Moral Emotions

de Sousa, Ronald
June 2001
Ethical Theory & Moral Practice;Jun2001, Vol. 4 Issue 2, p109
Academic Journal
Emotions can be the subject of moral judgments; they can also constitute the basis for moral judgments. The apparent circularity which arises if we accept both of these claims is the central topic of this paper: how can emotions be both judge and party in the moral court? The answer I offer regards all emotions as potentially relevant to ethics, rather than singling out a privileged set of moral emotions. It relies on taking a moderate position both on the question of the naturalness of emotions and on that of their objectivity as revealers of value: emotions are neither simply natural nor socially constructed, and they apprehend objective values, but those values are multi-dimensional and relative to human realities. The "axiological" position I defend jettisons the usual foundations for ethical judgments, and grounds these judgments instead on a rationally informed reflective equilibrium of comprehensive emotional attitudes, tempered with a dose of irony.


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