Vice, reasons, and wrongdoing

Damian Cox*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterResearchpeer-review


Does justified belief that acting in a certain way would be vicious furnish a
reason against acting in that way? Is this a special kind of reason, distinct
from other kinds of moral reason? Can it form the basis for a theory of right
action? In this chapter, I explore positive answers to each of these questions.

1. Virtues, Vices, and the Moral Middle
Let me set out a series of assumptions that guide my answers. Aretaic judgment
takes the form of both judgment of character and judgment of action.
My initial assumption is that virtues and vices are broadly structured into
trichotomies. An action or a trait can be virtuous or vicious or neither virtuous
nor vicious. An act of helping or of not helping might be generous or
selfish, or neither generous nor selfish. We may encounter situations which
force a dichotomy upon us—situations where the moral middle disappears
and our actions can only be virtuous or vicious—but this is not the invariable,
or even ordinary, run of things. Traits may seem to invite dichotomous
judgment: that a person is either considerate of others or not considerate
of them; courageous or not courageous; temperate or intemperate; a dedicated
and professional colleague or a lazy, distracted and unprofessional
colleague. People seem either to have integrity or to lack it. Generally, however,
these cases involve an implicit third term. A person may be neither
especially temperate nor especially intemperate; they may be considerate to
others to a substantial degree, often, but not always, and not especially so.
Integrity is something we possess in degrees.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationVirtue's reasons
Subtitle of host publicationNew essays on virtue, character, and reasons
EditorsN Birondo, S Stewart
PublisherTaylor & Francis
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9781315314242
ISBN (Print)9781138231733
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017


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