Vice-Based Accounts of Moral Evil

Alan T Wilson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


In this paper, I highlight three objections to vice-based accounts of moral evil: (1) the worry that vice-based accounts of evil are explanatorily inadequate; (2) the worry that even extreme vice is not sufficient for evil; and (3) the worry that not all vices are inversions of virtue (and so vice-based accounts will struggle to explain the “mirror thesis”). I argue that it is possible to respond to these objections by developing a vice-based account of evil that draws on insights from virtue (and vice) epistemology. In this way, I seek to defend the strategy of understanding evil in terms of vice, and to provide guidance on how best to develop such an account. I also briefly consider what vice-based accounts of moral evil might imply about evil in other normative domains where it is common to talk of virtue and vice, including the possibilities of epistemic evil and aesthetic evil.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2825-2845
Number of pages21
JournalPhilosophical Studies
Issue number9
Early online date22 Jul 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
I am very grateful to the anonymous reviewers for their careful and helpful comments. I am also grateful to Martin Sticker for the invitation to participate in a “Perspectives on Evil” workshop at Bristol which prompted me to revisit some of my earlier draft ideas on this topic. Thanks also to the Ethics Reading Group at Edinburgh, and to audiences at Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, and the Open University.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s).


  • evil
  • non-moral evil
  • virtue epistemology
  • virtue ethics
  • virtues
  • vices
  • vice epistemology


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