2022 Abstracts Stage 2

At what point does a serial killer’s moral and ethical point of view change? And is this influenced by their sociology and psychology?

In general, over the past decade, there has been an increase in documentaries about serial murderers to the point where websites are suggesting the top ten to watch. This intrigued me to the point where I wanted to investigate further; I wanted to look at the point time when their morality and ethical viewpoint changed from what would be considered to be an average person to their infamous persona of the killer and assess this investigation through a philosophical point of view. The typical serial murderer is seen to be an intelligent white man from a middle-class background. Still, I wanted to know if I could prove otherwise by looking at people from poorer backgrounds, those of different ethnicities and differing genders. This was achieved by utilising the arguments of Aristotle. How people become virtuous, Luther and Erasmus on the debate of free will to determine whether these people acted of their own volition, and finally, Freud and his concepts of Trauma, Repression and Dream to see whether these influence the people in question too, or if they are born evil. Ultimately, I conclude that all of the areas discussed combined may cause the serial murderer, but trauma and the lack of virtuous people in their lives contribute more than the others. Equally, this has opened more questions regarding these people’s level of responsibility.

2021 Abstracts Stage 3

The Human’s Ethical Power to Kill

Richard Ramirez, otherwise known as the infamous “Night Stalker”, once stated in an interview that ‘we have all got the power to kill in our hands, but most of us are afraid to use it. Those who aren’t, control life itself’. The first person to conceptualise evil was St Augustine, who believed in the metaphysical concept that evil was a necessary part of the world, for one cannot have good without evil. They both must coexist to create a balanced structure, thus describing evil within humans. The existence of evil is something that most humans view as destruction and nothingness, hence why they dislike the thought that it could reside within them. However, without evil in the world, there would be no conception of reality. If anything, good can only be praised as something which is not evil. Good is not a concept that guarantees happiness or fulfilment, and it is a concept that guarantees a lack of destruction.
This project will focus on the different contemporary theories of evil action regarding the concept of evil to deduce whether Richard Ramirez was justified in his claims about humanity and murder. BBC News claims that ‘over three decades in the late 20th century, there was a rise in serial homicides in North America’, explicitly suggesting that ‘a rise in serial killings [started] in the late 1960s, peaking in the 80s – when there were at least 200 such murderers operating in the United States alone’. This lead several theorists to attempt to offer necessary and sufficient conditions for evil. Some, such as Marcus G. Singer (2002), have focussed on evil as a root of personhood, whilst others, such as Luke Russell (2014), consider evil to be action-based.
The first part of this project will focus on the concept of evil and harmful wrongdoing. This chapter assumes that actions can be evil in themselves or that actions can be considered as ‘wrong’ in themselves. This chapter will then lead to evil and harm where it will be argued that evil must ‘cause or allow significant harm to at least one victim’. This part of the project will be crucial in deciphering whether evil is necessary within a person to cause another individual harm otherwise understood as quasi-deontological ethics. Then will continue into the concept of evil and motivation, which will delve into desire as a motive within a human mind, whether evil is a desire or something innate within us, otherwise known as consequentialist ethics. Evil could belong either to souls or to acts; if the former, there need be no consequences, if the latter, then evil is necessarily consequential. The next part of this chapter will focus on evil and its effect; this chapter focuses on the emotions humans must provide to commit murder and whether emotions must be involved to create evil. This chapter will conclude that evil resides within the soul rather than within the consequences of human action.
Then most importantly, the project will end with a chapter on evil and responsibility, which will focus on how evil resides in the soul using the classic argument of nature versus nurture. This will argue on behalf of ignorance, when people do not understand that what they are doing is wrong or when humans do something wrong by mistake and without intention. Then it will argue on behalf of psychopathy, where humans struggle to feel remorse for their actions which therefore makes it harder for them to act in a way which is socially acceptable. It will argue on behalf of upbringing, as evil could be distilled in childhood and traumatic experiences from a young age. This will be the crucial part of the essay in tying together the conclusion as to whether it has been ‘universally accepted that to perform an evil action an agent must be morally responsible for what she does’ unless that is of a natural event; however, there are other responsibilities for evil actions.

2011 Abstracts Stage 2

An Attempted Analysis of the Rationality of Ted Bundy

My Project is based upon the serial killer Ted Bundy who murdered and raped at least 30 women.

The initial preconception is that there is something ‘evil’ about Bundy.

My aim is to look beyond these initial preconceived ideas and understand the mind of Bundy by focusing on his rationality.

The philosophical concepts I will use include:

Freud’s notion of the unconscious: Investigating Bundy’s childhood in relation to the Oedipus complex. Looking at the Id, Ego, and Superego and the possible variations in neurosis and psychosis.

Kantian rationality: Transcendental rationality in the moral law vs. Instrumental rationality in the sensible world. The need for duty as opposed to inclinations. The Categorical Imperative vs. The Hypothetical Imperative and the notion of Radical Evil.

Durkheim’s social thesis: The need for serial killing in deviant behaviour. The Division of Labour on modern society. The impact of capitalism on the rise of serial killing and the concept of organic solidarity.

Each theory will give a different perspective determining to what extent Bundy is rational; the inference of this will be an evaluation of whether the initial preconceived ideas of Bundy being ‘evil’ is credible.

2011 Abstracts Stage 2

Nature vs Nurture. Why do Serial Killers Kill?

Can a serial killer ever be moral or good? What leads someone to kill repeatedly? Is it a genetic fault or the result of a neglected childhood?

In this project I have chosen to explore the illustrious philosophical debate of Nature vs Nurture in the context of serial killers. I want to better understand how the mind of a killer works and come to a strong supposition of whether of not it is something that they innately possess within their minds, a ‘killing gene’ or whether their behaviour is a result of the evils of society and an unkempt upbringing. On a philosophical front I am going to explore Free will and Determinism, Hobbes and Mill’s Direct and Indirect Obligation and Kant’s Intuitionism and Moral Conscience.

2011 Abstracts Stage 2

The Punishment of a Serial Killer. Is Utility Morality?

CONCEPT: The mind behind serial murder and the influence of mental illness on our judgement of correct punishment.

PHILOSOPHY: Mill’s Utilitarianism and Mill’s Speech in Favour of Capital Punishment; exploring contradictions, claims of morality and the influence of human nature.

SOURCES: newspaper reports, true story based films along with texts on Capital Punishment by Hodgkinson and Schabas and secondary texts on utilitarianism such as Utilitarian ethics by A. Quinton.

It was the relationship between mental illness and crimes of murder that first inspired my investigation into the punishment of a serial killer. I began to question what evidence of mental illness meant for the responsibility of the crime and how the law ought to respond to this. My initial intuition is that regardless of this, murder rates MUST be reduced, and so the introduction of a harsher punishment is necessary. Although, I am aware this causes problems when bringing up any causes that may have influenced the murder.

My aim is to use various reactions to the controversial issue of the death penalty to construct whether it is right to make judgements and decisions based purely on the ‘utility’ of the outcome.

Our reasons for and against capital punishment may not have an outcome of utility in mind but purely ‘what is right’. As well as the mental state of the criminal, many of us cannot but care for the right to life of the criminal, even for he who commits the worst crime imagin

2011 Abstracts Stage 2

Crimes of Passion: the Human Limits of Moral Convention

Could human natural intuitions ever be fully repressed by moral convention? Could our emotions ever be fully rationalized? Are we indeed rational beings? Is it necessary for us to be rational? What do our emotions mean? How do we direct them? In this project I will try to challenge conventional morality towards the feeling we have for something that is considered to be wrong, namely murder. I will use the method of reflective equilibrium in order to test moral philosophy and convention with the authentic human intuitions. Human life is indeed valuable but the main point is that human impulses cannot (or maybe, should not) be fully rationalized.