Radical Freedom, Radical Evil? Kant’s Theory of Evil and the Failure of Theodicy

  • Melissa Dearey
Part of the Critical Criminological Perspectives book series (CCRP)


So far in this book, we have examined the problem of evil modelled on the theodicy and as imagined in the fable of metaphysical evil in the rationalist philosophy of Descartes. Here, we began to trace the differences and similarities of the theological and philosophical languages, concepts and theories about evil and what it is and (just as importantly) what it is not, where it comes from, what it means and what we can and should do about it, if anything. What we encountered in those accounts was the origins of a particular and distinctively rational way of construing evil and how, for example, this has been enshrined in legal-judicial discourse (hence of significance to a discipline like criminology). We also saw, in both approaches, how distanced God becomes from what are nascent humanist discourses that focus on the powers of human rea-son and cogitation alone, and how brutal and paradoxical these can sometimes be in their consequences and outcomes. In many respects, these secular discourses stand in stark contrast to some of the mythical, narrative or wisdom traditions; these stories reveal a benevolent and loving God living among His creation, in which evil is the result of wilful deviation from the moral law by recalcitrant but still beloved human creatures and is dealt with in the here and now, mainly in a compassionate and communitarian way—the roots of another and what we usually identify with a quite contemporary notion of evil in the form of crime, e.g. community or restorative justice.


Moral Philosophy Restorative Justice Moral Worth Categorical Imperative Moral Evil 
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Copyright information

© Melissa Dearey 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Melissa Dearey
    • 1
  1. 1.University of HullUK

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