Responsibility and Evil: Anotace


The question of evil is not new but its problematization is. After holocaust (but also after Rwanda, Cambodia, Bosnia…), there is a need for rethinking and reconstructing this problem in its essentially political dimension, independently of the traditional contexts of theodicy or any other similar attempt of univerzalization.


One effect of the universalization might be recognizable in a part of contemporary political discourse in which evil is not the product of human intentions but of psychological and historical forces that lay beyond human control. One of the most discussed phenomena which results from this universalization and which identifies causalrationalization” with moral justification and projects evil to something or someone Other-than-us, is denying holocaust and genocides.  


The topics will be structured around three important problems:

1. The essence of evil and the possibility to recognize and define it

2. The identity of human agents who perpetrate the evil deeds. Are they insane? 

3. The problem of responsibility.


The course is imagined as an interactive analysis of the appropriate philosophical texts and our own language describing everyday examples of evil, optionally the evil in literature and art.

Course Requirements:

A 6-8 pages essay, in English or Czech on one subject from the course. The essay should show knowledge of the philosopher(s) in question, as well as the student’s own argued standpoint. 


Literature: (will be available in library and on moodle)

Plato: Republic: book vi; 505-511, book ix and book X: 


Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics, book I, book III: chapters 1-5, book V: 1135b-1136b


Thomas Hobbes: Leviathan VI, VII, XIII, XVII


G.W. Leibniz: Theodicy part I: 20-35; 44-71; 79-81


Immanuel Kant: Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone, part I


Friedrich Nietzsche: Beyond Good and Evil, §§ 1, 4, 6, 10, 44, 153, 190, 201-2, 208, 212, 260


Sigmund Freud: Totem and Taboo, Chapter 4


Hannah Arendt:


Origins of Totalitarianism, Chapter 12: II, III


The Human Condition, Chapter V:

§24: The Disclosure of the Agent in Speech and Action,

§33: Irreversibility and the Power to Forgive,

§34: Unpredictability and the Power of Promise


Eichmenn in Jerusalem , Epilogue and Postscript