This book is about the various forms of anxiety—some familiar, some not—that color and shape our lives. The objective is two-fold. The first aim is to deepen our understanding of what anxiety is. The second aim is to re-orient thinking about the role of emotions in moral psychology and ethical theory. Here I argue that the current focus on backward looking moral emotions like guilt and shame leaves us with a picture that is badly incomplete. To get a better understanding (...) of emotions’ place in the moral and evaluative domains, we must take note of the important role that forward looking emotions—anxiety in particular—play in moral thought and action. (shrink)
Emotions have long been of interest to philosophers and have deep historical roots going back to the Ancients. They have also become one of the most exciting areas of current research in philosophy, the cognitive sciences, and beyond. -/- This book explains the philosophy of the emotions, structuring the investigation around seven fundamental questions: What are emotions? Are emotions natural kinds? Do animals have emotions? Are emotions epistemically valuable? Are emotions the foundation for value and morality? Are emotions the basis (...) for responsibility? Do emotions make us better people? -/- In the course of exploring these questions, the book also discusses cutting-edge empirical research on emotion, feminist approaches to emotions and their value, and methodological questions on how to theorize about the emotions. The book also contains in-depth discussions of specific emotions like compassion, disgust, anxiety, and curiosity. It also highlights emerging trends in emotion research. (shrink)
A familiar feature of moral life is the distinctive anxiety that we feel in the face of a moral dilemma or moral conflict. Situations like these require us to take stands on controversial issues. But because we are unsure that we will make the correct decision, anxiety ensues. Despite the pervasiveness of this phenomenon, surprisingly little work has been done either to characterize this “ moral anxiety” or to explain the role that it plays in our moral lives. This paper (...) aims to address this deficiency by developing an empirically informed account of what moral anxiety is and what it does. (shrink)
Emotion plays an important role in securing social stability. But while emotions like fear, anger, and guilt have received much attention in this context, little work has been done to understand the role that anxiety plays. That’s unfortunate. I argue that a particular form of anxiety—what I call ‘practical anxiety’—plays an important, but as of yet unrecognized, role in norm-based social regulation. More specifically, it provides a valuable form of metacognition, one that contributes to social stability by helping individuals negotiate (...) the challenges that come from having to act in the face of unclear norms. (shrink)
Is disgust morally valuable? The answer to that question turns, in large part, on what we can do to shape disgust for the better. But this cultivation question has received surprisingly little attention in philosophical debates. To address this deficiency, this article examines empirical work on disgust and emotion regulation. This research reveals that while we can exert some control over how we experience disgust, there’s little we can do to substantively change it at a more fundamental level. These empirical (...) insights have revisionary implications both for debates about disgust’s moral value and for our understanding of agency and moral development more generally. (shrink)
Negative emotions are often thought to lack value—they’re pernicious, inherently unpleasant, and inconsistent with human virtue. Taking anxiety as a case study, I argue that this assessment is mistaken. I begin with an account of what anxiety is: a response to uncertainty about a possible threat or challenge that brings thoughts about one’s predicament (‘I’m worried,’ ‘What should I do?’), negatively valenced feelings of concern, and a motivational tendency toward caution regarding the potential threat one faces. Given this account of (...) what anxiety is, I show it can be instrumentally valuable: in sensitizing us to uncertainty and prompting caution and risk assessment efforts, it’s an emotion that can help us better recognize and respond to uncertain threats and challenges. But anxiety can also be aretaically valuable—that is, it’s an emotion that can contribute positively to one’s character. For instance, your anxiety about how best to care for your aging mother not only prompts helpful brainstorming about what you should do, but also reflect well on you—your unease demonstrates both an admirable sensitivity and emotional attunement to what’s at stake. (shrink)
According to psychological constructivism, emotions result from projecting folk emotion concepts onto felt affective episodes (e.g., Barrett 2017, LeDoux 2015). Moreover, while constructivists acknowledge there’s a biological dimension to emotion, they deny that emotions are (or involve) affect programs. So they also deny that emotions are natural kinds. However, the essential role constructivism gives to felt experience and folk concepts leads to an account that’s extensionally inadequate and functionally inaccurate. Moreover, biologically-oriented proposals that reject these commitments are not similarly encumbered. (...) Recognizing this has two implications: biological mechanisms are more central to emotion than constructivism allows, and the conclusion that emotions aren’t natural kinds is premature. (shrink)
Should doctors care about their patients? Understanding this as a question about the proper role of emotion in medical practice—that is, should doctors feel empathy and sympathy for their patients?—a clear answer is hard to find.
A recent skeptical challenge denies deliberation is essential to virtuous agency: what looks like genuine deliberation is just a post hoc rationalization of a decision already made by automatic mechanisms (Haidt 2001; Doris 2015). Annas’s account of virtue seems well-equipped to respond: by modeling virtue on skills, she can agree that virtuous actions are deliberation-free while insisting that their development requires significant thought. But Annas’s proposal is flawed: it over-intellectualizes deliberation’s developmental role and under-intellectualizes its significance once virtue is acquired. (...) Doing better requires paying attention to a distinctive form of anxiety—one that functions to engage deliberation in the face of decisions that automatic mechanisms alone cannot resolve. (shrink)
. Grant Ramsey and Michael Deem argue that appreciating the role that empathy plays in posttransgression guilt leads to a more promising account of the emotion’s evolutionary origins. But because their proposal fails to adequately distinguish guilt from shame, we cannot say which of the two emotions we are actually getting an evolutionary account of. Moreover, a closer look at the details suggests both that empathy may be more relevant for our understanding of shame’s evolutionary origins than guilt’s, and that (...) guilt is unlikely to be an adaptation. (shrink)
Recent work by emotion researchers indicates that emotions have a multi-level structure. Sophisticated sentimentalists should take note of this work—for it better enables them to defend a substantive role for emotion in moral cognition. Contra the rationalist criticisms of May 2018, emotions are not only able to carry morally relevant information but can also substantially influence moral judgment and reasoning.
A prominent argument for moral realism notes that we are inclined to accept realism in science because scientific inquiry supports a robust set of critical practices—error, improvement, explanation, and the like. It then argues that because morality displays a comparable set of critical practices, a claim to moral realism is just as warranted as a claim to scientific realism. But the argument is only as strong as its central analogy—and here there is trouble. If the analogy between the critical practices (...) of science and morality is loosely interpreted, the argument does not support moral realism—for paradigmatically constructivist discourses like fashion display the relevant critical practices just as well. So if the argument is to have force, the realist must say more about why the critical practices of morality are sufficiently like those of science to warrant realism. But this cannot be done—moral inquiry differs from scientific inquiry in too many important ways. So the analogy with the critical practices of science fails to vindicate moral realism. But there are further lessons: in looking closely at the critical practices of our moral discourse—and in comparing them to the critical practices of science and fashion—we gain insight into what is distinctive about morality objectivity and moral metaphysics. (shrink)
Moral anxiety is the unease that we experience in the face of a novel or difficult moral decision, an unease that helps us recognize the significance of the issue we face and engages epistemic behaviors aimed at helping us work through it (reflection, information gathering, etc.). But recent discussions in philosophy raise questions about the value of moral anxiety (do we really do better when we’re anxious?); and work in cognitive science challenges its psychological plausibility (is there really such an (...) emotion?). Drawing on Kant and Kantians, I develop a model of moral anxiety (or ‘conscience’ in Kant’s terminology) that highlights both its empirical credentials and its distinctive value. Kant, it turns out, was an early—and sophisticated—dual-process theorist. (shrink)
A growing body of work argues that we should reform problematic emotions like anxiety, anger, and shame: doing this will allow us to better harness the contributions that these emotions can make to our agency and wellbeing. But feminist philosophers worry that prescriptions to correct these inappropriate emotions will only further marginalize women, minorities, and other members of subordinated groups. While much in these debates turns on empirical questions about how we can change problematic emotion norms for the better, to (...) date, little has been done by either side to assess how we might do this, much less in ways that are responsive to the feminists’ worries. Drawing on research in cognitive science, this paper argues that though the feminists’ worries are real, the leading proposals for remedying them are inadequate. It then develops an alternative strategy for reshaping problematic emotion norms—one that’s sensitive to the feminists’ concerns. (shrink)
Researchers are increasingly trying to understand both the emotions that we experience in response to ecological crises like climate change and the ways in which these emotions might be valuable for our (psychical, psychological, and moral) wellbeing. However, much of the existing work on these issues has been hampered by conceptual and methodological difficulties. As a first step toward addressing these challenges, this review focuses on eco-anxiety. Analyzing a broad range of studies through the use of methods from philosophy, emotion (...) theory, and interdisciplinary environmental studies, the authors show how looking to work on anxiety in general can help researchers build better models of eco-anxiety in particular. The results of this work suggest that the label “eco-anxiety” may be best understood as referring to a family of distinct, but related, ecological emotions. The authors also find that a specific form of eco-anxiety, “practical eco-anxiety,” can be a deeply valuable emotional response to threats like climate change: when experienced at the right time and to the right extent, practical eco-anxiety not only reflects well on one’s moral character but can also help advance individual and planetary wellbeing. (shrink)
According to Grossmann, the high levels of cooperation seen in humans are the result of a “virtuous caring cycle” on which the increased care that more fearful children receive brings increased cooperative tendencies in those children. But this proposal overlooks an equally well supported alternative on which children's anxiety – not a virtuous caring cycle – explains the cooperative tendencies of humans.
The aim of this collection is to show how work in the analytic philosophical tradition can shed light on the nature, value, and experience of anxiety. Contrary to widespread assumptions, anxiety is not best understood as a mental disorder, or an intrinsically debilitating state, but rather as an often valuable affective state which heightens our sensitivity to potential threats and challenges. As the contributions in this volume demonstrate, learning about anxiety can be relevant for debates, not only in the philosophy (...) of emotion, but also in epistemology, value theory, and the philosophy of psychopathology. In this introductory article, we also show that there is still much to discover about the relevance that anxiety may have for moral action, self-understanding, and mental health. (shrink)
Compassion is generally thought to be a morally valuable emotion both because it is concerned with the suffering of others and because it prompts us to take action to their behalf. But skeptics are unconvinced. Not only does a viable account of compassion’s evaluative content—its characteristic concern—appear elusive, but the emotional response itself seems deeply parochial: a concern we tend to feel toward the suffering of friends and loved ones, rather than for individuals who are outside of our circle of (...) intimates. In response, I defend a sophisticated, non-cognitivist account of compassion and explain how it avoids the difficulties that undermine other proposals. (shrink)
Why are only some occasions of system 1 to system 2 switching affectively loaded? This commentary not only draws attention to this neglected phenomenon, but also shows how research in philosophy and the social and cognitive sciences sheds light on it, doing so in ways that may help answer some of the open questions that De Neys's paper highlights.
The need to distinguish between logical and extra-logical varieties of inference, entailment, validity, and consistency has played a prominent role in meta-ethical debates between expressivists and descriptivists. But, to date, the importance that matters of logical form play in these distinctions has been overlooked. That’s a mistake given the foundational place that logical form plays in our understanding of the difference between the logical and the extra-logical. This essay argues that descriptivists are better positioned than their expressivist rivals to provide (...) the needed account of logical form, and so better able to capture the needed distinctions. This finding is significant for several reasons: First, it provides a new argument against expressivism. Second, it reveals that descriptivists can make use of this new argument only if they are willing to take a controversial—but plausible—stand on claims about the nature and foundations of logic. (shrink)
In Emotions, Values, and Agency, Christine Tappolet develops a sophisticated, perceptual theory of emotions and their role in wide range of issues in value theory and epistemology. In this paper, we raise three worries about Tappolet's proposal.
In Emotions, Values & Agency, Christine Tappolet develops a sophisticated, perceptual theory of emotions and their role in wide range of issues in value theory and epistemology. In this paper, we raise three worries about Tappolet's proposal.
T.M. Scanlon’s ‘reasons fundamentalism’ is thought to face difficulties answering the normative question—that is, explaining why it’s irrational to not do what you judge yourself to have most reason to do (e.g., Dreier 2014a). I argue that this difficulty results from Scanlon’s failure to provide a theory of mind that can give substance to his account of normative judgment and its tie to motivation. A central aim of this paper is to address this deficiency. To do this, I draw on (...) broadly cognitivist theories of emotion (e.g., Nussbaum 2001, Roberts 2013). These theories are interesting because they view emotions as cognitive states from which motivation emerges. Thus, they provide a model Scanlon can use to develop a richer account of both the judgment-motivation connection and the irrationality of not doing what you judge yourself to have most reason to do. However, the success is only partial—even this more developed proposal fails to give a satisfactory answer to the normative question. (shrink)
Allan Gibbard maintains that his plan-based expressivism allows for a particular type of innocent mistake: I can agree that your plan to X makes sense (say, because it was based on advice from someone you trust), while nonetheless insisting that it is incorrect (e.g., because you chose a bad advisor). However, Steve Daskal has recently argued that there are significant limitations in Gibbard’s account of how we can be mistaken about the normative judgments we make. This essay refines Gibbard’s account (...) in order to show--contra Daskal--that expressivists can deliver a surprisingly robust form of normative objectivity. (shrink)