Thoughts on Philosophy and Evil

Sharpe, Matthew 2020, Thoughts on Philosophy and Evil, Journal of Camus Studies, vol. 12, pp. 65-100.

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Title Thoughts on Philosophy and Evil
Author(s) Sharpe, MatthewORCID iD for Sharpe, Matthew orcid.org/0000-0002-8165-5775
Journal name Journal of Camus Studies
Volume number 12
Article ID 5
Start page 65
End page 100
Total pages 35
Publisher Albert Camus Society
Place of publication Jacksonville, Ill.
Publication date 2020-12-01
Keyword(s) Camus
evil
philosophy
definition of evil
Summary Philosophers should be passionate about this subject, if they arepassionate about anything. But we should try not to let our passionsblind us to sober, good faith reasoning, otherwise we will cease beingphilosophers at all. So, at the risk of repetition, let me underscore onelast time very clearly what I have argued in this paper, and what I havenot.1. Evil involves the knowing desire to cause crippling life-,meaning-, or world-destroying harm to (an)other morallysalient being(s), for no publically justifiable reason(s);2. Not all philosophy “is” evil, or forms or justifies evil beliefs,motivations, or actions;3. Philosophy’s training of people to challenge their own andothers’ beliefs, as well as the immoderate beliefs at play instrong passions, can play a small but vital role in challenging the intellectual preconditions and rationalizations of forms ofevil;4. Some philosophies nevertheless have formed and rationalizedevil-generative beliefs, motivations, and actions, includingjustifying the very worst historical evils, which makes ametaphilosophical reflection on this subject morally serious;5. The only justifications evil agents can seek for their actionsmust be supramoral, calling into question ordinary beliefs, andas such they will tend to be “philosophy-like” or “pseudophilosophical”, if not formally philosophical;6. Evil-justifying beliefs such as those positing malign invisibleconspiracies which must be combatted, like philosophicalvisions, posit hidden causes and principles shaping apparentactions and events which call into question standard opinionsand perceptions, and to this extent also are pseudophilosophical (but see 3);7. We should be very careful about attempts to deny 4, includingby suppressing reference to disturbing passages in renownedphilosophers, lest this action inadvertently participates in onedimension of evil, the need to publically deny its existence orpossibility;8. The denial that any putative philosophy that propounds evilgenerative beliefs or prescriptions can be “philosophical” isunderstandable, but insufficient;9. Philosophy’s search for hidden causes, natures, structures andfunctions that explain reality as we ordinarily experience it,outside or “above” the “city” of most human life presents avocational hazard that philosophers should guard against: thatof looking down with scorn, contempt, or even hatred of nonphilosophers;10. looking down with scorn, contempt, or even hatred of nonphilosophers is one possible evil-generative belief, or it cancross-pollinate other evil-generative beliefs appealing to other,non-philosophical morality-trumping reasons to scorn, hate,and thus potentially justify cripplingly harming others;11. a metaphilosophy which does not address the relationshipbetween philosophy and evil, as Plato did by including Callicles and Thrasymachus amongst Socrates’ interlocutors, will be decisively incomplete.
Language eng
Indigenous content off
Field of Research 220307 Hermeneutic and Critical Theory
220209 History of Ideas
220305 Ethical Theory
Socio Economic Objective 970122 Expanding Knowledge in Philosophy and Religious Studies
HERDC Research category C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal
Persistent URL http://hdl.handle.net/10536/DRO/DU:30146148

Document type: Journal Article
Collections: Faculty of Arts and Education
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
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