Universität Wien FIND

180115 VO-L Evil (2018W)

A fitting category of philosophical ethics respectively morals?

5.00 ECTS (2.00 SWS), SPL 18 - Philosophie

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Details

Language: German

Examination dates

Lecturers

Classes (iCal) - next class is marked with N

Monday 08.10. 13:15 - 14:45 Hörsaal 21 Hauptgebäude, Hochparterre, Stiege 8
Monday 15.10. 13:15 - 14:45 Hörsaal 21 Hauptgebäude, Hochparterre, Stiege 8
Monday 22.10. 13:15 - 14:45 Hörsaal 21 Hauptgebäude, Hochparterre, Stiege 8
Monday 29.10. 13:15 - 14:45 Hörsaal 21 Hauptgebäude, Hochparterre, Stiege 8
Monday 05.11. 13:15 - 14:45 Hörsaal 21 Hauptgebäude, Hochparterre, Stiege 8
Monday 12.11. 13:15 - 14:45 Hörsaal 21 Hauptgebäude, Hochparterre, Stiege 8
Monday 19.11. 13:15 - 14:45 Hörsaal 21 Hauptgebäude, Hochparterre, Stiege 8
Monday 26.11. 13:15 - 14:45 Hörsaal 21 Hauptgebäude, Hochparterre, Stiege 8
Monday 03.12. 13:15 - 14:45 Hörsaal 21 Hauptgebäude, Hochparterre, Stiege 8
Monday 10.12. 13:15 - 14:45 Hörsaal 21 Hauptgebäude, Hochparterre, Stiege 8
Monday 07.01. 13:15 - 14:45 Hörsaal 21 Hauptgebäude, Hochparterre, Stiege 8
Monday 14.01. 13:15 - 14:45 Hörsaal 21 Hauptgebäude, Hochparterre, Stiege 8
Monday 21.01. 13:15 - 14:45 Hörsaal 21 Hauptgebäude, Hochparterre, Stiege 8
Monday 28.01. 13:15 - 14:45 Hörsaal 21 Hauptgebäude, Hochparterre, Stiege 8

Information

Aims, contents and method of the course

Objectives: Elaboration of a differentiated, critical-reflected, thus: philosophical approach to subjects as morals and/or ethics, philosophical concepts of moral or ethics and justice versus religious morals, moral categories like good and evil. We’ll look at those subjects from a philosophical perspective and always try to bear in mind a historical dimension. The course will also provide an introduction in some crucial topics of political philosophy and ideology critique as well as an exploitation of relevant subjects by means of selected texts. The methodical approach to these texts will, beyond others, also include methods of conceptual history.

Contents: As a result of religious, especially Christian transformation of moral and/or ethical ideas many people are used, to think of categories of good and evil in this connection. These categories have to do a lot with ideas of divine rules, sin and punishment, at least in a next world.
So it seems to be indispensable to distinguish between philosophical concepts of morals or ethics on one hand and religious moral teachings on the other hand. It is also of high importance to distinguish the terms ethics and morals beyond philosophical or religious approaches, which are often equated. Strictly speaking they describe quite different ideas: In respect to consideration of ancient Greek thinkers, ethics can be seen as a collective name for theories or doctrines of successful life (in a very wide sense), while morals have always to do with rules or norms. Nevertheless, there are also normative ethics, such as utilitarianism. Nowadays ethics is – against its original meaning – often used to describe a branch of practical philosophy, designated to find criteria to describe human behavior as good or bad. The term evil is mostly avoided in this perspective.
Religious, especially Christian, but also Islamic concepts of morals or ethics are usually tied to norms, seen as founded in transcendental spheres and absolutely valid because enacted by an absolute powerful, good force. Even more problematical than the idea of an absolute Good is that of an absolute Evil. Based on a concept like that it is quite easy to class other human beings, creatures, but also social and cultural phenomena as in principle bad, depraved, maybe even demonic – and as a consequence also treated in accordance to that point of view.
Notwithstanding the distinction between good and evil was also applied to the sphere of philosophical morals, in particular when Immanuel Kant invented the term radical evil. As part of her considerations of Adolf Eichmann Hannah Arendt referred to this terminology and connected it with the term banality. Arendt’s view Eichmann was no demonic figure, but was profoundly banal (or trivial) in terms of ordinary or mean. Arendt insists on the category evil, maybe also because it is indeed difficult to find proper terms for the things, Eichmann did. For Arendt he was a normal representative of a dehumanized, anonymous bureaucracy, applicable for any purpose or program. Even though this interpretation cannot be kept up without serious modifications on the basis of meanwhile found as well as new interpreted older sources, the question remains, how the deeds of Eichmann or people like him can be assessed in moral or ethical terms. Can it be helpful to classify those people or what they did as evil – or would it, from a philosophical perspective, preferable to go without a term like evil at all?

Method: Lecture, (critical) analysis of texts and film sequences, discussion

Assessment and permitted materials

The written exam will contain of 4 open questions, 2 of them shall be answered. You are free to use literature you read while phrasing your answers. Apart from that participation on discussions as well as reading texts we agree to discuss will be of high importance for the grading.

Minimum requirements and assessment criteria

The lecture is one with a high proportion of autonomous reading by the participants. A collection of important texts, every participant should read, will be offered as a copy template.
An independent, reflected, critical approach to the subjects of the lecture should be apparent in the exam. Important, especially relating to the exam, are coherent and consistent argumentation, use of topic-related literature and reference to it.

Examination topics

Subjects of the lecture; they will also be available compressed in presentation slides.

Reading list

Mintz, Steven/Stauffer, John (eds.): The Problem of Evil. Slavery, Freedom, and the Ambiguities of American Reform (Amherst/Boston 2007).
Neiman, Susan: Evil in Modern Thought. An Alternative History of Philosophy (Princeton 2002).
Pagels, Elaine: The Origin of Satan. How Christians Demonized Jews, Pagans, and Heretics (New York 1995).
Pinker, Steven: The Better Angels. Why Violence has declined (New York 2011).

Association in the course directory

Last modified: Tu 15.10.2019 13:08