•  2416
    Kant on the radical evil of human nature
    Philosophical Forum 38 (3). 2007.
    In ‘Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason’ Kant presents his thesis that human nature is ‘radically evil’. To be radically evil is to have a propensity toward moral frailty, impurity and even perversity. Kant claims that all humans are ‘by nature’ radically evil. By presenting counter-examples of moral saints, I argue that not all humans are morally corrupt, even if most are. Even so, the possibility of moral failure is central to what makes us human.
  •  873
    Dignity and Respect: How to Apply Kant's Formula of Humanity
    Philosophical Forum 45 (1): 49-68. 2014.
    Kant’s Formula of Humanity (FH) is considered by many, Kant included, to be the most intuitively appealing formulation of the categorical imperative. FH tells us that to treat persons with dignity and respect we must always treat them as ends in themselves and never as mere means. One set of issues raised by FH revolves around how FH is to be justified or grounded and how it relates to the other formulations of the categorical imperative. This set of issues, though important, is not our focus he…Read more
  •  702
    Is Kant a Moral Constructivist or a Moral Realist?
    European Journal of Philosophy 21 (2): 170-196. 2013.
    The dominant interpretation of Kant as a moral constructivist has recently come under sustained philosophical attack by those defending a moral realist reading of Kant. In light of this, should we read Kant as endorsing moral constructivism or moral realism? In answering this question we encounter disagreement in regard to two key independence claims. First, the independence of the value of persons from the moral law (an independence that is rejected) and second, the independence of the content …Read more
  •  468
    Is radical evil banal? Is banal evil radical?
    Philosophy and Social Criticism 33 (6): 717-735. 2007.
    There has been much recent debate concerning how Hannah Arendt's concepts of radical evil and the banality of evil `fit together', if at all. I argue that the first of these concepts deals with a certain type of evil, in particular the evil that occurred in the Nazi death camps. The second deals with a certain type of perpetrator of evil, in particular the banal `nobody', Eichmann. As such, bar a localized incompatibility in regard to Arendt's early account of the motivation of perpetrators of r…Read more
  •  398
    Moral responsibility for banal evil
    Journal of Social Philosophy 37 (4). 2006.
    It has often been argued that Hannah Arendt ‘let off’ Eichmann through her concept of the banality of evil. In this paper I argue, through revisiting and modifying the concept of the banality of evil, that we can reject such criticism. That is, by judging that a perpetrator, like Eichmann, commits evil banally in no way undermines the grounds for holding them to be responsible for their actions, but it does help us to understand why such perpetrators act as they do and to teach us how we might p…Read more
  •  335
    Papers, Please and the systemic approach to engaging ethical expertise in videogames
    with Ryan Malcolm and Staines Dan
    Ethics and Information Technology 18 (3): 211-225. 2016.
    Papers, Please, by Lucas Pope (2013), explores the story of a customs inspector in the fictional political regime of Arstotzka. In this paper we explore the stories, systems and moral themes of Papers, Please in order to illustrate the systemic approach to designing videogames for moral engagement. Next, drawing on the Four Component model of ethical expertise from moral psychology, we contrast this systemic approach with the more common scripted approach. We conclude by demonstrating the differ…Read more
  •  311
    A Conception of Evil
    Journal of Value Inquiry 42 (2): 217-239. 2008.
    There are a number of different senses of the term “evil.” We examine in this paper the term “evil” when it is used to say things such as: “what Hitler did was not merely wrong, it was evil”, and “Hitler was not merely a bad person, he was an evil person”. Failing to keep a promise or telling a white lie may be morally wrong, but unlike genocide or sadistic torture, it is not evil in this sense. In this paper we analyze the specific moral difference between “evil” and “mere wrongdoing”. In so do…Read more
  •  303
    From Discipline and Autonomy: Kant's Theory of Moral Development
    In Klas Roth & Chris W. Surprenant (eds.), Kant and Education: Interpretations and Commentary, Routledge. pp. 163--176. 2011.
    In this paper I argue that Kant develops, in a number of texts, a detailed three stage theory of moral development which resembles the contemporary accounts of moral development defended by Lawrence Kohlberg and John Rawls. The first stage in this process is that of physical education and disciplining, followed by cultivating and civilising, with a third and final stage of moralising. The outcome of this process of moral development is a fully autonomous person. However, Kant’s account of moral …Read more
  •  262
    The role of vulnerability in Kantian ethics
    In Catriona Mackenzie, Wendy Rogers & Susan Dodds (eds.), Vulnerability: New Essays in Ethics and Feminist Philosophy, Oxford University Press. pp. 88-109. 2014.
    Does the fact that humans are vulnerable, needy and dependent beings play an important role in Kantian ethics? It is sometimes claimed that it cannot and does not. I argue that it can and does. I distinguish between broad (all persons are vulnerable) and narrow (only some persons are vulnerable) senses of vulnerability, and explain the role of vulnerability in both senses in Kantian ethics. The basis of this argument is to show that the core normative focus of Kantian ethics is on the dignity th…Read more
  •  227
    The Ends of politics : Kant on sovereignty, civil disobedience and cosmopolitanism
    In Paul Formosa, Tatiana Patrone & Avery Goldman (eds.), Politics and Teleology in Kant, University of Wales Press. pp. 37-58. 2014.
    A focus on the presence of unjustified coercion is one of the central normative concerns of Kant’s entire practical philosophy, from the ethical to the cosmopolitical. This focus is intimately interconnected with Kant’s account of sovereignty, since only the sovereign can justifiably coerce others unconditionally. For Kant, the sovereign is she who has the rightful authority to legislate laws and who is subject only to the laws that she gives herself. In the moral realm (or kingdom) of ends, eac…Read more
  •  211
    Nussbaum, Kant, and the Capabilities Approach to Dignity
    with Catriona Mackenzie
    Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 17 (5): 875-892. 2014.
    The concept of dignity plays a foundational role in the more recent versions of Martha Nussbaum’s capabilities theory. However, despite its centrality to her theory, Nussbaum’s conception of dignity remains under-theorised. In this paper we critically examine the role that dignity plays in Nussbaum’s theory by, first, developing an account of the concept of dignity and introducing a distinction between two types of dignity, status dignity and achievement dignity. Next, drawing on this account, w…Read more
  •  203
    Kant argues that morals should not only constrain politics, but that morals and politics properly understood cannot conflict. Such an uncompromising stance on the relation of morals to politics has been branded unrealistic and even politically irresponsible. While justice can afford to be blind, politics must keep its eyes wide open. In response to this charge I argue that Kant’s position on the relation of morals to politics is both morally uncompromising and yet politically flexible, both prin…Read more
  •  198
    Understanding Evil Acts
    Human Studies 30 (2): 57-77. 2007.
    Evil acts strike us, by their very nature, as not only horrifying and reprehensible, but also as deeply puzzling. No doubt for reasons like this, evil has often been seen as mysterious, demonic and beyond our human powers of understanding. The question I examine in this paper is whether or not we can (or would want to) overcome this puzzlement in the face of evil acts. I shall argue that we ought want to (in all cases) and can (in at least most cases) come to understand why people perpetrate evi…Read more
  •  177
    Focus, Sensitivity, Judgement, Action: Four Lenses for Designing Morally Engaging Games
    with Malcolm Ryan and Dan Staines
    Transactions of the Digital Games Research Association 2 (3): 143-173. 2017.
    Historically the focus of moral decision-making in games has been narrow, mostly confined to challenges of moral judgement (deciding right and wrong). In this paper, we look to moral psychology to get a broader view of the skills involved in ethical behaviour and how these skills can be employed in games. Following the Four Component Model of Rest and colleagues, we identify four “lenses” – perspectives for considering moral gameplay in terms of focus, sensitivity, judgement and action – and des…Read more
  •  176
    The Problems with Evil
    Contemporary Political Theory 7 (4): 395-415. 2008.
    The concept of evil has been an unpopular one in many recent Western political and ethical discourses. One way to justify this neglect is by pointing to the many problemswiththe concept of evil. The standard grievances brought against the very concept of evil include: that it has no proper place in secular political and ethical discourses; that it is a demonizing term of hatred that leads to violence; that it is necessarily linked with outdated notions of body and sexuality; and that it only hin…Read more
  •  169
    Kantian Ethics, Dignity and Perfection
    Cambridge University Press. 2017.
    In this volume Paul Formosa sets out a novel approach to Kantian ethics as an ethics of dignity by focusing on the Formula of Humanity as a normative principle distinct from the Formula of Universal Law. By situating the Kantian conception of dignity within the wider literature on dignity, he develops an important distinction between status dignity, which all rational agents have, and achievement dignity, which all rational agents should aspire to. He then explores constructivist and realist vie…Read more
  •  168
    Kant and the demandingness of the virtue of beneficence
    European Journal of Philosophy 27 (3): 625-642. 2019.
    We discuss Kant’s conception of beneficence against the background of the overdemandingness debate. We argue that Kant’s conception of beneficence constitutes a sweet spot between overdemandingess and undemandingess. To this end we defend four key claims that together constitute a novel interpretation of Kant’s account of beneficence: 1) for the same reason that we are obligated to be beneficent to others we are permitted to be beneficent to ourselves; 2) we can prioritise our own ends; 3) it is…Read more
  •  164
    When AI meets PC: exploring the implications of workplace social robots and a human-robot psychological contract
    with Sarah Bankins
    European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology 2019. 2019.
    The psychological contract refers to the implicit and subjective beliefs regarding a reciprocal exchange agreement, predominantly examined between employees and employers. While contemporary contract research is investigating a wider range of exchanges employees may hold, such as with team members and clients, it remains silent on a rapidly emerging form of workplace relationship: employees’ increasing engagement with technically, socially, and emotionally sophisticated forms of artificially int…Read more
  •  162
    Kant identifies the “highest moral-physical good” as that combination of “good living” and “true humanity” which best harmonises in a “good meal in good company”. Why does Kant privilege the dinner party in this way? By examining Kant’s accounts of enlightenment, cosmopolitanism, love and respect, and gratitude and friendship, the answer to this question becomes clear. Kant’s moral ideal is that of an enlightened and just cosmopolitan human being who feels and acts with respect and love for all …Read more
  •  162
    Kant's Conception of Personal Autonomy
    Journal of Social Philosophy 44 (3): 193-212. 2013.
    A strong distinction is often made between personal autonomy and moral autonomy. Personal autonomy involves governing yourself in the pursuit of your own conception of the good. Moral autonomy involves legislating the moral law for yourself. Viewed in this way personal autonomy seems at best marginal and at worst a positive hindrance to moral autonomy, since personal autonomy can conflict with moral autonomy. Given that Kantian approaches to morality are closely aligned with moral autonomy, does…Read more
  •  154
    Thinking, Conscience and Acting in the Face of Mass Evil
    In Andrew Schaap, Danielle Celermajer & Vrasidas Karalis (eds.), Power, Judgement and Political Evil: In Conversation with Hannah Arendt, Ashgate. pp. 89-104. 2010.
    If there is one lesson that Hannah Arendt drew from her encounter with Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem it was that the moral and political dangers of thoughtlessness had been grossly underestimated. But while thoughtlessness clearly “has its perils”, (LMT 177) as the example of Eichmann illustrates, thoughtfulness has its own problems, as the example of Heidegger illustrates. In the course of her 1964 interview with Günter Gaus, Arendt recalls her distaste for “intellectual business” that arose from…Read more
  •  152
    Kant on the Moral Ontology of Constructivism and Realism
    In Margit Ruffing, Claudio La Rocca, Alfredo Ferrarin & Stefano Bacin (eds.), Kant Und Die Philosophie in Weltbürgerlicher Absicht: Akten des Xi. Kant-Kongresses 2010, De Gruyter. pp. 185-196. 2013.
    There has been much recent debate on the question of whether Kant is to be best understood as a moral realist or a moral constructivist. In an attempt to resolve this debate I examine whether moral constructivism is a form of moral idealism, briefly contrast realism and idealism, and draw on work in social ontology to look at the different accounts of moral ontology implicit in realist and constructivist accounts. As a result of this investigation I conclude that Kant is a moral constructivist.
  •  143
    Kant on the Limits of Human Evil
    Journal of Philosophical Research 34 189-214. 2009.
    Kant has often been accused of being far too “optimistic” when it comes to the extremes of evil that humans can perpetrate upon one another. In particular, Kant’s supposed claim that humans cannot choose evil qua evil has struck many people as simply false. Another problem for Kant, or perhaps the same problem in another guise, is his supposed claim that all evil is done for the sake of self-love. While self-love might be a plausible way to explain some instances of evil, it seems to be an impla…Read more
  •  142
    Introduction: The Connection between Politics and Teleology in Kant
    with Formosa Paul, Goldman Avery, and Patrone Tatiana
    In Paul Formosa, Avery Goldman & Tatiana Patrone (eds.), Politics and Teleology in Kant, University of Wales Press. pp. 1-18. 2014.
    Kant develops his political philosophy in the context of a teleological conception of both nature and human history. For Kant, political thought must be undertaken in the context of a progressive historical view of humanity’s place in nature. For this reason Kant would strongly agree with John Rawls’s claim that one of the key roles that political philosophy plays in a society’s political culture is that of ‘probing the limits of practicable political possibility. In this role, we view political…Read more
  •  141
    Thinking, Willing, and Judging
    Crossroads 4 (1): 53-64. 2009.
    In this paper I examine Max Deutscher’s recent accounts of thinking, willing and judging, derived from his reading of Hannah Arendt’s 'The Life of the Mind', as set out in his book 'Judgment After Arendt'. Against Deutscher I argue that thinking does not presuppose thoughtfulness, that being willing is compatible with willing reluctantly, and that actor and spectator judgments are distinct types of judgments.
  •  135
    All morally wrong actions deserve some form of moral condemnation. But the degree of that condemnation is not the same in all cases. Some wrongs are so morally extreme that they seem to belong to a different category because they deserve our very strongest form of moral condemnation. For example, telling a white lie to make a friend feel better might be morally wrong, but intuitively such an act is in a different moral category to the sadistic, brutal, and violent rape and torture of a child. Th…Read more
  •  132
    Four Lenses for Designing Morally Engaging Games
    with Malcolm Ryan and Dan Staines
    Proceedings of 1st International Joint Conference of DiGRA and FDG. 2016.
    Historically the focus of moral decision-making in games has been narrow, mostly confined to challenges of moral judgement (deciding right and wrong). In this paper, we look to moral psychology to get a broader view of the skills involved in ethical behaviour and how they may be employed in games. Following the Four Component Model of Rest and colleagues, we identify four “lenses” – perspectives for considering moral gameplay in terms of focus, sensitivity, judgement and action – and describe th…Read more
  •  132
    Measuring morality in videogames research
    with Malcolm Ryan, Stephanie Howarth, and Dan Staines
    Ethics and Information Technology 22 (1): 55-68. 2020.
    There has been a recent surge of research interest in videogames of moral engagement for entertainment, advocacy and education. We have seen a wealth of analysis and several theoretical models proposed, but experimental evaluation has been scarce. One of the difficulties lies in the measurement of moral engagement. How do we meaningfully measure whether players are engaging with and affected by the moral choices in the games they play? In this paper, we survey the various standard psychometric i…Read more
  •  129
    Review of 'Evil and Moral Psychology, written by Peter Brian Barry' (review)
    Journal of Moral Philosophy 13 (4): 495-497. 2016.
    Review of 'Evil and Moral Psychology, written by Peter Brian Barry'