Expendable emotions

International Philosophical Quarterly 48 (1):5-22 (2008)
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Abstract

Are there any morally expendable emotions? That is, are there any emotions that could ideally, from a moral point of view, be eradicated from human life? Aristotle may have subscribed to the view that there are no such emotions, and for that reason—though not only for that reason—it merits investigation. I first suggest certain revisions of the specifics of Aristotle’s non-expendability claim that render it less counter-intuitive. I then show that the plausibility of Aristotle’s claim turns largely on the question of how emotions are to be individuated. After probing that question in relation to contemporary theories of emotion, I explore how our emotions and moral virtues relate to distinct spheres of human experience, and how emotion concepts can best carve up the emotional landscape. I argue finally that there exist certain normative reasons for specifying emotion concepts such that Aristotle’s view holds good

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