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The Shadow of the Good

Moral theory focuses on the good, moral philosophers dream of a world bereft of evils, is such a world possible?

Overwhelmingly and quite understandably, the focus of moral theory has been on the good and, in our more idealistic moments, moral philosophers, but not only them, dream of a world bereft of evils, particularly moral evils. But is such a world possible? I will argue not only that, as a matter of brute contingent fact, a perfectly good world could not exist, but also that such a world is not even a logical possibility. Without evil goodness could not arise. The intuition guiding this inquiry is that being good is largely a matter of combating evil. Evil, not merely its possibility, one could say, is the excuse for being good. And the amount and variety of expressions of goodness is roughly proportional to the amount and variety of experiences of evil.

The notion of agent-caused evil is not the traditional dualistic notion where evil is understood as an independent demonic force from without. Rather, the idea is that the roots of evil are shared with the roots of goodness. We are good because we are capable of evil. Moreover, in order to be good one must struggle against temptation, against the ever-present risk of the sorts of psychological distortions responsible for the advent of evil; psychological distortions caused by actual evils, moral and otherwise. So, I will determine the common psychological mechanisms responsible for both evil and goodness, thus showing to what extent evil is the shadow of the good.


Dr Pedro Tabensky | talks | www


Date and Time:

25 April 2005 at 5:30 pm


2 hours



Centre for the Study of Global Ethics
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT
0121 414 8447

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