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Subject Philosophy

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405106795.2004.x


E thics [from Latin cruor , spilled blood] Cruelty is traditionally conceived as an activity of inflicting pain upon other persons. In addition to physical pain, which is related to spilling blood, it also covers mental or psychological pain. It is opposed to care and beneficence, and is regarded as a paradigmatic evil. Cruelty can be committed by individual persons or by institutions (for example, by the slave system or by Nazi Germany), although in many cases they are difficult to separate. Institutional cruelty involves a relationship between the strength of the institution and the weakness of its victims. There are issues concerning the complicity of the individual agents or members of the institution and the extent to which they are responsible for such cruelty. In some cases, questions of assessment arise because persons believe themselves to be caring, but those affected by their actions consider them to be cruel. There is dispute whether and to what extent cruelty to evil doers can be justified. One important case concerns whether capital punishment is cruel. In contemporary environmental ethics , cruelty as an evil extends from the human community to human relationships with animals. The animal liberation movement demands that we stop cruelty to nonhuman animals. “Cruelty or savageness is the desire whereby any one is incited to work evil to one whom we love or whom ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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