argue that although van Inwagen may have adequately responded to each of these arguments, his discussion points us toa third argument from evil to which he has yet to provide a response. (shrink)
Violating the human status : the evil of genocide and crimes against humanity -- Superfluous humanity : the evil of global poverty -- Citizens of nowhere : the evil of statelessness -- Effacing the political : the evil of neoliberal globalization.
Theodicy, the enterprise of searching for greater goods that might plausibly justify God’s permission of evil, is often criticized on the grounds that the project has systematically failed to unearth any such goods. But theodicists also face a deeper challenge, one that places under question the very attempt to look for any morally sufficient reasons God might have for creating a world littered with evil. This ‘anti-theodical’ view argues that theists (and non-theists) ought to reject, primarily for moral (...) reasons, the project of ‘justifying the ways of God to men’. Unfortunately, this view has not received the serious attention it deserves, particularly in analytic philosophy of religion. Taking my cues from such anti-theodicists as Kenneth Surin, D.Z. Phillips and Dostoyevsky’s Ivan Karamazov, I defend several reasons for holding that the way of thinking about God and evil enshrined in theodical discourse can only add to the world’s evils, not remove or illuminate them. (shrink)
The New Evil Demon Problem is meant to show that reliabilism about epistemic justification is incompatible with the intuitive idea that the external-world beliefs of a subject who is the victim of a Cartesian demon could be epistemically justified. Here, I present a new argument that such beliefs can be justified on reliabilism. Whereas others have argued for this conclusion by making some alterations in the formulation of reliabilism, I argue that, as far as the said problem is concerned, (...) such alterations are redundant. No reliabilist should fear the demon. (shrink)
I will argue that cases of massive deception, such as New Evil Demon cases, as well as one-off cases of local deception present challenges to views according to which epistemic reasons, epistemic warrant, epistemic rationality or epistemic norms are factive. In doing so, I will argue is that proponents of a factive turn in epistemology should observe important distinctions between what are often simply referred to as ‘bad cases.’ Recognizing epistemologically significant differences between deception cases raises serious challenges for (...) those who deny a central role for non-factive aspects of epistemology. (shrink)
It is plausible that being an evil person is a matter of having a particularly morally depraved character. I argue that suffering from extreme moral vices—and not consistently lacking moral vices, for example—suffices for being evil. Alternatively, I defend an extremity account concerning evil personhood against consistency accounts of evil personhood. After clarifying what it is for vices to be extreme, I note that the extremity thesis I defend allows that a person could suffer from both (...) extremely vicious character traits while possessing some modest virtue as well. By contrast, consistency theses rule out this possibility by definition. This result does not suggest that extremity accounts are flawed, however, since, as I argue, the thesis that evil people must lack moral virtue altogether effectively defines evil people out of existence and prematurely privileges skepticism about evil personhood. Ultimately, I contend that an extremity account is most consistent with common intuitions about putative evil persons as well as plausible assumptions about aretaic evaluations of character quite generally. (shrink)
Since September 11, 2001, many people in the United States have been more inclined to use the language of good and evil, and to be more comfortable with the idea that certain moral standards are objective (true independently of what anyone happens to think of them). Some people, especially those who are not religious, are not sure how to substantiate this view. Whatever Happened to Good and Evil? provides a basis for exploring these doubts and ultimately defends the (...) objectivity of ethics. Engaging and accessible, it is the first introduction to meta-ethics written especially for students and general readers with no philosophical background. Focusing on the issues at the foundation of morality, it poses such questions as: How can we know what is right and wrong? Does ethical objectivity require God? Why should I be moral? Where do moral standards come from? What is a moral value, and how can it exist in a scientific world? Do cultural diversity and persistent moral disagreement support moral skepticism? Writing in a clear and lively style and employing many examples to illustrate theoretical arguments, Russ Shafer-Landau identifies the many weaknesses in contemporary moral skepticism and devotes considerable attention to presenting, and critiquing, the most difficult objections to his view. Also included in the book are a helpful summary of all the major arguments covered, as well as a glossary of key philosophical terms. Whatever Happened to Good and Evil? is ideal for a variety of philosophy courses and compelling reading for anyone interested in ethics. (shrink)
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. (shrink)
P.F. Strawson defends compatibilism by appeal to our natural commitment to the interpersonal community and the reactive attitudes. While Strawson''s compatibilist project has much to recommend it, his account of moral agency appears incomplete. Gary Watson has attempted to fortify Strawson''s theory by appeal to the notion of moral address. Watson then proceeds to argue, however, that Strawson''s theory of moral responsibility (so fortified) would commit Strawson to treating extreme evil as its own excuse. Watson also argues that the (...) reactive attitudes do not lend unequivocal support to Strawsonian compatibilism and that the reactive attitudes are sometimes sensitive to considerations which suggest an incompatibilist or skeptical diagnosis. Watson attempts to provide a Strawsonian defense against these difficulties, but he ultimately concludes that the skeptical threats raised against Strawsonian compatibilism cannot be sufficiently silenced. I believe that Watson has done Strawsonian compatibilism a great service by drawing upon the notion of moral address. In this paper I attempt to defend the Strawsonian compatibilist position, as Watson has cast it, against the problems raised by Watson. I argue against Watson that Strawson''s theory of responsibility, as well as the notion of moral address, does not commit the Strawsonian to treating extreme evil as its own excuse. I also argue that Watson misinterprets the point of certain reactive attitudes and thereby wrongly assumes that these attitudes are evidence against Strawsonian compatibilism. (shrink)
In Part One of Religion within the Bounds of Bare Reason, Kant repeatedly refers to a “proof ” that human nature has a necessary and universal “evil propensity,” but he provides only obscure hints at its location. Interpreters have failed to identify such an argument in Part One. After examining relevant passages, summarizing recent attempts to reconstruct the argument, and explaining why these do not meet Kant’s stated needs, I argue that the elusive proof must have atranscendental form (called (...) quasi-transcendental because Kant never uses “transcendental” in Religion). With deceptive simplicity, the section titles of Part One, viewed as components in an architechtonic system of religion, constitute steps in just such a proof. (shrink)
It is common these days for theists to argue that we aren’t justified in believing atheism on the basis of evil. They claim that neither facts about particular horrors nor more holistic considerations pertaining to the magnitude, kinds and distribution of evil can ground atheism since we can't tell whether any evil is gratuitous.1 In this paper we explore a novel strategy for shedding light on these issues: we compare the atheist who claims that there is no (...) morally sufficient reason for certain evils with the physicist who claims that there is no causally sufficient reason for some events. (shrink)
In ‘Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason’ Kant presents his thesis that human nature is ‘radically evil’. To be radically evil is to have a propensity toward moral frailty, impurity and even perversity. Kant claims that all humans are ‘by nature’ radically evil. By presenting counter-examples of moral saints, I argue that not all humans are morally corrupt, even if most are. Even so, the possibility of moral failure is central to what makes us human.
In this article, we argue that feminist legal scholars should engage directly and explicitly with the question of evil. Part I summarises key facts surrounding the prosecution and life-long imprisonment of Myra Hindley, one of a tiny number of women involved in multiple killings of children in recent British history. Part II reviews a range of commentaries on Hindley, noting in particular the repeated use of two narratives: the first of these insists that Hindley is an icon of female (...)evil; the second, less popular one, seeks to position her as a victim. In Part III, the article broadens out and we explain why we think feminist legal scholars should look at the question of evil. In large part, the emphasis is on anticipating the range of possible objections to this argument, and on trying to answer these objections by showing how a focus on evil might benefit feminist legal thinking – specifically in relation to the categories of perpetrator and victim and, more generally, in relation to laws motivated by a desire to secure women’s human rights. (shrink)