In this paper I want to explore, and suggest a theoretical explanation of, an apparent asymmetry governing some of our most basic ethical judgments. I also want to use this asymmetry to probe into the relative plausibility of ‘moral character’ and ‘volition’ based accounts of moral responsibility. Briefly, my argument will be that, with suitable modifications, the latter type of account succeeds just where the former, the more Aristotelian approach, breaks down.
Consider, first, a series of acts exemplifying the same vice.A person, say, is repeatedly late or is consistently selfish. Now our tendency here, surely, would be to view such acts as increasingly blameworthy — increasingly worthy, one might say, of some form of punishment (or, perhaps better to say, worthy of increasingly severe punishments) — as they are repeated.