Volume 17, Issue 1, Spring 2003
David B. Fletcher
Gambling and Character
Legalized gambling has all the hallmarks of a large-scale moral and social concern, yet, remarkably, philosophers have paid scarce attention to the moral issues surrounding this phenomenon. I believe that this neglect is unjustified. While much could be said about gambling in terms of its social impact, I offer an account on the moral status of gambling and avoid the temptation to give a “thin” account in simply categorizing gambling as “permissible” or “impermissible.” I attempt to assess its impact on character and the moral life, felt in five closely interrelated ways. In particular, I will argue that gambling A) injures self-control, fosters moral incontinence, and indeed courts addiction; B) involves greed; C) shows a disregard for money that is incompatible with responsible care of one’s resources; D) cultivates indifference to others’ welfare; and E) represents a reckless assault on practical rationality, the faculty necessary for the moral life and the discharge of one’s responsibilities.