Copyright Date: 1984
Pages: 286
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    This book explores a much-neglected area of moral philosophy--the typology of immorality. Ronald D. Milo questions the adequacy of Aristotle's suggestion that there are two basic types of immorality--wickedness and moral weakness--and argues that we must distinguish between at least six different types of immoral behavior.

    Originally published in 1984.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5613-8
    Subjects: Philosophy, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-2)
    (pp. 3-28)

    What does immorality consist in? Immoral behavior does not consist merely in the performance of morally wrong acts, for morally wrong acts are not always blameworthy and immoral behavior is blameworthy. But the question I wish to consider here is not—or, at least, not primarily—about the conditions under which morally wrong acts are blameworthy. For even when we are in agreement about this it is still possible to conceive of immorality in different ways, or to conceive of immoral behavior as taking on different forms.

    For example, Aristotle distinguishes between two types of immorality: wickedness and weakness. He...

    (pp. 29-55)

    As we have seen, wickedness, defined as deliberately doing something that is morally wrong without any compunction or scruple, can be conceived of in two quite different ways. According to the conception of it as perverse wickedness, the agent himself believes that acts of this sort are right—either morally required or, at least, morally permissible. According to the conception of it as preferential wickedness, the agent believes that what he does is wrong, but does it nevertheless because he prefers the realization of some end to the avoidance of moral wrongdoing. According to both conceptions, the agent of a...

    (pp. 56-81)

    Sometimes when one describes a person or his behavior as amoral one is deliberately employing the term “amoral” rather than “immoral” because one thinks that the person or his behavior is somehow removed from the moral realm—not an appropriate object either of moral condemnation or commendation. In such contexts “amoral” has the same meaning as “nonmoral.” In other cases—so I shall argue—we use the term “amoral” not to exclude the label “immoral” but rather to indicate a certain type of immorality.

    In cases of what we commonly refer to as amoral wrongdoing, the agent is either unaware...

    (pp. 82-114)

    In cases of moral negligence the agent is ignorant that what he does is in violation of his own moral principles, and hence he mistakenly believes (assumes) that what he does is right—either that it is morally permissible or perhaps even that it is morally required.¹ Ignorance of this sort is sometimes excusing and sometimes not. Aristotle suggests that it is not excusing when it is due to carelessness or negligence.

    Indeed, we punish a man for his very ignorance, if he is thought to be responsible for the ignorance, as when penalties are doubled in the case of...

    (pp. 115-139)

    Aristotle likens the agent of a morally weak act to a city that has good laws but fails to apply them. As we have seen, this analogy applies equally well to the agent of a morally negligent act. In both cases the agent fails to make his behavior conform to his own moral principles. However, the agent of a morally negligent act fails to realize that his act violates his own moral principles. He is thus not (fully) conscious of the wrongness of what he does. Now, in spite of what Aristotle seems to suggest, the agent of a morally...

    (pp. 140-184)

    The question of whether morally indifferent behavior is possible turns, as we have seen, on the question of whether it is possible for a person to believe that an act is morally wrong without having some con-attitude toward that act. That it is not possible is the central claim of all those who defend noncognitivist analyses of moral beliefs and judgments—i.e., those who claim that having a moral belief consists in having some kind of pro- or con-attitude rather than in accepting some proposition that can be assessed as true or false. The thesis that it is a necessary...

    (pp. 185-218)

    In Chapter One I argued that the conception of wickedness as preferential wickedness provides a more adequate reflection of the way in which we ordinarily conceive of wickedness than does the conception of wickedness as perverse wickedness. For we do not ordinarily conceive of the agent of a wicked act as failing to believe that what he does is wrong. “He knows very well that it is wrong,” we are inclined to say. We do not think that, although he prefers the avoidance of moral wrongdoing to the realization of his other ends, he himself believes that what he does...

    (pp. 219-258)

    I have been discussing different ways of conceiving of immoral behavior and the different forms that such behavior can take on. These are all forms of blameworthy behavior. Immoral behavior is not just a case of doing something that iswrong—in the sense of the sort of act that one ought not to choose to do—it is morallybadbehavior as well. Such behavior reflects adversely on the agent. Although (as we shall see) to be guilty of such behavior does not necessarily mean that one is a bad person or has a bad character, it does always...

    (pp. 259-266)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 267-273)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 274-274)