The Paideia Archive: Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 11, 1998

Modern Philosophy

Edgard José Jorge Filho
Pages 46-52

Radical Evil and the Possibility of the Conversion into Good

According to Kant, radical evil is the deep inherent blemish of our species that does not spare even the best of people. Despite judging the extirpation of such evil as an impossibility, Kant holds out the possibility of converting evil into good by means of human forces. But how can this be given the radical evil of human nature? I articulate various problems that arise from Kant’s conception of conversion while exploring certain resources in his thinking in order to clarify and resolve this difficulty. The difficulty nears an aporia when Kant asks: how can a bad tree bear good fruit? Two arguments will be presented as answers. The first maintains that free will is not definitely committed to any maxim generally accepted. The second points out the possibility of compromise between free will and a good ground maxim as the way to build up a coherent system of maxims. This would be clearly impossible if a bad ground maxim were chosen. While undecisive, the second argument is relevant because it leads to the overcoming of a certain incoherence in Kant's thought. In this way, I argue that the thesis of an existing intrinsic deficiency of the radical evil enjoys the status of a "quasi foundation" of human behavior.