Professor Daniel Breyer will be teaching PHI 330 (Topics in Moral Theory) in fall 2015.

When faced with cruelty, we often find ourselves groping for just the right words to describe and explain it. Perhaps the most powerful word we can use is “evil.” Serial killers are evil people. Genocide is an evil act. And Satan is the source of evil itself.

What, however, does it mean to call anyone or anything evil? What exactly is evil? Is anyone really evil, or do only actions count as evil? What is the relationship between good and evil? How should we respond to evil? And now that it’s the 21st century, should we just stop using the word altogether? Have we finally moved beyond evil, or does evil still play an important role in our moral and spiritual lives?

In this course, we will explore these questions and many others about evil. We will start the course by looking at supernatural accounts of evil in theology and demonology, before examining evil as a symbol and considering whether it’s possible to naturalize the concept. We will end the course by reflecting on how we might justifiably respond to evil when faced with it.

In this final portion of the course, we will have the chance to examine the aesthetics of evil and think about the role that evil plays in art, literature, music, and film.

Contact Professor Daniel Breyer for more information at