DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-L022-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved August 08, 2020, from

Article Summary

Evil is serious unjustified harm inflicted on sentient beings. Two types of evil can be distinguished: ’natural evil’, which is the product of nonhuman agency, and ’moral evil’, which is the product of human agency. Moral thinking tends to focus on moral evil, and three main interpretations of it have been made. One, initiated by Socrates, holds moral evil to be deviation from the good; another, favoured by Stoic-Spinozists, views it as illusory; the third, made originally by Leibniz, sees it as a contrast necessary for the existence of the good. A realistic account must face the fact that moral evil does exist, and much of it is due to common human vices, which coexist with virtues in human character. It is primarily the proportion of the mixture, not the knowledge and intentions of agents, that determines how much evil will be caused by specific individuals in specific contexts.

    Citing this article:
    Kekes, John. Evil, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-L022-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
    Copyright © 1998-2020 Routledge.

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