Philosophy Colloquium: Evil People

Posted on 3/31/2016 9:10:43 AM

The Philosophy Department is pleased to announce that James Sias (Dickinson College) will give a talk titled “Evil People” on Friday, April 15, at 3:30 p.m. in the Humanities and Social Sciences building, Room 215. 


For almost a half-century, and fueled especially in recent years by an increasing presence of the term “evil” in public moral discourse, a growing number of philosophers have become interested in the concept of moral evil. Is there such a concept, and if so, to what does it apply? What, for instance, would make an action count as evil, as opposed to just very wrong (or very, very wrong)?

In this talk, I discuss a curious asymmetry in people’s intuitions about evil—namely, the fact that people are apparently more willing to allow that there are evil actions than they are to allow that there are evil people.

After addressing two fairly common sources of skepticism about evil personhood, I then describe and critique a few of the more common philosophical theories of evil personhood. Finally, I suggest my own theory of evil personhood, which draws much of its inspiration from the work of Hannah Arendt—who, it is perhaps worth noting, is widely regarded as the first 20th-century moral philosopher to take seriously the concept of moral evil.