Title

Insensitivity

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2007

Abstract

Ethical theories do not always focus sufficiently on the correct characterization of morally bad choices. Standard accounts include: acts that are unprincipled, low-utility, badly directed, or in violation of contracts. These standard accounts of immorality are inadequate. The concept of vices – a key part of virtue theory – offers a better account of bad choice. Most virtue ethics focuses on the warm vices (greed, lust, pride, anger, acquisitiveness …), but the cool vices – the vices of insensitivity – may pose as many dangers to human life and happiness. I discuss a range of insensitivities and the ways in which they can infiltrate personality, often spreading so as to affect the entire character. I address the objection that insensitivity is a weak account of bad choice since insensitivity is often an involuntary characteristic. I borrow from Adam Smith the concept of ‘piacularity’ to explain how involuntary habits (and the acts they cause) can be bad despite the fact they are not culpable.

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