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Social Philosophy Today

Volume 20, 2004

War and Terrorism

Todd Calder
Pages 53-66

Evil, Ignorance, and the 9/11 Terrorists

In this paper I consider the excuse of ignorance as a justification for acting in a way that would otherwise be evil. My aim is to determine when ignorance precludes us from evildoing and when it does not. I use the 9/11 terrorist attack on America as a case study. In particular, I consider whether the 9/11 terrorists were precluded from evildoing because they thought they were doing right and thus were ignorant about the true nature of their actions. The paper begins with a discussion of the nature of evil. I argue that the 9/11 terrorists were not precluded from evildoing by their ignorance because they were largely responsible for being ignorant about the true nature of their actions. They were responsible for their ignorance because they evaded acknowledging information that should have revealed to them the evilness of their plans. They were “self-deceptive evildoers.”

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