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Reasons and Emotions

English title Reasons and Emotions
Applicant Müller Andreas
Number 189011
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Institut für Philosophie Universität Bern
Institution of higher education University of Berne - BE
Main discipline Philosophy
Start/End 01.10.2019 - 30.11.2021
Approved amount 164'927.00
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Keywords (7)

Emotions; Reasons; Normativity; Ethics of Emotions; Affective Attitudes; Moral Critique; Control

Lay Summary (German)

Lead
Ziel dieses Projekts ist es, verschiedene Formen der kritischen Beurteilung von Emotionen zu untersuchen. Dabei wird unter anderem der Begriff des normativen Grundes und seine Anwendbarkeit im Falle von Emotionen erörtert und die Möglichkeit der moralischen Kritik bestimmter Emotionen diskutiert.
Lay summary
Emotionen spielen eine wesentliche Rolle sowohl für unsere persönliche psychische Verfassung als auch in unserem sozialen Zusammenleben. Es ist daher nicht erstaunlich, dass unsere Emotionen vielerlei Formen der Kritik ausgesetzt sind. Zum Beispiel erachten wir die Furcht vor harmlosen Insekten als irrational und womöglich belastend. Doch können Emotionen auch als unangebracht, unfair oder ungerecht kritisiert werden? Manche Fälle beispielsweise von Fremdenhass oder Eifersucht legen dies nahe. 

Die Idee einer normativ substantiellen Kritik solcher affektiven Einstellungen wirft jedoch eine Reihe von Fragen auf. Trotz ihrer alltäglichen Relevanz haben diese in der Philosophie bislang vergleichsweise wenig Aufmerksamkeit erhalten. In weiten Teilen der Moralphilosophie steht die Bewertung von Handlungen im Mittelpunkt. In der Philosophie der Emotionen wiederum konzentriert sich die Diskussion der Bewertbarkeit affektiver Einstellungen meist auf deren Korrektheit oder Verlässlichkeit, welche oft in Analogie zur (repräsentationalen) Adäquatheit von Wahrnehmungszuständen verstanden wird. Die so entstandene Lücke in der philosophischen Literatur will dieses Projekt schliessen. Hierzu werden zum einen der Begriff des normativen Grundes, seine Anwendbarkeit im Falle affektiver Einstellungen, sowie die Möglichkeit der deliberativen Kontrolle solcher Einstellungen erörtert. Zum anderen werden die Voraussetzungen einer moralischen Kritik bestimmter Emotionen herausgearbeitet und im Lichte der allgemeinen philosophischen und empirischen Debatte über die Natur von Emotionen geprüft. 

Das Projekt verbindet damit zwei wichtige Debatten in der Philosophie, die bisher grösstenteils unabhängig voneinander geführt wurden. Es leistet zudem einen Beitrag zur kritischen Auseinandersetzung mit unseren Emotionen sowie deren Rolle und Status in unseren sozialen Beziehungen.
 
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 09.10.2019

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Abstract

Our emotions are an integral part of who we are. They play an important role in our mental life and in how we relate both to our environment and to other people. They are also a common object of various forms of critical assessment. Being afraid of a harmless spider is somehow unfitting, and getting angry can be both conducive and detrimental to your interests, depending, e.g., on whether you are facing an opponent in a boxing match or a potential future employer. But emotions are also subject to more robust forms of critique. Sometimes, they are considered hurtful, inappropriate, or unfair, e.g. when someone resents a more successful colleague, is amused at a racist joke, or disgusted by a disabled person’s bodily deformation. Are these, too, apt assessments of our emotions? Are emotions a proper object of such normatively substantial critique, and of moral evaluation in particular?Despite its importance, this normative dimension of emotions has not received much attention by philosophers. Those who work on the nature of normativity usually focus on the normative assessment of actions or beliefs; they treat the normativity of emotions as an afterthought, or not all. The thriving philosophical literature on emotions, on the other hand, takes their criticizability into account, but it does so mostly in the context of debates about the nature of emotions and focusses on criticism in terms of fittingness or usefulness. Questions concerning their moral evaluation and its aptness, however, have rarely been addressed - the ethics of emotions is largely unexplored. The aim of this project is to fill this lacuna. The idea that emotions can be a proper object of moral evaluation faces important challenges. These stem from the various ways in which emotions differ from actions, the paradigmatic object of such evaluation. Merely feeling a certain emotion, as opposed to expressing or acting upon it, does not seem to negatively affect any other person. So how could it be morally problematic? Moreover, we cannot control our emotions in the same way that we can control our actions. But such control seems necessary for moral responsibility. And if we are no more responsible for our emotions than we are, e.g., for our digestive processes, then why should we be morally criticizable for them? This project will address these challenges and examine their significance for the possibility of an ethics of emotions. The project will also take a broader perspective on the normativity of emotions. If they can be a proper object of normatively substantial and particularly of moral assessment, then a more general conception of the normative domain must be able to accommodate them. According to the most promising conception of this kind, that requires that there are normative reasons for emotions. Here, too, apparent disanalogies between actions and beliefs on the one hand and emotions on the other raise worries, for unlike the former, emotions do not appear to be within the scope of our reasoning capacities. Scrutinizing the assumptions underlying these worries and developing a satisfactory account of normative reasons for emotions will be another important goal of this project. By assessing the presuppositions of an ethics of emotions and clarifying the concept of reasons for emotions, the project makes valuable contributions to the normative theory of emotions and provides us with a better understanding of their place within the normative domain as a whole.
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