On the Relevance of the Concept of Intrinsic Evil: Francisco Suárez and Contemporary Catholic Virtue Ethics Approaches

  • Nenad Polgar University of Vienna, Austria
Keywords: Intrinsic evil, Virtue ethics, Object of the act, Intention/End, Account of evil.


The article explores the relevancy of the concept of intrinsic evil/intrinsically evil acts in contemporary Catholic theological ethics as a particular way of giving an account of (moral) evil. The argument proceeds in two steps. In the first step the author turns to Francisco Suárez as one of the first theologians who tried to deal with the concept of intrinsic evil in an extensive and systematic way. The point of this historical exploration is to determine the meanings of this concept as it started to appear more frequently in the ethical discourse. In the next step the author presents two contemporary positions within Catholic theological ethics, those of Joseph Selling and Dana Dillon. Although both authors are proponents of virtue ethics, they disagree fundamentally on the role of the concept of intrinsic evil within this approach. While Joseph Selling argues in favour of eliminating this concept from theological ethics, Dana Dillon posits that theological ethics cannot function without it. In the rest of the article, the author explores this disagreement through various ways in which the concept can be used, while taking into account the aforementioned meanings of the concept. In the end, the author sides with Joseph Selling, since the concept of intrinsic evil does not seem to be able to fulfil the role it was assigned within Catholic theological ethics.


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How to Cite
Polgar, N. (2018) “On the Relevance of the Concept of Intrinsic Evil: Francisco Suárez and Contemporary Catholic Virtue Ethics Approaches”, De Ethica, 5(1), pp. 21-36. doi: 10.3384/de-ethica.2001-8819.185121.