Vice, Blameworthiness and Cultural Ignorance

In Philip Robichaud & Jan Willem Wieland (eds.), Responsibility: The Epistemic Condition. Oxford University Press. pp. 82-100 (2017)
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Many have assumed that widespread cultural ignorance exculpates those who are involved in otherwise morally problematic practices, such as the ancient slaveholders, 1950s sexists or contemporary meat eaters. In this paper we argue that ignorance can be culpable even in situations of widespread cultural ignorance. However, it is not usually culpable due to a previous self-conscious act of wrongdoing. Nor can we always use the standard attributionist account of such cases on which the acts done in ignorance can nonetheless display bad motivations. Instead, we argue that moral ignorance often results from the exercise of vice, and that this renders subsequent acts blameworthy, regardless of whether the ignorance happens to be widespread. We develop an account of moral-epistemic vice, and argue that two families of moral-epistemic vice may be common. Vices of arrogance involve the motivation to self-aggrandizement, while vices of laziness involve the motivation for comfort. If cases of cultural ignorance involve the operation of these moral-epistemic vices then that ignorance ought to be viewed as culpable.



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