Emotional self-awareness and ethical deliberation

Ratio 18 (1):65-81 (2005)
How are we to distinguish between appropriate emotional responses that reveal morally salient reasons and inappropriate emotional responses that reflect our prejudices? It is often assumed that reason – considered as distinct from emotion – will make the distinction. I argue that this view is false, and that the process by which emotional responses are vetted involves ‘emotional self-awareness’. By this, I mean feeling an emotion, being aware of so doing, and feeling some usually subtle emotional response, often of calm or anxiety, to it, together with a general readiness to feel and acknowledge what emotions one has. Registering and exploring feelings of anxiety that arise in emotional self-awareness helps enable us to detect when emotions and thoughts are inappropriate. Deliberation that is not emotionally open in this way is therefore at an epistemic disadvantage. Furthermore, the attempt to remain unemotional when evaluating one’s emotions can be produced or co-opted by anxiety about one’s feelings of precisely the kind that indicates one’s emotional responses and thoughts are being distorted.
Keywords Deliberation  Emotion  Ethics  Self-awareness
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DOI 10.1111/j.1467-9329.2005.00271.x
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John F. Kihlstrom, Shelagh Mulvaney, Betsy A. Tobias & Irene P. Tobis (2000). The Emotional Unconscious. In Eric Eich, John F. Kihlstrom, Gordon H. Bower, Joseph P. Forgas & Paula M. Niedenthal (eds.), Cognition and Emotion. Oxford University Press 30-86.
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