Philosophies of Evil

Phillip Cole

in The Myth of Evil

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print June 2006 | ISBN: 9780748622009
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748671908 | DOI:
Philosophies of Evil

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This chapter examines two key philosophical positions on evil, those of Kant and Nietzsche. Kant represents the classic philosophical conception of evil, which is ‘impure’ – that humans are capable of willing evil acts but not for their own sake, but for the sake of some other goal. This chapter argues that this impure conception is incoherent, because it cannot explain why agents choose this particular method in order to attain their goals when there are others available. Rather than take this philosophical approach, this chapter argues for the validity of a Nietzschean approach, which examines the idea of evil, rather than evil itself. How does the idea of evil arise? It examines Nietzsche's approach in The Genealogy of Morals. Rather than debating the accuracy of his account, the chapter takes the insight that the discourse of evil can be used by the powerful in order to maintain their power, by identifying an ‘evil enemy’ as the focus for group hatred and violence.

Keywords: Philosophy; Kant; Nietzsche

Chapter.  10807 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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