From Silence to Murderous Rage

It appears that evil was present on the day of the Virginia Tech massacre; the most murders committed by a single gunman in U.S. history carried out by Sueng-Hui Cho. Psychopathologists can argue that the massacre was not an act of moral evil, but rather that of a mentally ill individual whose free will was compromised. A morally evil agent is one who “inflicts suffering on others against their will and without regard for their human worth” (Svendson 84).  It would seem obvious Cho would fit into this definition, however in order for Cho to have acted morally evil he would have first had to be a morally free acting agent- that is, someone who is able to act otherwise given alternate possibilities in a given situation. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) states in its introduction that an “important loss of freedom” is one of the defining features of mental disorders (Meynan 1). It should be noted that the meaning of “freedom” within the context of the DSM-IV remains undefined. In this case, it will be understood as the loss of the freedom of the mind, or the concept of free will.  Upon completion of a case study by an incident review panel that was given the task to explore the motives that could have driven Cho, it was found that he was gravely mentally ill. According to the review panel Cho was impaired by a combination of personality disorders, extreme social phobia, and depression, thus compromising his free will. If Cho was indeed not able to act freely then by definition he was not a morally evil agent, and thus the Virginia Tech massacre is grouped into a plethora of tragedies driven by biological and social diatheses. This perspective seemed to satisfy the question “why did he do it?” and is regarded as the most widely held and plausible. In this paper I will expand upon this psychopathological perspective further, and explore a more sinister perspective- that Seung-Hui Cho knew very well what he was doing, and freely chose to act in the way that he did. If Cho was indeed a morally free agent, then he is consequently guilty of moral evil, and more precisely demonic evil (which I will discuss in more detail in a later section). I will then conclude with my opinion on whether or not Seung-Hui Cho was a freely acting agent, and thus guilty of moral evil.

            The Virginia Tech massacre was well thought out by Sueng-Hui Cho, who authorities say started planning the massacre at the beginning of his senior year at Virginia Tech. The events that took place started on the morning of Monday, April 16, 2007 at around 7:15 a.m. when an emergency call was made reporting a shooting at Ambler Johnston Hall on the Virginia Tech campus………………………………………………….

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