The Asymmetry of Good and Evil
Philip Pettit (Princeton University, Australian National University)

May 12, 2015, 2:30pm - 4:00pm
Philosophy, University of Melbourne

Theatre A
Elisabeth Murdoch Building
University of Melbourne 3010
Australia

Sponsor(s):

  • The Barry Taylor & David Lewis Philosophy Fund

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We do good to one another by bringing about welcome consequences and, in particular, by bringing about welcome consequences that are disposition-dependent. Thus we give one another respect by acting out of the beneficent disposition not to interfere in one another’s personal choices: by ensuring that we conform to standards of respect in our behavior. But while we do evil to one another by bringing about unwelcome consequences, these are rarely disposition-dependent: they do not require that we act out of a maleficent disposition or that we conform to standards of malice in our behavior. This observation helps to explain the Knobe effect whereby we ascribe intentionality more readily to presumptively bad actions than to good. Thus to help the environment requires acting out of a helpful disposition, ensuring that you conform to beneficent standards. To harm the environment requires only that you create an environmental cost, breaching those standards: it does not require that you act out of the disposition of an environmental vandal, ensuring that you conform to a vandal’s standards. 

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May 12, 2015, 2:30pm +10:00

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