It follows from this that, for example, someone's torturing an animal to death merely for pleasure might count as evil whereas their torturing hundreds of people to death in order to intimidate a population threatening the oppressive regime they work for wouldn't. And a short and obvious answer to this proposed definitional restriction is: pull the other one. To be persuasive a definition needs to capture the core of our intuitions on how the relevant concept functions, and the suggestion that torturing large numbers of people to death isn't evil provided only there's some end in view would be widely rejected, since extreme cruelty to sentient beings is one of the paradigm meanings of the word 'evil'.
Aug 12, 2011
Is evil 'destruction for the hell of it'?
Ah but someone "torturing hundreds of people to death in order to intimidate a population threatening the oppressive regime they work for" may be only kidding themselves that that is the reason they are doing it. In just the same way that Bush's torturer's kidded themselves that there was a 'purpose' to their torture, whereas in fact it answered to more basic psychological needs — for the pleasure of inflicting pain on an enemy. It's still "destruction for the hell of it". They just don't see it that way. Eagleton's definition stands.