Picturing the soul: Moral psychology and the recovery of the emotions [Book Review]

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 4 (2):127-141 (2001)
This paper draws from the resources of Iris Murdoch''s moral philosophy to analyze the ethical status of the emotions at two related levels of reflection. Methodologically, it argues that a recovery of the emotions requires a revised notion of moral theory which affirms the basic orientation of consciousness to some notion of value or the good. Such a theory challenges many of the rationalist premises which in the past have led moral theory to reject the role of emotions in ethics. In particular, it acknowledges the centrality of moral psychology to ethics and reclaims the notion of consciousness rather than the will as the primary mode of human moral being. At a second, more substantive level, the paper explores the relation between the emotions and consciousness. Specifically, it defends a cognitivist and reflexive theory of the emotions which affirms a strong relation between the emotions and our evaluative beliefs. On this view, the emotions reflexively mediate our relation to objective value. In order to earn their cognitive status, however, the emotions must be tested in relation to a critical principle in order to guard against the egoistic tendencies of consciousness to build up images of reality to serve its own purposes. Therefore, a theory of the Good must be part of the critical content of a reflexive theory of the emotions.
Keywords cognitivism  consciousness  emotions  Iris Murdoch  moral psychology  naturalism  reflexive realism  rationalism  virtue theory
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DOI 10.1023/A:1011464125130
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