BA Liberal Arts with International Study / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Problems in Theology, Philosophy and Ethics: Evil

Course unit fact file
Unit code RELT21112
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


The second year core course enhances the knowledge of continental philosophy introduced in the first year core course RELT 10621 Introduction to the History of Philosophy. The course also provides a theological, philosophical, ethical supplement to Holocaust StudiesReligion and Society and the joint programme BA Honours Philosophy and Religion. 


  • To enhance and further the knowledge of key philosophers
  • To consider the central themes of what has been described as evil
  • To recognise a variety of key theological and philosophical perspectives on the ethical problem of evil in its different forms


Teaching and learning methods

  • ·Written feedback on essays and exam 
  •  Additional one-to-one feedback (during the consultation hour or by making an appointment via zoom)

Knowledge and understanding

  • Have a basic philosophical knowledge of the concept of evil and free will
  • Have a basic theological knowledge of the problem of theodicy
  • Be able to explain key terms featured in both primary (informational) sources and secondary (interpretational) materials, and to articulate the historical, social and political factors that account for the ways in which the problem of evil has been approached and formulated in Modernity

Intellectual skills

  • To understand the shift in the discourse from theodicy to post Holocaust anthropodicy and the debate about the return of a different form of theodicy
  • To be able to formulate the problem of evil in a reflected way and to be able to distinguish between good and bad, evil and misery, evil and violence

Practical skills

  • To be able to balance the use of primary and secondary texts critically
  • To understand and classify different discourses on ethical reasoning
  • To be able to present complex ethical issues within an accredited intellectual context
  • Enhance individual performance skills

Transferable skills and personal qualities

This course will enable students to seek a career in Journalism, NGOs, NPOs, faith-based communities/churches and law wherever a profound training in ethics and religion on a philosophical and academic basis is deemed to be an essential prerequisite.


Employability skills

Group/team working
Working as part of a team
Project management
Working to fulfil the requirements of a specified brief
Oral communication
Communication skills (written and oral via synchronous zoom meetings)
Research skills
Written communication
Communication skills (written and oral via synchronous zoom meetings)
Philosophical and Religious concepts of evil, violence and the good Careful generalisation on the basis of analysis of specific examples Critical awareness of different contemporary forms of evil and violence

Assessment methods

Draft Essay 0%
Essay 100%


Feedback methods

  • Written feedback on essays
  • Additional one-to-one feedback (during the consultation hour or by making an appointment via zoom)


Recommended reading

Compulsory reading

  • Bernstein, Richard. Radical Evil. A philosophical Interrogation (Polity, 2002)

Will be available as ebook via the library

Examples of further Readings

  • Terry, Eagleton. On Evil (Yale University Press: Yale, 2011)Bernstein, Richard.Violence. Thinking without Banisters (Polity, 2013)
  • Paul, Ricœur. Evil: A Challenge to Philosophy and Theology (Continuum: London, 2007)
  • Paul, Ricœur. The Symbolism of Evil (Beacon Press, 1993)
  • Peter, Vardy. The Thinker’s Guide to Evil (O Books: Australia, 2003)
  • Philip, Tallon. The Poetics of Evil: Toward an Aesthetic Theodicy (Oxford University Press: Oxford, 2012)
  • Hanna, Arendt. The Human Condition (University of Chicago Press, 1999)
  • Hanna, Arendt. On Violence (Harcourt Publishers, 1970)


Theology: Theodicy, Sin, Guilt, Devil; Philosophy: Free Will, Freedom; Ethics: Judgment, Decision, Pragmatism


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Michael Hoelzl Unit coordinator

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