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DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-L022-2
Version: v2,  Published online: 2011
Retrieved June 22, 2024, from

Article Summary

Evil actions cause grievous, deliberate, gratuitous, morally inexcusable and unjustifiable harm, and their prevalence is the most serious obstacle to our well-being. According to realistic explanations, evil actions reflect the basic ambivalence of our motivation and the resulting struggle for dominance between our moral and immoral propensities. Optimistic explanations deny that our immoral tendencies are basic. The Socratic view is that actions are evil only because of ignorance of the good. The Stoic–Spinozistic view holds that evil is illusory, because what we take to be evil is merely the frustration of irrational desires. And the Leibnizian view is that some evil is necessary, because without it the much greater good could not exist. There are strong reasons for rejecting each of these optimistic explanations of evil. Any realistic attempt to cope with evil must begin with acknowledging that both moral and immoral propensities are inherent and ineliminable parts of our psychological condition.

Citing this article:
Kekes, John. Evil, 2011, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-L022-2. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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