Alfred R. Mele
What are actions? And how are actions to be explained? These two central questions of the philosophy of action call, respectively, for a theory of the nature of action and a theory of the explanation of actions. Many ordinary explanations of actions are offered in terms of such mental states as beliefs, desires, and intentions, and some also appeal to traits of character and emotions. Traditionally, philosophers have used and refined this vocabulary in producing theories of the explanation of intentional actions. An underlying presupposition is that common-sense explanations expressed in these terms have proved very useful. People understand their own and others' actions well enough to coordinate and sustain complicated, cooperative activities integral to normal human life, and that understanding is expressed largely in a common-sense psychological vocabulary. This article focuses on these issues.
Christopher C. W. Taylor
For Aristotle,phronēsis, the excellence of the practical intellect, is two-fold, consisting of a true conception of the end to be achieved by action and correct deliberation about the means to achieve that end. Three accounts have been given as to how that true conception of the end is acquired: i) by virtue of character, ii) by dialectic, i.e. critical reasoning concerning authoritative beliefs, and iii) by induction from data of experience. Virtue of character is the proper responsiveness of the appetitive element in the soul to reason; it is itself a rational state, presupposing a prior grasp of the end by the intellect. Dialectic and experience are each required for the attainment of that grasp, the role of the former being apparently to formulate more or less indeterminate principles that it is the task of moral experience to make determinate.
This chapter begins by tracing the development of the notion of conscience in the Western philosophical tradition and then addresses questions regarding the supposed authority or normativity of conscience. The relation between the idea of conscience and the notions of guilt and shame is examined, which in turn leads on to the question of whether the concepts of guilt and shame inhabit essentially different ethical landscapes. The chapter concludes by looking at the contribution of psychoanalytic thinking to our modern understanding of the phenomena of conscience, guilt and shame, and by asking why the resulting insights have been so imperfectly assimilated into contemporary anglophone moral philosophy.
Susan Sauvé Meyer and Adrienne M. Martin
The dominant consequentialist, Kantian, and contractualist theories by virtue ethicists such as G.E.M. Anscombe, Alisdair MacIntyre, Martha Nussbaum, and Michael Stocker have been criticized for their neglect of the emotions. There are three reasons why it might be a mistake for moral philosophy to neglect the emotions. (1) Emotions have an important influence on motivation, and proper cultivation of the emotions is helpful, perhaps essential, to our ability to lead ethical lives. (2) It is a plausible thesis that an ethical life involves feeling certain ways in certain circumstances and acting from certain feelings in certain circumstances. (3) Some emotions are forms of ethical perception, judgment, or even knowledge. This chapter examines the Ancient ethical tradition that inspires the virtue ethicists' critique, revealing versions of each of these three theses in one guise or another. It first considers the medieval transformations of the ancient doctrines, and then focuses on the third, more contentious thesis, distinguishing several versions of it in the moral philosophies of the seventeenth and eighteenth century and indicating some contemporary exemplars as well.
This article starts with some general points about fear. After that, it spells out and discusses the thesis of motivational modularity. However, even though that thesis is plausible in cases of non-human fear, this is not so for human fear. This is why the article turns to the claim that fear comes with some specific desire instead. The last section discusses the thesis of motivational egoism. It argues that when we experience fear for someone else, the motivation involved is exactly as altruistic as when we feel compassion for that person.
Emotions, Kant would apparently agree with Freud, are not in our control. Moral commands are restricted to what is in one's control. The moral will, which for Kant is the only unconditionally good thing in the world or out of it, is what matters. Moral worth depends on acting from duty, from respect for law in accordance with the Categorical Imperative. Our “principles of action”—what we try to do—are supposed to be for us to determine, even when “tender sympathy” is beyond our powers. But can we really make sense of respect for the moral law apart from our understanding of the empirical world of so-called “pathological” emotions? What, in the end, is “respect”? Is it too an emotion? Certainly, like emotions in general, it functions in Kant's account as an attitude and a motive.
Michael Lacewing and Richard G.T. Gipps
This introduction provides an overview of the three chapters in this section, which explores central issues in ethics in the context of psychoanalysis, including the nature of virtue, the ground of normativity, moral development, the relation between reason and passion, naturalism and moral motivation. One such issue concerns Sigmund Freud’s theory of the superego, which is said to undermine the ‘authority’ of morality. The first chapter argues that the superego represses conscience, and that our ‘moral-psychological difficulties’ can be understood only in light of repressed love. The second chapter examines the place of psychoanalysis in the relationship between virtue and mental health, and between vice and mental dysfunction. The third chapter discusses the idea of an ‘evolved development niche’ to address object relations and their role in moral development.
Darcia F. Narvaez
What has gone wrong with humanity that it is the only species that is destroying its habitat and justifying it as good or inevitable? The quality of a child’s early nest, including experience with mother and others, co-construct the nature of the child, shaping a highly intertwined biology and sociality. The species-typical nest that humans inherited for their young facilitates the development of a self that is relationally attuned and communal and receptively intelligent. Neurobiological studies today support the general insight from psychoanalytic theory that early experiences with caregivers initialize the formation of the self. But civilization typically does not provide the evolved nest, promoting a species-atypical pathway for social and moral development, one of self-focused protectionism. Cultures that adults build and perpetuate are founded on the human dispositions brought about by early experience.
This chapter analyses the problem of free will and moral responsibility, to which the history of philosophy records three standard reactions. Compatibilists maintain that it is possible for us to have the free will required for moral responsibility if determinism is true. Others contend that determinism is not compossible with our having the free will required for moral responsibility – they are incompatibilists – but they resist the reasons for determinism and claim that we do possess free will of this kind. They advocate the libertarian position. Hard determinists are also incompatibilists, but they accept that determinism is true and that we lack the sort of free will required for moral responsibility. Source and leeway theories, and the notions of incompatibilism and libertarianism, are discussed.
This chapter first analyses pessimism about the human condition, arguing that it has both an evaluative and a psychological component. As an evaluative thesis, the chapter proposes a standard by which human lives are to be assessed, and says that a human life is worth living if and only if it has certain features. Its psychological component asserts that something inheres in all or nearly all human beings that will always prevent their lives from having those valuable features. The discussion then turns to happiness, the best form of consciousness, eudaimonia, Schopenhauer's and Plato's complaints about the human situation, and life's brevity.
Freud’s account of morality is distinctive, and right, in focusing on unconscious, emotionalized conflict, and specifically on the repression of love as the centre of moral life. However, Freud misunderstands love in drive terms and confuses conscience with the superego. Conscience is actually an immediate moral understanding, an interpersonal openness that the moral normativity of collectivity (values, ideals, etc.) represses. Thus, conscience is the repressed unconscious of the superego, and ‘morality’ not one thing, but a living contradiction. This chapter details how bad conscience differs from superego guilt, how destructive emotions (e.g. jealousy) are in themselves moralized repressions of love, and how Freud’s officially amoral, drive-based accounts of the Oedipus complex and the installation of the superego break down, but can be understood if reconceptualized in the terms proposed here. The chapter elucidates the concrete sense in which openness and love can be conceived as the very heart of moral understanding.
This chapter begins with a seeming rivalry between two answers to the question ‘what are the aims of psychoanalysis?’, which seem to situate psychoanalysis differently in relation to ideals of human excellence: ‘we are trying to make people good’; and ‘goodness is none of our business—we are just trying to make people healthy’. But are these alternatives? If, as Aristotle said, human excellence is psychic health, one aim cannot be achieved without the other. That still leaves a space between human excellence and ‘the moral virtues’, until it is shown that one cannot be excellent of our human kind without possessing the moral virtues—as modern philosophers assume, though as Nietzsche denied. Attempting to resist these various assimilations, this chapter aims to untangle the complex relations between psychic health as it is conceived in psychoanalysis, the possession of the ‘moral virtues’, and excellence of our human kind.
This article focuses on the relationship between reasons and rationality. It begins by explaining how Hume is led to his (grotesque) conclusion. The explanation lies in his view that the concepts of reason and rationality are best explained by reference to their relations in the theoretical domain, specifically in the domain of deductive reasoning. It then considers how Hume's conclusion might be avoided. The issue, to anticipate, is whether, once the understandings of the terms “reason” and “rationality” are liberalized in the way required to take a more sensible view about the nature of reason and rationality in the theoretical domain, there is a stable position left to take in the practical domain that retains anything of the spirit of Hume's remarks.
To help characterize various emotions and to set the stage for discussion of them, it may help to mention some contrasts used by philosophers and other theorists in their discussions of emotions. The contrasts are doing and thinking; body and mind; activity and passivity; practical and theoretical; personal and interpersonal. These are important contrasts, but like many other contrasts they have often been misused in ways that hinder our understanding of emotions. This article intends to present several somewhat long passages of texts important for this work, presented in chronological order: the first by Aristotle, the second by William James, the third by Théodule Ribot, the fourth by two psychologists, both theorists of emotions, Nico H. Frijda and Louise Sundararajan. The main goals here are to show that intellectual and other nonstandard emotions are well known in our tradition; to show some of the variety they come in; and to begin to answer some questions and issues they raise.
The purpose and plan of the Handbook is described herein. Key concepts in the contemporary literature on reasons and normativity are introduced, and the forty-four chapters that make up the main body of the Handbook are each summarized. In the process, important connections between the chapters are highlighted. A distinctive feature of the Handbook is said to be the way in which it surveys work on normative reasons in both ethics and epistemology, focusing, when appropriate, on issues concerning unity or lack of it in different domains. It is noted that discussions of reasons and normativity in philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, and aesthetics are also surveyed in the Handbook.
It is quite clear that love plays an absolutely crucial role in Iris Murdoch’s philosophy. This chapter argues that Murdoch, in contrast to much contemporary philosophy, does not so much develop a theory of love that explains why and in what sense love is good or bad for philosophy. Murdoch’s problem is not the question whether one ought to bring the concept of love into other regions of thought, but to make clear that love is always already there. Murdoch is not asking us to broaden our concept of morality (or knowledge, or art) in such a way that love can be included. Murdoch should rather be seen as inquiring into, and questioning, an exclusion. She is asking us to pay attention to love and to think about why it has been blotted out, and by which means.
Arina Pismenny and Jesse Prinz
What kind of mental phenomenon is romantic love? Many philosophers, psychologists, and ordinary folk treat it as an emotion. This chapter argues the category of emotion is inadequate to account for romantic love. It examines major emotion theories in philosophy and psychology and shows that they fail to illustrate that romantic love is an emotion. It considers the categories of basic emotions and emotion complexes, and demonstrates they too come short in accounting for romantic love. It assesses the roles of culture and evolution in shaping the romantic love phenomenon and evaluates the ways in which the norms of rationality that are applied to standard emotions fail to apply to love. It considers the category of sentiments and argue that despite coming close, it does not adequately capture the nature of romantic love. Finally, the chapter makes a case for love being best characterized as a syndrome.
Ronald de Sousa
Jealousy is widely regarded as a “negative emotion.” Recently, however, there have been attempts to rehabilitate it, either as biologically functional or even as a moral virtue. This chapter rejects these defenses. It suggests that the standard jealousy-eliciting sexual or romantic situation can and sometimes should be re-gestalted as an occasion for “compersion,” or joy taken in the loved one’s pleasure and happiness. The possibility of such a transmutation is suggested by the fact that a common core of arousal can sometimes elicit contrary emotional responses, depending on the framing story in terms of which it is construed. The idea also draws support from an analogy with the dual nature of pain, as both sensation and aversive/motivation. If an aversive jealousy response can be converted into compersion in the way suggested, it would illustrate an important aspect of the mutability of emotions. It would also have highly desirable practical consequences.
R. Jay Wallace
Moral psychology is the study of morality in its psychological dimensions. Its unity and interest as a subject derive from its connection to the larger subject of moral philosophy, conceived as the study of normative demands on action in general, and moral demands on action in particular. It is possible, to be sure, to study morality without paying any special attention to issues that might be called psychological. Traditionally, however, the normative questions at the centre of philosophical ethics have been understood to require a kind of treatment that is at least partly psychological. This is no doubt due to the fact that moral norms aim to govern action. When it succeeds relative to this aim, morality will of necessity leave psychological traces in the agents whose lives it governs — there will be distinctive patterns of motivation and emotional response that people are subject to who internalize and act on moral standards.
This chapter draws upon ancient sources to develop a cognitivist account of emotions and indicate the sense in which they are candidates for the attribution of moral responsibility. Aristotle and the Stoics provide rich resources here, even if the Stoics themselves ultimately deny a place for ordinary emotions in the best moral life. In a selective engagement with the ancients, Kant aligns himself with the Stoic disparagement of the emotions while rejecting their cognitivist account. According to him, emotions are inclinations distinct from the exercise of practical reason. But in his later moral writings, Kant urges a place for emotions in the fine and virtuous character. The chapter begins by reviewing considered intuitions about the moral significance of emotions.