Morality and the Emotions

image of cover of book
Bagnoli (Editor), C. Morality and the Emotions. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2012.

IRH Fellow:
Carla Bagnoli, 2002-2003 UW System Fellow

Emotions shape our mental and social lives. Their relation to morality is, however, problematic. Since ancient times, philosophers have disagreed about the place of emotions in morality. One the one hand, some hold that emotions are disorderly and unpredictable animal drives, which undermine our autonomy and interfere with our reasoning. For them, emotions represent a persistent source of obstacles to morality, as in the case of self-love. Some virtues, such as prudence, temperance, and fortitude, require or simply consist in the capacity to counteract the disruptive effect of emotions. On the other hand, venerable traditions of thought place emotions such as respect, love, and compassion at the very heart of morality. Emotions are sources of moral knowledge, modes of moral recognition, discernment, valuing, and understanding. Emotions such as blame, guilt, and shame are the voice of moral conscience, and are central to the functioning of our social lives and normative practices. New scientific findings about the pervasiveness of emotions posit new challenges to ethical theory. Are we responsible for emotions? What is their relation to practical rationality? Are they roots of our identity or threats to our autonomy? This volume is born out of the conviction that philosophy provides a distinctive approach to these problems. Fourteen original articles, by prominent scholars in moral psychology and philosophy of mind, offer new arguments about the relation between emotions and practical rationality, value, autonomy, and moral identity.