The weak-willed vs. the vicious

Abstract: Virtue Ethicists typically hold that the weak-willed person is less morally culpable than the vicious person. However, I have reasons to think that this intuition is incorrect. What’s more, I think that insofar as there is an asymmetry in the moral culpability between the weak-willed and the vicious, the asymmetry works the opposite way. Moreover, I think that Virtue Ethicists should think this, too. In the following paper, I will first discuss the plausibility of the vicious agent as someone who is merely mistaken about what the good is. Then I will explain and critique two of the reasons a Virtue Ethicist might give in arguing for the claim that the weak-willed agent is less culpable than the vicious agent: (i) that the weak-willed agent has a ‘general commitment to the good’, whereas the vicious agent does not, and (ii) that it is the internal struggle or conflict within the weak-willed person that deserves merit or praise (as opposed to the vicious agent who doesn’t struggle at all). Finally, I will outline some additional reasons why the Virtue Ethicist should think that the vicious person is less culpable than the weak-willed, followed by some brief comments about the role of internalism in all of this.
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