Tragedy and Resentment

Mind 127 (508):1169-1191 (2018)
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According to Kantian ethics, immoral actions convey disrespect. This negative attitude makes injuries inflicted by other persons worse than injuries caused by nature, ceteris paribus. As Strawson would later put it, the perpetrator’s attitude of disregard prompts in the victim the reactive attitude of resentment. But, I point out, we harbour and display plenty of other negative attitudes toward people aside from disrespect. What, if any, reactive attitudes are natural and appropriate in response to these? In unrequited love, for example, the beloved denies the lover a certain kind of recognition that she desires. I claim that this often prompts resentment in the lover, despite the fact that she has suffered no moral wrongdoing—that her injury is, as I term it, ‘tragic’. If this is so, we must reconceive the meaning of resentment, distinguishing it sharply from indignation. After offering such a reinterpretation of resentment and indignation, I show how ‘tragic resentment’ might be warranted despite lacking a moral claim. If the beloved bears a deep responsibility for not reciprocating the love, then he is subject to negative reactive attitudes for it, despite the fact that he cannot choose whom to love and has no obligation to love.



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Author's Profile

Ulrika Carlsson
Yale University (PhD)

References found in this work

Freedom and Resentment.Peter Strawson - 1962 - Proceedings of the British Academy 48:187-211.
Moral Luck.B. A. O. Williams & T. Nagel - 1976 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 50 (1):115-152.
Moral Luck.Bernard Williams - 1981 - Critica 17 (51):101-105.

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