The Moralistic Fallacy: On the 'Appropriateness' of Emotions

Philosophical and Phenomenological Research 61 (1):65-90 (2000)
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Philosophers often call emotions appropriate or inappropriate. What is meant by such talk? In one sense, explicated in this paper, to call an emotion appropriate is to say that the emotion is fitting: it accurately presents its object as having certain evaluative features. For instance, envy might be thought appropriate when one's rival has something good which one lacks. But someone might grant that a circumstance has these features, yet deny that envy is appropriate, on the grounds that it is wrong to be envious. These two senses of `appropriate' have much less in common than philosophers have supposed. Indeed, the distinction between propriety and correctness is crucial to understanding the distinctive role of the emotions in ethics. We argue here that an emotion can be fitting despite being wrong to feel, and that various philosophical arguments are guilty of a systematic error which we term the moralistic fallacy.



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Author Profiles

Justin D'Arms
Ohio State University
Daniel Jacobson
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

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