Understanding evil acts

Paul Formosa*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Evil acts strike us, by their very nature, as not only horrifying and reprehensible, but also as deeply puzzling. No doubt for reasons like this, evil has often been seen as mysterious, demonic and beyond our human powers of understanding. The question I examine in this paper is whether or not we can (or would want to) overcome this puzzlement in the face of evil acts. I shall argue that we ought want to (in all cases) and can (in at least most cases) come to understand why people perpetrate evil acts. This is an appealing conclusion as it allows us to take practical steps to both minimise future occurrences of evil and come to terms with its past abominations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-77
Number of pages21
JournalHuman Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Arendt
  • Eichmann
  • Empathy
  • Evil
  • Explanation
  • Hitler
  • Identification
  • Simulation
  • Theory
  • Understanding


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