Stephen Matthews Stephen.Matthews at acu.edu.au
Mon May 19 19:48:51 AEST 2014

ACU Philosophy Seminar Series

Justin Oakley (Centre for Human Bioethics, Monash University)

Virtue Ethics, role morality, and perverse evildoing


FRIDAY May 23,

2.30 PM – 4.00 PM


North Sydney, MacKillop Level 16 TWH Building

Strathfield, MSM VC Room (E2.45 Room)

In other states: ACU talks are linked by videoconference to all ACU national campuses.

Melbourne, St Patrick's Lv 7 (ROOM 703),  250 Victoria Parade, East Melbourne
Brisbane, McAuley AC.22
Canberra, Signadou 110  Ballarat Aquinas 503.

Enquiries: Steve Matthews (stephen.matthews at acu.edu.au)

The recent situationist critique of virtue ethics has cast doubt on the adequacy of the notion of character which seems to be assumed in such approaches. These doubts also raise correlative concerns about the prospects for any virtue ethics account of wrong action and evildoing that relies on notions of character vices. In this paper I consider the implications of such concerns for character-based accounts of evil actions. I then outline an alternative way in which a virtue ethics account of evildoing might be developed, by focusing on its teleological dimension, in the context of various personal and professional roles. I argue that an agent who brings about foreseeable intolerable harms which directly contravene the proper goals of a role they occupy, thereby typically does something worse, and in an important sense, more evil, than does another agent, who brings about equivalent harms outside that role context. Moreover, I suggest that such moral perversion qua occupant of the relevant role can systematically compound the evil done across a range of cases, and so can be justifiably seen as a distinctive type of evildoing that I call perverse evildoing, understood as a sub-category of evils in general. This sort of evildoing has been neglected in philosophical accounts of evil, and in discussions of virtue ethics.

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