Vice, Blameworthiness and Cultural Ignorance

Elinor Mason, Alan Wilson

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Widespread cultural ignorance has seemed to many to be exculpatory. It seems that ancient slaveholders, 1950s sexists, and, more controversially, present day meat eaters, are morally ignorant – they do not know that what they are doing is wrong. Perhaps these agents are ignorant in a way that does not reflect badly on them. Something about the situation where ignorance is widespread seems to indicate that their ignorance is not culpable.

In this paper we argue that ignorance can be culpable even in a situation of widespread cultural ignorance. However, it is not usually culpable through a previous self-conscious act of wrongdoing. We argue that ignorance can be culpable if the ignorance results from a flawed will, and we argue that understanding a flawed will in terms of a vice is very useful here. In particular, moral ignorance often results from the exercise of a moral-epistemic vice, and this renders subsequent acts blameworthy, even when the ignorance is widespread.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationResponsibility
Subtitle of host publicationThe Epistemic Condition
EditorsPhilip Robichaud, Jan Willem Wieland
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages19
ISBN (Print)9780198779667
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jun 2017


  • cultural ignorance
  • vice
  • responsibility
  • blameworthiness
  • attributionism
  • tracing


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