ATS2875 - The moral psychology of evil - 2017

6 points, SCA Band 1, 0.125 EFTSL

Undergraduate - Unit

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



Organisational Unit

Monash Bioethics Centre


Associate Professor Justin Oakley

Unit guides



  • Second semester 2017 (Day)


  • Second semester 2017 (Day)


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? Does the role that situational factors often seem to play in explaining evildoing undermine the plausibility of character-based accounts of evildoing? Are we all capable of evildoing, if placed in certain circumstances? 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.


Within semester assessment: 60% + Exam: 40%

Workload requirements

Minimum total expected workload to achieve the learning outcomes for this unit is 144 hours per semester typically comprising a mixture of scheduled learning activities and independent study. A unit requires on average three/four hours of scheduled activities per week. Scheduled activities may include a combination of teacher directed learning, peer directed learning and online engagement.

See also Unit timetable information

Chief examiner(s)

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


Twelve credit points of first-year Arts units. It is highly recommended that students only take this unit after they have completed two first-year level units in Bioethics or Philosophy.