Vicious, Antisocial, and Sinful: The Social and Political Dimension of Moral Vices from Medieval to Early Modern Philosophy (VAS)

Main funder

Funder's project number: 331620

Funds granted by main funder (€)

  • 480 000,00

Funding program

Project timetable

Project start date: 01/09/2020

Project end date: 31/08/2024


This research project analyses the social and political dimension of human vices in medieval and early modern philosophy. The key concepts, moral vice and its theological counterpart sin, are approached from two perspectives. First, the project investigates the social and political dimension of vices in medieval moral literature. Medieval authors left behind a vast body of works on virtues and vices. This material remains largely unexamined from a philosophical perspective. The project focuses especially on philosophical conceptualisations of vices and examines how the social aspect is mapped into them.

Second, the project examines the role of vices in the context of political philosophy. Medieval and early modern authors were acutely aware that human beings often seek to satisfy their vicious desires at the expense of the common good. This belief influenced their political theories in many ways. The project studies in particular how Aristotle’s remarks concerning vicious, bestial, and apolitical human beings were understood in the context of scholastic commentaries on Aristotle’s Politics and other works in political philosophy. The main focus is on the dynamic relation between human wickedness and potential for social, asocial, and antisocial life.

In addition to medieval scholastic tradition from the thirteenth to the end of the sixteenth century, the project charts the continuities and discontinuities between medieval and early modern periods. A close examination of early modern theories against their scholastic background is expected to show that a superficial break in the tradition does not necessarily mean that all the underlying philosophical ideas would have been abandoned. Early modern political philosophy distances itself increasingly from theological considerations concerning human sinfulness, but the idea of human frailty and wickedness continues to be highly relevant.

By focusing on the concept of moral vice, the project approaches the history of political philosophy and ethics from a novel perspective. The project will result in new knowledge concerning the formative period of modernity, but it also has potential for deepening our understanding of the societal problems that we face today.

Principal Investigator

Primary responsible unit

Last updated on 2021-17-03 at 12:05