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.
Ramsay, H. (2007). Insensitivity. Heythrop Journal, 48(4), 546-560. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2265.2007.00329.x