From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Vice is a practice or habit that is considered immoral, depraved, and/or degrading in the associated society. Vice can also refer to conduct that is seen as depraved or degrading such as prostitution, incest, or pedophilia. The term can also be used to refer to a particular form of immoral conduct as in 'drug abuse is a vice'. In more minor useages, vice can refer to a fault, a defect, an infirmity, or merely a bad habit. Synomyms for vice include fault, depravity, sin, iniquity, wickedness and corruption. The modern English term that best captures its original meaning is the word vicious, which means "full of vice." In this sense, the word vice comes from the Latin word vitium, meaning "failing or defect". Vice is the opposite of virtue.
Vice is also a generic legal term for criminal offenses involving prostitution, lewdness, lasciviousness, and obscenity. Illegal forms of gambling are also often included as a vice in law enforcement departments that deal with vice as a crime.
The term vice is also popularly applied to various activities considered immoral by some: a list of these might include the abuse of alcohol and other recreational drugs, gambling, smoking, recklessness, cheating, lying and selfishness. It is also used in reference to police vice units who prosecute crimes associated with these activities. Often, vice particularly designates a failure to comply with the sexual mores of the time and place such as sexual promiscuity.
Behaviors or attitudes going against the established virtues of the culture may also be called vices: for instance, effeminacy is considered a vice in a culture espousing masculinity as an essential element of the character of males.
Dante's seven deadly vices
The poet Dante Alighieri listed the following seven deadly vices:
- Pride or vanity — an excessive love of the self (holding the self outside of its proper position regarding God or fellows; Dante's definition was "love of self perverted to hatred and contempt for one's neighbor"). In the Latin lists of the Seven Deadly Sins, pride is referred to as superbia.
- Avarice (covetousness, greed) — a desire to possess more than one has need or use for (or according to Dante, "excessive love of money and power"). In the Latin lists of the Seven Deadly Sins, avarice is referred to as avaritia.
- Lust — excessive sexual desire. Dante's criterion was that "lust detracts from true love". In the Latin lists of the Seven Deadly Sins, lust is referred to as luxuria.
- Wrath or anger — feelings of hatred, revenge or denial, as well as punitive desires outside of justice (Dante's description was "love of justice perverted to revenge and spite"). In the Latin lists of the Seven Deadly Sins, wrath is referred to as ira.
- Gluttony — overindulgence in food, drink or intoxicants, or misplaced desire of food as a pleasure for its sensuality ("excessive love of pleasure" was Dante's rendering). In the Latin lists of the Seven Deadly Sins, gluttony is referred to as gula.
- Envy or jealousy - resentment of others for their possessions (Dante: "love of one's own good perverted to a desire to deprive other men of theirs"). In the Latin lists of the Seven Deadly Sins, envy is referred to as invidia.
- Sloth or laziness; idleness and wastefulness of time and/or other allotted resources. Laziness is condemned because it results in others having to work harder; also, useful work will not be done. Sloth is referred to in Latin as accidie or acedia.