Why we are responsible for our emotions

Mind 95 (377):37-56 (1986)
It is often said that one cannot be held responsible for something one cannot help. Indeed, Ted Honderich, Paul Edwards, and C. A. Campbell have suggested that it is obtuse, barbaric, or a solecism to think otherwise 1. Thus, if (contra Sartre and others) one cannot help feeling one's emotions, one is not responsible for one's emotions. In this paper I will argue otherwise; one is responsible for one's emotions, even if one cannot help feeling them. 2 In particular, I will define a rather special sense of the word 'responsible', one that is closely tied to our ordinary notion of moral worth. We are, in that special sense of the word, 'responsible' for our emotions. I will then argue that my limited sense of 'responsibility' is sufficient to warrant morale valuation of individuals, and can be used as the basis for a theory of punishment.
Keywords moral responsibility  emotions
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DOI 10.1093/mind/XCV.377.37
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