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Monash University

Monash University Handbook 2011 Undergraduate - Unit

6 points, SCA Band 1, 0.125 EFTSL

Refer to the specific census and withdrawal dates for the semester(s) in which this unit is offered.

FacultyFaculty of Arts
OfferedClayton Second semester 2011 (Day)
Coordinator(s)Assoc. Prof. Justin Oakley


Previously coded PHL3350


This unit investigates the nature of evil, in light of psychological and other factors that enable people to commit acts of great evil. Questions discussed include: If an evildoer suffered serious childhood abuse, should this influence our moral judgements of them? Are we all capable of great evil, if placed in certain circumstances? Could there be 'bad seeds'? Can moral judgements be justifiably made of those with evil thoughts and desires that they never act on? How should we determine the appropriateness of medical treatment of evildoers? How do different accounts of evil bear on contemporary ethical theories? Current empirical research will also be used in addressing these questions.


On successfully completing this unit, students will have:

  1. an understanding of leading contemporary philosophical theories of evil;
  2. familiarity with key psychological explanations of evildoing;
  3. skills enabling them to critically analyse these theories and explanations; and
  4. the ability to make informed judgements about what sorts of responses to evildoing are morally appropriate.


Essay (2250 words): 50% Essay (2250 words): 50%

Chief examiner(s)

Assoc. Prof. Justin Oakley

Contact hours

2 hour (1 x 2 hour seminar) per week

This unit applies to the following area(s) of study

Behavioural studies
Criminal JusticeCriminology
Human Rights TheoryPhilosophy
Psychological StudiesPsychology


A first-year sequence in Philosophy or Bioethics or Human Rights Theory