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Title: The Appropriateness of Emotions
Subtitle: Moral Judgment, Moral Emotions, and the Conflation Problem
Author(s): SAUER, Hanno
Journal: Ethical Perspectives
Volume: 18    Issue: 1   Date: 2011   
Pages: 107-140
DOI: 10.2143/EP.18.1.2066215

Abstract :
What is the connection between emotions and moral judgments? Neo-sentimentalism maintains that to say that something is morally wrong is to think it appropriate to resent other people for doing it or to feel guilty upon doing it oneself. But intuitively, it seems that there is no way to characterize the content of guilt and resentment independent from the fact that these emotions respond to morally wrong actions. In response to this problem of circularity, modern forms of sentimentalism have favoured a ‘no-priority view’, arguing that judgments of moral wrongness cannot be reduced to expressions of feelings of guilt and resentment, but that emotional responses and moral judgments mutually elucidate each other. In the present contribution, I argue that this strategy is not successful: the problem of circularity returns at a deeper level of the account, a level at which the ‘no-priority view’ can no longer escape it. The concept of ‘appropriateness’ that is invoked by neo-sentimentalism is liable to the so-called ‘conflation-problem’: it fails to distinguish between right and wrong kinds of appropriateness. In order to draw that important distinction, neo-sentimentalism has to presuppose a substantive notion of moral wrongness already. Moreover, I show that the most influential contemporary attempts to achieve an independent, non-circular ‘fix’ on the emotions fail for one of the following three reasons: they either cease to be sentimentalist, for capture the normative dimension of moral judgment or end up being circular again.

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