My aim is to explore the question of whether a child can be born purely evil, or whether they can only be made so by adults. I first compared philosopher’s views on the concept of evil whilst also exploring the issue of the age of criminal responsibility in respect to ethics. My territory was the ethical debates behind the treatment of child offenders and debating whether the age of criminal responsibility is correct.
The object I used is the novel and 2011 film We need to talk about Kevin. It is a novel about the relationship between a successful business woman named Eva and her son Kevin, a 16 year old boy who kills seven fellow students at school. The novel tackles the issue of nature vs nurture, asking whether a child can be predisposed to being ‘evil’ and with the intent to kill, or whether a parent’s shortcomings can shape their child and potentially lead them to evil actions.
I looked at the idea of responsibility, both moral and legal, and whether the age of responsibility is ethically sound or not. The fact that the defence of infancy age differs widely from country to country, from as high as 18 in Columbia, to no defence of age at all in Saudi Arabia. suggests that the law is highly debatable.
I looked primarily at the ethics concepts of Kant and Hobbes, comparing Hobbesian ethics laid down in his Leviathan, and Kant’s deontological ethical views with the Groundwork of the metaphysic of morals. I chose to look at Kantian ethics because of his strong claim that one is only responsible for what is under one’s control. Additionally, Hobbes has strong ethical views on authority, which can be linked with the idea of a parental control and also with the age of legal responsibility. Hobbes and Kant both also hold strong different views on why we obey laws in the first place, along with views on freewill and determinism, which ties in with the nature vs. nurture debate.