Kekes and Schwitzgebel on Evil


There are various definitions and conceptions of evil as brought out by Kekes and Schwitzgebel. One of the conceptions brought out in Kekes’ aork is the notion that any ideology that has an external affiliation, such as religion, is justifiable and can therefore not be considered as evil (12).


In the example of the crusade, the main objective of the pope and other Christians is alleged to be eliminating the Cathers and the perfects. The Cathers are considered as dissent and despite the fact that they neither cause physical harm nor engage in any sinful act, they are still detested on the grounds that they make cruel utterances against Christianity.

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Based on the definition by Aquinas, which claims that such people deserve death, the Christians overlook the actual definition of evil and ironically engage in evil acts by persecuting the Cathers (Kekes 11). The concept that is presented by Kekes based on the crusade is that rationalism is influenced not by reason, but by ignorance and emotional drive. The pope and other Christian leaders take advantage of the emotional weakness of the Cathers to justify their extermination.

Evil is therefore brought out as a misinterpretation of acts and is not founded on any moral, ethical, or logical grounds. The irony seen in this crusade is that the Cathers are attacked for a having a different interpretation of evil, with the attackers justifying all the grotesque acts perpetrated against them.

When taken as a retaliation that safeguards the interest of a few people, any act, whether heinous or not, cannot be interpreted as evil. The pope takes advantage of his leadership position to corrupt the minds of people and to encourage them to work against the Cathers.

French Revolution

In the example of the French Revolution, evil is interpreted as a word that is derived from reason (Kekes 29). In this revolution, the people find it worth to “clean” the country of all corrupt people with an aim of gaining political and economic freedom.

To achieve this, any individual found involving in any corrupt or politically inappropriate deals is excommunicated through the most grotesque means. Evil is associated with corruption and it deviates from the changes that Robespierre talks about. All the individuals are expected to see the logic behind eliminating some few persons so that the country can remain free of any political anomalies.

Robespierre makes use of reason to corrupt the minds of the citizens on the true definition of evil. He declares that the persons who are opposed to the political revolution are evil and have to be persecuted.

However, the acts that are perpetrated by Robespierre and his followers can ironically be interpreted as evil. The persecution processes are grotesque, given that they advocate for heinous acts against individuals considered as guilty, saying that they should be amputated, drowned while naked and sent to the gallows to the delight of the masses.

Schwitzgebel’s Interpretation

If Schwitzgebel was to address the same issues, there would be a different interpretation of evil. Schwitzgebel considers all rational acts are influenced by education and training (IDEA CETL 1). He believes that for rationalism to be achieved, all acts have to be analyzed based on reason and training.

Individuals have to reason based on the right perspectives and if the resolutions made are rational, the act they do can be justified. Schwitzgebel would therefore approach the crusade based on the moral and ethical interpretations involved, and not faith or religious beliefs.

On the idea of revolution, Schwitzgebel would address the issue based on the rationality and the reason behind the exterminations. Based on the factual ideas presented by either group, the argument would probably be based on whether the acts are rational or not, and the inspiration behind such acts (IDEA CETL 1). However, the two interpretations are important in understanding evil based on reason, emotions and external affiliations such as religion and political parties.

Works Cited

IDEA CETL. “Thinking about how to think.” University of Leeds., 2009. Web. 4 Oct. 2011.

Kekes, John. The Roots of Evil. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2007. Print.


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