Beyond Belief: Toward a Theory of the Reactive Attitudes

Philosophical Papers 39 (3):373-399 (2010)
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Abstract

Most moral theorists agree that it is one thing to believe that someone has slighted you and another to resent her for the insult; one thing to believe that someone did you a favor and another to feel gratitude toward her for her kindness. While all of these ways of responding to another's conduct are forms of moral appraisal, the reactive attitudes are said to 'go beyond' beliefs in some way. We think this claim is adequately explained only when we take seriously the fact that reactive attitudes are emotions. In this paper, we appeal to insights of the emotions literature to highlight one key way in which reactive attitudes go beyond beliefs: beliefs about a person and her morally significant conduct merely ascribe to the person the property of having performed a morally significant action, while reactive attitudes are ways of experiencing that person as having performed a morally significant action. We then suggest that appreciating this is a crucial first step toward understanding why reactive emotions play roles in our practices around responsibility that beliefs do not.

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Coleen Macnamara
University of California, Riverside

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References found in this work

Moral dimensions: permissibility, meaning, blame.Thomas Scanlon - 2008 - Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Responsibility and the Moral Sentiments.R. Jay Wallace - 1994 - Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Two Faces of Responsibility.Gary Watson - 1996 - Philosophical Topics 24 (2):227-248.

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