Calder's Theory On The Banality Of Evil

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Ryan Shellady Diane Jeske Nature of Evil September 24th, 2015 Take Home Assignment #1 1.1. Calder’s theory on the Banality of Evil attempts to answer the question of whether ordinary people can habitually cause evil. Calder begins with a discussion about evil acts, noting that actions happen due to various desires. Three types of desires lead to vicious actions. These include the desire to “bring about some bad state of affairs,” the desire to do what is wrong, and the desire to inflict pain on another. Certain desires, though are more “malignant,” and have a more weighty quality due to the magnitude of the harm desired It is these types of desires that Calder categorizes as “e-desire (effective desire) sets.” These desires are consistent…show more content…
A combination of the first stipulation with either or both of the latter two is sufficient for an e-desire set. Based on this definition, it becomes clearer what Calder means in his description of evil acts, being that a person acts evilly if he or she intentionally causes or witnesses someone else’s real significant harm from an e-desire set. Next Calder goes on to discuss evil character. Ultimately, Calder suggests that in order to have an evil character, one must have a consistent propensity for e-desire sets. Calder wraps up the work by linking evil acts and evil characters and discussing whether someone who does not have evil character can habitually cause evil. Calder agrees with Kekes that there are categorically unique groups that organize those who commit evil acts. Calder goes one step further than Kekes though and creates a subdivision of Keke’s moral idiots category. Aside from moral monsters (those with the consistent propensity for e-desire sets who do so for an unworthy goal), and moral idiots (those with a consistent propensity for e-desire sets who do so for an indefensible moral goal they believe justifies their actions), Calder adds moral idiots whose…show more content…
I take issue with some of the implications of these theories. For example, Calder’s theory of evil would categorize Eichmann and Hitler together in the same group. This seems problematic. Although it is helpful to distinguish between people like Robert Harris who is classified as a moral monster, and Hitler who Calder classifies as a moral idiot, it does not give much insight into degrees of evilness. Sure some might argue that the moral idiot category is less culpable than a moral monster, but how simple is it for one to argue that Robert Harris is more evil than Hitler? Moreover, once categorized, does this theory delve into the degrees of evil within said categories? I doubt anyone would put Eichmann and Hitler on the same plane of evilness, so how are we to distinguish between these two within the first moral idiot category? I believe a good theory of evil will be able to answer more questions regarding this problem. Calder certainly gives a great framework to discuss how to view agents and acts, but I want Calder to go one step further to sure up the theory. Garrard’s theory does not go as far as Calder’s in the organization of types. Instead, Garrard finds a definition that encompasses all three of Calder’s definitions. Garrard does point out that the theory says nothing about what types of reasons are silenced by the agent. So what Calder’s theory has more strength in

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