Vice is defined as "in ethics, any voluntary action or course of conduct which deviates from the rules of moral rectitude, or from the plain rules of propriety; any moral unfitness of conduct, either from defect of duty, or from the transgression of known principles of rectitude. vice differs from crime, in being less enormous. We never call murder or robbery a vice; but every act of intemperance, all falsehood, duplicity, deception, lewdness and the like, is a vice The excessive indulgence of passions and appetites which in themselves are innocent, is a vice The smoking of tobacco and the taking of snuff, may in certain cases be innocent and even useful, but these practices may be carried to such an excess as to become vices. This word is also used to denote a habit of transgressing; as a life of vice, vice is rarely a solitary invader; it usually brings with it a frightful train of followers. Vice is depravity or corruption of manners." – Noah Webster

Today the world defines a vice on a continuum ranging from "a slight personal failing; a foible, a flaw, an imperfection or a defect," to "a serious moral failing," to "wicked or evil conduct or habits; corruption," or "an evil, degrading, or immoral practice or habit." – OED

Vices are generally associated with immorality, physical appetites and sensations. The vices include excess in any physical appetite, gluttony, laziness (sloth), the use of non-prescription drugs, drunkenness, immorality, pornography, lust, sexual promiscuity, and perversions. Vices are always sins, some more vicious than others. To lead another into vice is an act of evil.

Edna Lister on Vices

Do not confine progress to your virtues. Do not retard your virtues by indulging vices. – Edna Lister, Illumination, Your Place, August 22, 1934.

Prosperity and happiness are ever the ultimate consequences of virtue and justice, while disgrace and ruin invariably follow the practices of vice and immorality. – Edna Lister, The Third Sacred Degree, March 2, 1935, March 30, 1935.

Lift your vices and passions when they are revealed to you. – Edna Lister, The Ninth Sacred Degree, May 25, 1935.

Pythagoras taught transmigration of souls as an allegory, showing that the individual could descend and become like an animal. He never intended this as a literal doctrine, but used it to show how evil dragged the soul down, not that the souls of the vicious dead passed into bodies of those animals to whose nature their vices had the most affinity. Pythagoras taught that by the practice of virtue, the soul could rescue itself to ascend. – Edna Lister, Pythagoras, His Three Degrees, June 8, 1965.

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New Testament on Vice

Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation. Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: As free, and not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king. – 1 Peter 2:11-17.

The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished: But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, self-willed, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities. Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord. But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption; and shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time. Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you; having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children: Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; but was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man's voice forbad the madness of the prophet. These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever. For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage. For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire. – 2 Peter 2:9-22.

For the grace of God that brings salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world, looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee. – Titus 2:11-15.

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Vices in Other Sacred Writings

Go not after your lusts, but refrain yourself from thine appetites. – Wisdom of Ben Sirach 18:30.

When you sit [at table] among many, do not reach your hand out first of all. – Wisdom of Ben Sirach 31:18.

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Edna Miriam Lister
1884 – 1971
The original Christian Pioneering Mystic,
Platonist philosopher, American Idealist, Founder, Society of the Universal Living Christ, minister, teacher, author, wife, and mother.

Edna Lister

Etymology of vice: Latin vitium, "defect, offense, blemish, imperfection," in both physical and moral senses.

Vices are sins, but can be outright evil.


Vice is contagious, and there is no trusting the sound and the sick together. – Seneca


Webster, Noah. "Vice," Webster's American Dictionary of the English Language. New York: S. Converse, 1828. This work is in the public domain.

Seneca. Forty Thousand Quotations: Prose and Poetical. Charles Noel Douglas, compiler. New York: Halcyon House, 1917, p. 269.

The Compact Edition of The Oxford English Dictionary: 2 volumes. E.S.C. Weiner, editor. Oxford University Press, 1971.

The Holy Bible. King James Version (KJV).

The Nag Hammadi Library. James M. Robinson, editor. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1981.

Related Topics

See Immorality

See Perversion