Emotion and moral judgment

Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 66 (1):104–124 (2003)
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This paper argues that an emotion is a state of affectively perceiving its intentional object as falling under a "thick affective concept" A, a concept that combines cognitive and affective aspects in a way that cannot be pulled apart. For example, in a state of pity an object is seen as pitiful, where to see something as pitiful is to be in a state that is both cognitive and affective. One way of expressing an emotion is to assert that the intentional object of the emotion falls under the thick affective concept distinctive of the emotion. I argue that the most basic kind of moral judgment is is this category. It has the form "That is A" (pitiful, contemptible, rude, etc.). Such judgments combine the features of cognitivism and motivational judgment internalism, an advantage that explains why we find moral weakness problematic in spite of its ubiquity. I then outline a process I call "thinning" the judgment, which explains how moral strength, weakness, and apathy arise. I argue that this process is necessary for moral reasoning and communication, in spite of its disadvantage in disengaging the agent's motivating emotion from the judgment


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Linda Zagzebski
University of Oklahoma

Citations of this work

Emotional Justification.Santiago Echeverri - 2019 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 98 (3):541-566.
Emotions as Attitudes.Julien A. Deonna & Fabrice Teroni - 2015 - Dialectica 69 (3):293-311.
A Humean theory of moral intuition.Antti Kauppinen - 2013 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 43 (3):360-381.
Aesthetic knowledge.Keren Gorodeisky & Eric Marcus - 2022 - Philosophical Studies 179 (8):2507-2535.
Inference as Consciousness of Necessity.Eric Marcus - 2020 - Analytic Philosophy 61 (4):304-322.

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