Ethical Theory and Moral Practice

, Volume 13, Issue 2, pp 191–205 | Cite as

Why Be Immoral?

  • Christopher FreimanEmail author


Developing themes in the work of Thomas Hill, I argue that servility is an underappreciated but pervasive reason for moral transgression. Recognizing servility as a basic cause of immorality obliges us to reconsider questions about the rationality of morality. Traditional answers to the problem of the immoralist, which tend to be stated in terms of enlightened self-interest, fail to properly engage the problems posed by 'servile immorality.' In response to these problems, I develop a Humean version of a traditionally Kantian strategy for substantiating the rationality of morality: (i.e.) agents' conceptions of themselves commit them to accepting morality's authority. Servile behavior implies cognitive dissonance, which can restructure or dissolve those particular desires, beliefs, and projects that constitute agents' most highly valued contingent conceptions of themselves. I conclude that agents have reason to abstain from servility even on a parsimonious Humean account of practical reasons.


Servility Practical identity Thomas Hill The normative question 



Thanks are due to David Schmidtz and two anonymous referees for this journal for their comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of ArizonaTucsonUSA

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