Moral Emotions

Emotions are said to be moral, as opposed to non-moral, in virtue of their objects. They are also said to be moral, for example morally good, as opposed to immoral, for example morally bad or evil, in virtue of their objects, nature, motives, functions or effects. The definition and content of moral matters are even more contested and contestable than the nature of emotions and of other affective phenomena. At the very least we should distinguish moral norms (one ought to keep one’s promises, one ought not to tell lies), moral obligations (to look after one’s aged parents), moral right and wrong (murder), moral values (goodness, evil) and moral virtues (courage). And different accounts of morals and of morality understand norms, values and virtues and their interrelations in different ways. For example, such accounts disagree (1) about the relation between moral and non-moral oughts (the norms of prudence and rationality), the relation between moral and non-moral values (cognitive and aesthetic values, the values of pleasure and well-being, vital values such as health), and the relation between moral and intellectual virtues (accuracy, open-mindedness); and (2) about the moral weight to be attached to self-regarding attitudes and behaviour (egoism, egotism, self-love, self-respect, self-esteem, amour propre) and other-regarding attitudes and behaviour (altruism, “empathy”, sympathy, intolerance). Thus we may expect the range of putative moral emotions to display a bewildering variety.
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