Kant's Theory of Radical Evil

Claudia Card

in The Atrocity Paradigm

Published in print October 2002 | ISBN: 9780195145083
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199833115 | DOI:
 Kant's Theory of Radical Evil

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According to Kant, we become radically evil when we subordinate the moral law to our own self‐interest (prudence). He holds that we never do wrong for the sake of doing wrong but only for the sake of prudence or from inclinations to more limited goods. Kant neglects the existence of evil interests and desires, and offers a narrow view of possible immoral principles, overlooking principles of national chauvinism, for example, which need not even appear to be prudent. His neglect of suffering and harm to victims results in a theoretical failure to distinguish what is wrong with evils, such as murder and mayhem, from what is wrong with ordinary transgressions, such as petty theft. Although the sources of evil remain a mystery for Kant, Christine Korsgaard's analysis of normativity and Lorna Smith Benjamin's theory of social behavior suggest an answer to Kant's mystery, namely, that our practical principles (whether good or evil) are based on our wishes to be the kind of person who would be worthy of the love or esteem of someone who is (or was) important to us (someone who may be good or evil) and that our principles can change as we abandon those wishes.

Keywords: Lorna Smith Benjamin; chauvinism; Kant; Christine Korsgaard; moral law; prudence; radical evil; self‐interest; social behavior

Chapter.  11508 words. 

Subjects: Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art

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