Faculty of Arts

Monash University

Undergraduate - Unit

This unit entry is for students who completed this unit in 2013 only. For students planning to study the unit, please refer to the unit indexes in the the current edition of the Handbook. If you have any queries contact the managing faculty for your course or area of study.

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6 points, SCA Band 1, 0.125 EFTSL

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FacultyFaculty of Arts
Organisational UnitCentre for Human Bioethics
OfferedClayton First semester 2013 (Day)
Coordinator(s)Assoc. Prof. Justin Oakley


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
  4. the ability to make informed judgements about what sorts of responses to evildoing are morally appropriate.


Essay 1000 words (20%)
Essay 2000 words (40%)+ Examination 2 hours (40%)

Chief examiner(s)


A first-year sequence in Philosophy or Bioethics or Human rights theory