Can’t Complain

Journal of Moral Philosophy 15 (2):117-135 (2018)
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Abstract

Philosophers generally prescribe against complaining, or endorse only complaints directed to rectification of the circumstances. Notably, Aristotle and Kant aver that the importuning of others with one’s pains is effeminate and should never be done. In this paper, I reject the prohibition of complaint. The gendered aspects of Aristotle’s and Kant’s criticisms of complaint include their deploring a self-indulgent "softness" with respect to pain, yielding to feelings at the expense of remembering one’s duties to others and one’s own self-respect. I argue that complaining may also take the form of mindful attention to shared suffering. A complainer may observe affective duties, such as commiseration and invitations to disclose pains. Against more contemporary views that justify only constructive complaints directed to change, I suggest that quotidian, unconstructive complaining sometimes fulfills important social functions, including the amelioration of loneliness and affective solidarity, for the sake of others as well as oneself.

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Author's Profile

Kathryn J. Norlock
Trent University

Citations of this work

Microaggressions: A Kantian Account.Ornaith O’Dowd - 2018 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 21 (5):1219-1232.

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References found in this work

Depression, Intercorporeality, and Interaffectivity.Thomas Fuchs - 2013 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 20 (7-8):7-8.
Self-Respect and Protest.Bernard R. Boxill - 1976 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 6 (1):58-69.
Recognition.Axel Honneth & Avishai Margalit - 2001 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 75 (1):111 - 139.
Recognition.Axel Honneth & Avishai Margalit - 2001 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 75:111-139.
The Rationality of Valuing Oneself: A Critique of Kant on Self-Respect.Cynthia A. Stark - 1997 - Journal of the History of Philosophy 35 (1):65-82.

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