The Theory of Good and Evil

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The Theory of Good and Evil
Hatings Rashdall's The Theory of Good and Evil.jpg
Author Hastings Rashdall
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Subject Ethics
Genre Philosophy
Publisher 1907 (The Clarendon Press)
Media type Print (hardcover and paperback)
Pages 312 (vol. 1, Elibron edition)
464 (vol. 2, Elibron edition)
ISBN 978-1112155512(vol. 1)
978-1112155505 (vol. 2)

The Theory of Good and Evil is a 1907 book by the English philosopher Hastings Rashdall.


Rashdall argues that actions are right or wrong according to whether they produce well-being, which he defines in terms of both pleasure and a virtuous disposition. Rashdall refers to his theory as "ideal utilitarianism".[1] He holds that the concepts of good and value are logically prior to that of right, but gives right a more than instrumental significance.[2] While for Rashdall, everyone's good should count for as much as the like good of everyone else, the capacity for a higher life may be grounds for treating men unequally.[3] His idea of good owes more to the English philosopher Thomas Hill Green than to the hedonistic utilitarians. The Theory of Good and Evil is dedicated to the memory of Rashdall's teachers, Green and Henry Sidgwick, who influenced his conclusions.[2]

Scholarly reception[edit]

The Theory of Good and Evil has been seen as Rashdall's most important philosophical work.[1]

Philosopher John Rawls writes in his A Theory of Justice (1971) that a position similar to Rashdall's view that the capacity for a higher life may be grounds for treating men unequally is implicit in G. E. Moore's Principia Ethica (1903).[3]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b Allard 1999. p. 771.
  2. ^ a b Downie 2005. p. 782.
  3. ^ a b Rawls 1999. p. 287.


  • Allard, James W. (1999). Audi, Robert, ed. The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-63722-8. 
  • Downie, R. S. (2005). Honderich, Ted, ed. The Oxford Companion to Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-926479-1. 
  • Rawls, John (1999). A Theory of Justice. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-00078-1.