This paper shows that even if the mental states of non-human animals lack phenomenological properties, as some accounts of mental-state consciousness imply, this need not prevent those states from being appropriate objects of sympathy and moral concern. The paper argues that the most basic form of mental (as opposed to biological) harm lies in the existence of thwarted agency, or thwarted desire, rather than in anything phenomenological.
Adam Smith’s account of sympathy or ‘fellow feeling’ has recently become exceedingly popular. It has been used as an antecedent of the concept of simulation: understanding, or attributing mental states to, other people by means of simulating them. It has also been singled out as the first correct account of empathy. Finally, to make things even more complicated, some of Smith’s examples for sympathy or ‘fellow feeling’ have been used as the earliest expression of emotional contagion. The aim (...) of the paper is to suggest a new interpretation of Smith’s concept of sympathy and point out that on this interpretation some of the contemporary uses of this concept, as a precursor of simulation and empathy, are misleading. My main claim is that Smith's concept of sympathy, unlike simulation and empathy, does not imply any correspondence between the mental states of the sympathizer and of the person she is sympathizing with. (shrink)
This paper attempts to relax the tension between Adam Smith's claim that sympathy involves an evaluative act of imaginative projection and his claim that sympathy involves a non-evaluative act of imaginative identification. The first section locates the tension specifically in the two different ways Smith depicts the stance adopted by the sympathizer. The second section argues that we can relax this tension by finding an important role for a non-evaluative stance in Smith's normative account of moral evaluation. This (...) solution protects the continuity in Smith's account of sympathy (cf. Griswold 1999: 99–103). Because of the particular way in which it renders intelligible the relationship between the evaluative and non-evaluative stances, this solution also emphasizes the importance that respect for the agent's conscience has in Smith's conception of an ideal moral judge (cf. Darwall 2004; 2006). The third section investigates a possible systematic basis for Smith's normative commitment to respectful moral judgment. (shrink)
It is widely held in contemporary moral philosophy that moral agency must be explained in terms of some more basic account of human nature. This book presents a fundamental challenge to this view. Specifically, it argues that sympathy, understood as an immediate and unthinking response to another's suffering, plays a constitutive role in our conception of what it is to be human, and specifically in that conception of human life on which anything we might call a moral life depends.
My aim, in this chapter, is to outline the key details of this particularly interesting aspect of Hume's philosophical system. My presentation will be threefold. In the first section of the paper, I will elucidate the nature of sympathy, drawing upon some of the more recent ways in which Hume's commentators have attempted to resolve the interpretive puzzles Hume's works present. In the second section, I will explicate some of the functions sympathy has in Hume's philosophy, including not (...) only three that have been particularly prominent in the secondary literature, but also two others that have received considerably less attention. In the final section, I will summarize Hume's account of the nature and functions of sympathy and briefly suggest some of the ways in which these aspects of Hume's moral psychology seem to be supported by contemporary psychological research. (shrink)
In what follows, I wish to discuss empathy and sympathy’s relevance to ethics, taking recent findings into account. In particular, I want to consider sympathy’s relation to the idea of a person’s good or well-being. It is obvious and uncontroversial that sympathetic concern for a person involves some concern for her good and some desire to promote it. What I want to suggest is that the concept of a person’s good or well-being is one we have because we (...) are capable of care and sympathetic concern. Well-being is normative for care in the sense that it is intrinsic to the very idea of a person’s good that threats to it are what it makes sense to be concerned about for that person for her sake. (shrink)
An increasingly popular suggestion is that empathy and/or sympathy plays a foundational role in understanding harm norms and being motivated by them. In this paper, I argue these emotions play a rather more moderate role in harms norms than we are often led to believe. Evidence from people with frontal lobe damage suggests that neither empathy, nor sympathy is necessary for the understanding of such norms. Furthermore, people's understanding of why it is wrong to harm varies and is (...) by no means limited to considerations of welfare arising from the abilities to sympathize and/or empathize. And the sorts of considerations of welfare that are central to sympathy and, to some extent empathy, are often already moralized. As such, these considerations cannot form the non-moral foundation of harm norms. Finally, empathy and sympathy are not the only emotions that motivate harm norms. Indeed, much of the evidence that has been adduced in favor of the motivational force of empathy and sympathy are studies on helping, which is quite a different behavior than aggression inhibition. Understanding and being motivated by harm norms are complex abilities. To understand them better, we need to move beyond the current fixation on empathy and sympathy. (shrink)
We discuss the variety of sorts of sympathy Hume recognizes, the extent to which he thinks our sympathy with others’ feelings depends on inferences from the other’s expression, and from her perceived situation, and consider also whether he later changed his views about the nature and role of sympathy, in particular its role in morals.
Darwin believed that his theory of evolution would stand or fall on its ability to account for human behavior. No species could be an exception to his theory without imperiling the whole edifice. One of the most striking features of human behavior is our very elaborate social life involving cooperation with large numbers of other people. The evolution of the ethical sensibilities and institutions of humans was thus one of his central concerns. Darwin made four main arguments regarding human morality: (...) (1) that it is a product of group selection; (2) that an immense difference existed between human moral systems and those of other animals; (3) that the human social instincts were “primeval” and essentially the same in all modern humans; and (4) that moral progress was possible based on using the instinct of sympathy as the basis for inventing and favoring the spread of improved social institutions. Modern studies of cultural evolution suggest that Darwin’s arguments about the evolution of morality are largely correct in their essentials. (shrink)
As J. Baird Callicott has argued, Adam Smith's moral theory is a philosophical ancestor of recent work in environmental ethics. However, Smith's "all important emotion of sympathy" (Callicott, 2001, p. 209) seems incapable of extension to entities that lack emotions with which one can sympathize. Drawing on the distinctive account of sympathy developed in Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments, as well as his account of anthropomorphizing nature in "History of Astronomy and Physics," I show that sympathy with (...) non-sentient nature is possible within a Smithian ethics. This provides the possibility of extending sympathy, and thereby benevolence and justice, to nature. (shrink)
According to the Humean theory of motivation, we only have a reason to act if we have both a belief and a pro-attitude. When it comes to moral reasons, it matters a great deal what that pro-attitude is; pure self-interest cannot combine with a belief to form a moral reason. A long tradition regards empathy and sympathy as moral motivators, and recent psychological evidence supports this view. I examine what I take to be the most plausible version of this (...) claim: empathy or sympathy is necessary for someone to be motivated not to harm others. I argue that one can be motivated not to harm others even if one cannot feel either empathy or sympathy. The evidence comes from the clinical population of people with frontal lobe damage. In addition, if empathy is a moral motivator, we have a conflict with moral autonomy. Either empathy morally motivates, but agents are not autonomous, or agents are autonomous and need not be motivated by empathy. Sympathy suffers from two shortcomings as a moral motivator: it is unlikely that we must sympathize with ourselves in order to feel obligated not to harm ourselves, and there appears to be many other considerations that motivate us not to harm others: fear of harming ourselves, reluctance to add to the cycle of violence, and so on. These considerations are more self-centered than empathy or sympathy, but, perhaps for that very reason, they do not conflict with moral autonomy. (shrink)
As J. Baird Callicott has argued, Adam Smith’s moral theory is a philosophical ancestor of recent work in environmental ethics. However, Smith’s “all important emotion of sympathy” (Callicott 2001: 209) seems incapable of extension to entities that lack emotions with which one can sympathize. Drawing on the distinctive account of sympathy developed in Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments , as well as his account of anthropomorphizing nature in “History of Astronomy and Physics,” I show that sympathy with (...) non-sentient nature is possible within a Smithian ethics. This provides the possibility of extending sympathy, and thereby benevolence and justice, to nature. (shrink)
This article reassess Rorty’s contribution to human rights theory. It addresses two key questions: (1) Does Rorty sustain his claim that there are no morally relevant transcultural facts? (2) Does Rorty’s proposed sentimental education offer an adequate response to contemporary human rights challenges? Although both questions are answered in the negative, it is argued here that Rorty’s focus on suffering, sympathy, and security, offer valuable resources to human rights theorists. The article concludes by considering the idea of a dual (...) approach to human rights, combining Rorty’s emphasis on sentiment with an analysis of patterns of responsibility for the underfulfilment of human rights. (shrink)
Frans de Waal’s view that empathy is at the basis of morality directly seems to build on Darwin, who considered sympathy as the crucial instinct. Yet when we look closer, their understanding of the central social instinct differs considerably. De Waal sees our deeply ingrained tendency to sympathize (or rather: empathize) with others as the good side of our morally dualistic nature. For Darwin, sympathizing was not the whole story of the workings of sympathy ; the (selfish) need (...) to receive sympathy played just as central a role in the complex roads from sympathy to morality. Darwin’s understanding of sympathy stems from Adam Smith, who argued that the presence of morally impure motives should not be a reason for cynicism about morality. I suggest that De Waal’s approach could benefit from a more thorough alignment with the analysis of the workings of sympathy in the work of Darwin and Adam Smith. (shrink)
With his theory of sympathy in the Treatise of Human Nature, Hume has been interpreted as anticipating later hermeneutic theories of understanding. It is argued in the present article that Hume has good reasons to consider a hermeneutic theory of empathetic understanding, that such a theory avoids a serious difficulty in Hume’s “official,” positivist theory of sympathy, that it is compatible with the complex and subtle form of positivism, or naturalism, developed in Book 1 of the Treatise, and (...) that his analysis of sympathy provides valuable methodological rules for empathetic interpreters. Against the interpretation of James Farr in “Hume, Hermeneutics, and History,” it is maintained that Hume’s theory does not support a hermeneutics of nonempathetic Verstehen. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that Hume’s account of sympathy is substantially unchanged from the Treatise to the second Enquiry. I show that Hume uses the term ‘sympathy’ to refer to three different mental phenomena (a psychological mechanism or principle, a sentiment, and a conversion process) and that he consistently refers to sympathy as a cause of benevolent motivation. I attempt to resolve an apparent difficulty regarding sympathy and humanity by explaining how each is an ‘original (...) principle’ in Hume’s sense. I conclude by suggesting how my interpretation might make a contemporary evaluation of Hume’s account of benevolent motivation possible. (shrink)
Dispassionate cruelty and the euphoria of hunting or battle should be distinguished from the emotional savoring of victims' suffering. Such savoring, best called negative empathy, is what puzzles motivational theory. Hyperbolic discounting theory suggests that sympathy with people who have unwanted but seductive traits creates a threat to self-control. Cruelty to those people may often be the least effortful way of countering this threat.
This paper responds to criticisms of sympathy-based approaches to ethics made by Jesse Prinz, focusing on the criticism that emotions are too variable to form a basis for ethics. I draw on the idea, articulated by early sentimentalists such as Hutcheson and Hume, that proper reliance on sympathy is subject to a corrective procedure in order, in part, to avoid the variability problem.
In this article I examine an example of sympathy -- the actions of one woman who rescued Jews during their persecution in Nazi Europe. I argue that this woman''s account of her actions here suggests that sympathy is a primitive response to the suffering of another. By primitive here I mean: first, that these responses are immediate and unthinking; and second, that these responses are explanatorily basic, that they cannot be explained in terms of some more fundamental feature (...) of human nature -- such as some particular desire or sentiment that we possess. My conclusion is then that our sympathetic responses are themselves partially constitutive of our conception of what is to be a human being. (shrink)
Empathy and sympathy are feeling-acts which bring the self into direct encounter with other persons. In empathy a self grasps the affective act of another self; in sympathy x n persons apprehend a common object while immersed in similar feeling acts. Since touch is the paradigmatic sense for bringing what is felt into proximity with feeling, structural affinities between touch and these feeling acts can be shown. This relationship has been obscured by classical theories of touch in which (...) it is interpreted on analogy with the other senses. When the subject of touch is seen as the living body as a whole, the full range of its possible relationships to affective states can be explored. In this connection the theories of touch of Aristotle, Berkeley and Condillac are critically evaluated. While none recognizes the uniqueness of touch, each sees difficulties in incorporating touch in a general theory of sense. In the course of the exposition pity is distinguished from empathy and sympathy and a criticism of Nietzsche's ressentiment theory offered. CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
One of the distinctive features of Hume's presentation of disinterested aesthetic pleasure in the Treatise is its basis in sympathy as the communication of sentiment between a spectator and specifically an owner of a beautiful object. By tracking the recurring example of the beautiful house, which properly provides pleasure only to the owner who dwells in it, I reconsider the operation of sympathy in relation to property. My central argument is that sympathy underwrites the disinterested sociality of (...) judgments of taste for Hume not by enabling the spectator to feel a pleasure that corresponds to the owner's pleasure in beauty but rather by rendering this pleasure as a sentiment that does not originally belong to anyone and does not exist prior to its sympathetic communication. (shrink)
This article spells out a forgotten debate in Confucian ethics that concerns the finer points of empathy, sympathy, and perspective-taking (sometimes called ‘role-taking’). The debate’s central question is whether sympathy is more virtuous when it is automatic and other-focused – that is, when we engage in perspective-taking without conscious effort and sympathize without significant reference to our selves or our own feelings.
Edmund Husserl’s Kaizo articles mark one of his first attempts at notions of cultural renewal and critique. (1) Central to both of these notions for Husserl is the idea of a best possible humanity. At the conclusion of the Kaizo articles, Husserl entertains some quite troubling and potentially dangerous descriptions of the best possible in terms of an Übernation or Weltvolk. Although merely provisional, these descriptions call for a cultural and ethical renewal through the reorientation of humanity in accord with (...) a single, unified “world.” The Kaizo articles do represent Husserl’s most concentrated effort in developing a notion of cultural renewal but are not the only attempt made by Husserl at this time. In manuscripts written at nearly the exact same time period, Husserl had also taken up this notion of the best possible, but he did so in terms of the shared experiences in the acts of sympathy. (2) These sympathy manuscripts offer a genetic description of the origins of the best possible, in contrast to the static, eidetic method Husserl employed in the Kaizo articles. My aim in this paper is to show that a genetic phenomenological approach, grounding the best possible in the lived experiences of sympathy, offers a much more concrete telos for humanity. Solidarity among all human beings, rather than the idea of a “super nation,” would function as the best possible, as what we should and, thus, can become. Although certain shortcomings remain in the sympathy manuscripts, they indicate a much better beginning for a phenomenological approach to the question of a cultural renewal, a beginning that first emerges in genesis and the lived experience of the suffering of a fellow human being. (shrink)
J.M. Coetzee’s book, 'Elizabeth Costello' is one of the stranger works to appear in recent years. Yet if we focus our attention on the book’s two chapters dealing with animals, two preoccupations emerge. The first sees Coetzee use animals to evoke a particular conception of ethics, one similar to that of the philosopher Mary Midgley. Coetzee’s second theme connects animals to the phenomena of scapegoating, as it has been characterized by the philosophical anthropologist René Girard. While both themes involve human (...) interactions with animals, each transcends application to that particular issue and raises deeper questions, respectively concerning the foundations of morality and the therapeutic allure of political violence. Making explicit these two preoccupations enhances our understanding of Coetzee’s fiction, particularly Disgrace. However, when Coetzee’s two philosophical strands are analyzed in their own terms, the ethics of sympathy is shown to be a more coherent notion than the understanding of politics he takes over from Girard. (shrink)
This essay explains and puts into theoretical perspective the rising interest in justice as an emotional virtue. Martin Hoffman's empathy theory is germane to this debate since it gives an essentially emotion?oriented account of moral development in general, as well as an explanation of the gradual bonding of empathy/sympathy with justice. While Hoffman's theory provides valuable insights into the ways in which all moral concerns, including justice, rely on and relate to the child's original capacity for empathy, it seems (...) to underestimate the emotionality of justice itself. This unnecessarily weakens the thrust of Hoffman's educational suggestions about induction as the most productive method of pro?social stimulation. (shrink)
Sympathy for animals is regarded by many thinkers as theoretically disreputable. Against this I argue that sympathy appropriately underlies moral concern for animals. I offer an account of sympathy that distinguishes sympathy with from sympathy for fellow creatures, and I argue that both can be placed on an objective basis, if we differentiate enlightened from folk sympathy. Moreover, I suggest that sympathy for animals is not, as some have claimed, incompatible with environmentalism; on (...) the contrary, it can ground environmental concern. Finally, I show that the traditional concept of anthropomorphism has no coherent basis, and I argue that the attempt to prove that animals lack thoughts is both unsuccessful and irrelevant to sympathy for languageless creatures. (shrink)
Seventeenth-century Cambridge Platonist Ralph Cudworth, writing just at the time when the concept of sympathy was moving from the realm of magic to that of ethics, argued that God must be understood as having a vital sympathy with suffering human beings. Yet while Cudworth invoked sympathy in an attempt to capture God's intimate relation with creation, in fact, it served as a principle of mediation that tended either to collapse God into the world or to distance God (...) from the world. The broader implications of this problematic conception of divine transcendence can be seen in the secularizing tendencies within sentimentalist ethics and in the work of the late nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century Anglican theologians, who were the first to affirm divine passibility. (shrink)
David Hume argues that the prevalence of human sympathizing justifies our attributing to humans a certain degree of benevolence. This move from sympathy to having a concern for others has been challenged by recent critics. A more fine-grained look at Hume’s concept of sympathy may reveal the reasons why he thought that experiencing sympathy implied having a benevolent attitude. Two arguments from the Treatise are analyzed and found wanting. It is suggested that Hume’s confusion may derive from (...) ambiguities surrounding the term “sympathy” and a lack of attention given to the intentional aspects of sympathizing. (shrink)
We define and examine a notion of logical friendliness, which is a broadening of the familiar notion of classical consequence. The concept is tudied first in its simplest form, and then in a syntax-independent version, which we call sympathy. We also draw attention to the surprising number of familiar notions and operations with which it makes contact, providing a new light in which they may be seen.
Given the specific educational, psychological, and sociological factors of juvenile inmates, I developed a course to teach such students moral concepts and reasoning without high level theorizing. I combined Hume’s account of sympathy with current philosophical and psychological research to develop the students’ natural sympathy as an aid in developing emotional, contextual, and moral literacy. In this paper, I explain (1) how the course developed the students’ natural sympathy, (2) how sympathy can provide a simple and (...) familiar process of moral deliberation, (3) how sympathy aids in learning moral concepts, and (4) some interesting implications for public policy regarding moral education and recidivism, early childhood moral education, and teaching ethics courses generally. (shrink)
Kantian moral humanism refers to Kant’s ingenious effort to conceive human beings as bearers of an intrinsic and non-negotiable value that is grounded on the fact that they are autonomous lawgivers in a kingdom of ends. However, the highly idealised character of his project and its metaphysical underpinnings render the association between man’s inner worth and autonomy problematic for the modern reader. In this essay we argue for a more down to earth moral humanism that still supports the above association (...) but through an alternative route. In our “moral image” introspection, interaction, and sympathy, conceived as a primitive emotion that motivates us to care for the good of other people, play a central grounding role. However, while we are now more certain about the soundness of the general moral framework concerning the justification of the inherent value of human beings, we are less confident about the obligations it generates. This is the price we pay as we descend from Kant’s orderly moral heaven to the messy reality of human affairs. (shrink)
In this essay, I want to reconsider sympathy as a “natural” emotion or sentiment. Adam Smith famously defended it as such (as did his friend David Hume) but both used the term ambiguously and in a different sense than we use it today. Nevertheless, it seems to me that Smith got it quite right, that the basis of morality and justice is to be found in the realm of affect rather than in theory and principles alone, and that (...) class='Hi'>sympathy is a “natural” or should we say a “basic” emotion. But that means that morality may not be an exclusively human characteristic, as many philosophers (including Smith and Hume) have assumed. But some contemporary thinking in psychology and philosophy makes that extension plausible. (shrink)
Our moral valuation of nonhuman and human beings alike may arise in sympathy, the realization in feeling of a significant commonality between self and others; in scrupulous observance of policy, the affirmation in practical consistency of a system of relations with others; and in piety, the attitude of boundless appreciation and absolute scruple with respect to objects as sacred - that is, as valued for the sake of adequate valuation of the holy. Differences between the moral status of humans (...) and that of nonhumans are to be explained not by any single criterion such as the capacity to suffer or to make contracts, but rather by finding the relative positions of humans and nonhumans on continua of feelable commonality, policy considerateness, and sacredness. Investigation of these differences must take into account the way basic religious apprehensions (or the absence thereof) organize these frames of reference. (shrink)
More than two hundred years after its publication, David Hume's Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals is still widely regarded as either a footnote to the more philosophically interesting third book of the Treatise, or an abbreviated, more stylish, version of that earlier work. These standard interpretations are rather difficult to square with Hume's own assessment of the second Enquiry. Are we to think that Hume called the EPM “incomparably the best” of all his writings only because he preferred that (...) later style of exposition? Or worse, should we take his preference for the second Enquiry as a sign of aging literary vanity? Does Hume's stated preference for the EPM in no way speak to its philosophical content? (shrink)
David Hume endorses three claims that are difficult to reconcile: (1) sympathy with those in distress is sufficient to produce compassion towards their plight, (2) adopting the general point of view often requires us to sympathize with the pain and suffering of distant strangers, but (3) our care and concern is limited to those in our close circle. Hume manages to resolve this tension, however, by distinguishing two types of sympathy. We feel compassion towards those around us because (...) associative sympathy causes us to mirror their pain and suffering, but our ability to enter into the afflictions of those remote from us involves cognitive sympathy and merely requires us to reflect upon how we would feel in their shoes. This hybrid theory of sympathy receives support from recent work on affective mirroring and cognitive pretense. Hume’s account should appeal to contemporary researchers, therefore, who are interested in the nature of moral imagination. (shrink)
Argues against "the guise of the good" as a claim about rational agency, conceding that it may hold true as a principle of human nature. Themes discussed along the way – extending the argument of "Reasons without Rationalism" (Princeton, 2007) – include: desires as appearances of the good, the intelligibility of vice, and the kind of essentialist claim that permits exceptions.
While very much in Sen's camp in rejecting revealed preference theory and emphasizing the complexity, incompleteness, and context dependence of preference and the intellectual costs of supposing that all the factors influencing choice can be captured by a single notion of preference, this essay contests his view that economists should recognize multiple notions of preference. It argues that Sen's concerns are better served by embracing a single conception of preference and insisting on the need for analysis of the multiple factors (...) that determine ‘preference’ so conceived. (shrink)
David Hume's sympathetic principle applies to physical equals. In his account, we sympathize with those like us. By contrast, Adam Smith's sympathetic principle induces equality. We consider Hume's “other rational species” problem to see whether Smith's wider sympathetic principle would alter Hume's conclusion that “superior” beings will enslave “inferior” beings. We show that Smith introduces the notion of “generosity,” which functions as if it were Hume's justice even when there is no possibility of contract. Footnotes1 An earlier version was presented (...) at the 18th-Century Scottish Studies Society, Arlington meeting in June 2001. We benefited from conversations with and comments from Gordon Schochet, Roger Emerson and Silvia Sebastiana. A letter from Leon Montes helped sharpen the argument. The readers for the journal contributed to the output. We remain responsible for the errors and omissions. (shrink)
One of the more striking aspects of Adam Smith's moral theory is the degree to which it depends on and appeals to aesthetic norms. By considering what Smith says about judgments of propriety – the foundational type of judgment in his system – and by tying what he says in The Theory of Moral Sentiments to certain of his other writings, I argue that Smith ultimately defends an aesthetic morality. Among the challenges that any aesthetic morality faces is that it (...) seems to entail moral relativism. This problem is magnified by Smith's reliance on the judgments of the impartial spectator, which also seems to make his theory more vulnerable to a Euthyphro-type objection. I suggest that Smith can potentially get around these problems, given his presumption of aesthetic naturalism. While there is certainly some variation in our aesthetic judgments, Smith claims that we naturally find certain actions and sentiments odious, while others we find agreeable. The reason, he argues, is that any society that judged otherwise would not survive. (shrink)
When hard determinists reject the claim that people deserve particular kinds of treatment because of how they have acted, they are left with a problem about remorse. Remorse is often represented as a way we impose retribution on ourselves when we understand that we have acted badly. (This view of remorse appears in the work of Freud, and I think it fits our everyday, pretheoretical understanding of one kind of remorse.) Retribution of any kind cannot be appropriate if we do (...) not deserve bad treatment because of how we have acted. But remorse seems to be essentially bound up with understanding that we have acted badly. If this is right, it is important for hard determinists to find a non-retributive account of remorse, so that they can accommodate remorse within their theories. My goal in this paper is to provide such an account. I describe a kind of remorse which I think is a common human experience, a kind which is based on suffering in sympathy with the person one has wronged. It is similar to suffering in sympathy with one's friends when they suffer. We suffer in sympathy with friends not because we think we deserve to, but because we care about them, and their suffering gives us pain. In the wake of a wrongful act, a "virtuous wrongdoer" comes to care about the person wronged, and suffers in sympathy with him. This kind of remorse can be accommodated by hard determinists. (shrink)
This paper explores J.S. Mill's theory of poetry and experience and its relation to his utilitarianism. It's probably one of my best papers, but for reasons I hesitate to speculate upon it's been largely ignored.
In this article, I examine Adam Smith's theory of the ways individuals in society bridge social and biological difference. In doing so, I emphasize the divisive effects of gender, race, and class to see if Smith's account of social unity can overcome such fractious forces. My discussion uses the metaphor of “proximity” to mean both physical and psychological distance between moral actors and spectators. I suggest that education – both formal and informal in means – can assist moral judgment by (...) helping agents minimize the effects of proximity, and, ultimately, learn commonality where difference may otherwise seem overwhelming. This article uses the methods of the history of philosophy in order to examine an issue within contemporary discourse. While I seek to offer an authentic reading of Smith representative of his eighteenth-century perspective, I do so with an eye towards determining the extent to which Smith anticipated central issues in modern multiculturalism. (Published Online April 18 2006) Footnotes1 I would like to thank Luc Bovens, Kim Donehower, David Levy, Elizabeth Sund, and Leah M. McClimans, for their help on previous drafts of this article. (shrink)
Although many of us deny it, it is not uncommon to feel pleasure over the suffering of others, particularly when we feel that suffering has been deserved. The German word for this concept- Schadenfreude -has become universal in its expression of this feeling. Drawing on the teachings of history's most prominent philosophers, John Portmann explores the concept of Schadenfreude in this rigorous, comprehensive, and absorbing study. Citing examples from literature and popular culture-from the works of Toni Morrison, Umberto Eco and (...) Baudelaire to physical comedy and cartoons-Portmann lays bare an important distinction in our understanding of Schadenfreude , the difference between taking pleasure in the suffering of others and relishing the execution of justice. His study of Schadenfreude contrasts Kant and Schopenhauer's rejection of the concept to Nietschze's and Freud's embrace of this all-too-human tendency. Most importantly, he confronts the debates over institutional punishment, violence in our culture, and our current hunger for media images of punishment and betrayal. Almost encyclopedic in its survey of scholarship on understanding and evaluating Schadenfreude , this groundbreaking and highly accessible examination of a neglected topic will make a vital contribution to the study of human ethics, as it compels us to reexamine our own feelings about suffering, sympathy, and the morality of justice. (shrink)
This paper aims to do two things. First, it describes the place that Adam Smith actually occupies in current research occurring at the boundaries of new interdisciplinary social-science fields such as evolutionary anthropology, evolutionary psychology, neuro-economics and behavioral economics. Second, it suggests a way in which Smith's place in the debates with which these subjects are concerned may be more properly defined and conceptualized. Specifically, the paper focuses on the controversial new theory of strong reciprocity, and on the reputation effects (...) that its critics think that theory neglects. (shrink)
Neil MacCormick says that his "version of institutional theory" about the law 'is "non positivist", or, if you wish, "post-positivist"'. He is aware, however, that his work could be perfectly labelled, from the point of view of the history of legal and moral thought, as a form of natural law theory, at least by those who adhere to some version of natural law. It is an important merit of MacCormick that, rising above the label walls and wars, his theory of (...) law has taken into account the main insights of the great authors belonging to both traditions, such as Hans Kelsen and Herbert Hart, on the so-called "positivist" side, and some authors in the Thomistic tradition, particularly John Finnis, as well as "the writings of seventeenth and eighteenth century jurists concerning natural jurisprudence and the law of nature", on the so-called "natural law" side. Writing with such openness to all sources and insights, Neil MacCormick, one of the most eminent legal philosophers of our time, does not surprise us when he chooses to end his lifetime's work with an attempt to dig into the ethical foundations of all that he has written on law and politics. Practical Reason in Law and Morality is, in a way, his most significant book. He tackles here the deeper issues that he himself realised were left open and uncertain in his salient works on legal theory. He considered this book as the last one in a quartet on "Law, State, and Practical Reason". The quartet itself has become the culmination of a life devoted to the common good, in academia and in politics, among many other endeavours. Notwithstanding its flaws, I am convinced that Neil MacCormick's last book can be illuminating for all those students, and even professors, who go about doing legal philosophy without ever reading anything antedating Hart's Concept of Law. They tend to be confused by sophisticated forms of scepticism, luxurious discussions on law and morality and metaethics, and all sorts of distrust of truth in practical matters. Hence they will surely benefit from reading how a great legal philosopher of our time, once equally confused but always honestly open to rational deliberation and fair discussion, freed himself of at least half of his misunderstandings, and learned a lot by reading some natural law theorists old and new. (shrink)
This book explores Hume's concern with the destructiveness of religious factions and his efforts to develop, in his moral philosophy, a solution to factional conflict. Sympathy and the related capacity to enter into foreign points of view are crucial to the neutralization of religious zeal and the naturalization of ethics. Jennifer Herdt suggests that Hume's preoccupation with religious faction is the key which reveals the unity of his varied philosophical, aesthetic, political, and historical works.