9.1ward01 - Explaining Evil Behavior Using Kant and M Scott...

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Explaining Evil Behavior: Using Kant and M. Scott Peck to Solve the Puzzle of Understanding the Moral Psychology of Evil People Ward, David E., 1940- Philosophy, Psychiatry, & Psychology, Volume 9, Number 1, March 2002, pp. 1-12 (Article) Published by The Johns Hopkins University Press DOI: 10.1353/ppp.2003.0017 For additional information about this article Access Provided by Bilkent Universitesi at 10/26/10 9:29PM GMT http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/ppp/summary/v009/9.1ward01.html
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© 2003 by The Johns Hopkins University Press Explaining Evil Behavior: Using Kant and M. Scott Peck to Solve the Puzzle of Understanding the Moral Psychology of Evil People A BSTRACT : I assume that we find it hard to understand, for example, how a person could harm another person in cold blood. I then set out Kant’s reason’s for thinking that, strictly speaking, evil behavior is impossible: people may act on wicked desires but deliberate wrong-doing is not a genuine phenomenon. However, Kant’s view is at odds with our common sense intuitions about morally evil behavior, namely, that such behavior is possible, albeit difficult to understand. I then suggest how Kant’s analysis of the problem of evil behavior can help us to understand under what conditions evil behavior would be possible. Next, I introduce Peck’s theory of how evil behavior can manifest itself when a person suffers from malignant narcissism—a complaint that involves acting on principles which are not consciously acknowledged. I conclude that Kant’s views on evil can be understood with reference to Peck’s theory (and vice versa). K EYWORDS : malignant, narcissism, morality, moral, evil, principle. M Y INTENTION in this paper will be to show that Peck’s diagnosis of evil as a psychiatric condition can be placed in David E. Ward the traditional context of moral psychology by showing how it accords, in many respects, with Kant’s denial of the possibility of evil behavior. The Argument Kant denies that moral evil is possible and suggests that wickedness (self-indulgence) is what we actually witness in evil behavior. However, Parkin’s research into the folk psychology of evil (in his Anthropology of Evil [1985]) indicates that Kant’s attempt to explain moral evil away as mere wickedness would not be generally accepted. I suggest that the expla- nation for this disagreement is that evil behavior is actually principled human behavior, except that the principles involved are principles of which the actors are unconscious. I then show how Peck provides an explanation of how the development of such unconscious principles (related to the devel- opment of malignant narcissism) could provide the hidden motivating power for evil behavior. My argument is that a disease (malignant nar- cissism) could have a morally relevant compo-
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2 PPP / V OL . 9, N O . 1 / M ARCH 2002 nent. Thus, if the disease took the form of an unconscious allegiance to a principle, then the related behavior would come to have a moral aspect. This follows from the fact that morali- ty—in Kant’s view—is centered around princi- pled behavior. Now Kant was not in possession
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