On Irrational Guilt

R�ikk�, Juha
December 2004
Ethical Theory & Moral Practice;Dec2004, Vol. 7 Issue 5, p473
Academic Journal
A person raised in a religious family may have been taught that going to the theater is not allowed, and even if he has rejected this taboo years ago, he still feels guilty when attending theater. These kinds of cases may not be rare, but they are strange. Indeed, one may wonder how they are even possible. This is why an explanation is needed, and in my paper I aim to give such an explanation. In particular, I will first provide a brief review of the explanations of irrational guilt that are compatible with the cognitive theories of emotions, that is, theories that presuppose that there is a causal or a constitutional connection between emotions and cognitive factors, such as judgments, beliefs or thoughts. Following many other reviewers, I found most of the explanations of irrational guilt unsatisfactory, although my reasons for critical conclusions will partly differ from the usual ones. After the review, I will defend a solution according to which it is possible to believe that an act does not have any moral costs and at the same time to have animpressionthat is has, which explains the guilty feelings.


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