|dc.description.abstract||This thesis aims to elucidate an apparent paradox about the role of emotion
in moral agency. A number of lines of concern suggest emotion may have serious
negative impact on moral agency. On the other hand, there are considerations that
suggest emotion also plays a crucial role in motivating, informing and even
constituting moral agency. Significantly, there is a strong connection between
participant reactive attitudes and ascription of moral status as agent or subject. Nonemotional
agents could not hold such attitudes. Also, removing participant reactive
attitudes imposes a peculiar and incoherent form of solipsism about moral agency.
Given this necessary role for emotion, can we give an account of emotion
that will also meet the worries? I examine, as crucial examples, three recurrent lines
of concern about emotion - that it threatens our capacities for objectivity, rationality,
and autonomy - to tease out the descriptive assumptions about emotion, and the
normative assumptions about moral agency, that these objections are based on. I
then offer three lines of argument towards resolving these worries. The first
addresses the worries directly, and the other two shift blame off emotion.
First, then, I argue that the normative concerns can largely be met by a
descriptive account that views emotion as cognitive. However, “judgementalist”
cognitive accounts that assimilate emotion to belief may make emotion metaethically
respectable at the cost of making it meta-ethically redundant. Also, such
accounts are descriptively less than plausible. A better approach, I argue, is to allow
that belief may play a significant role in emotion but to also allow at least a quasicognitive
role to the distinctively affective element in emotion: feeling.
I also argue for a hrther revision of cognitive accounts to emphasise that
emotions reflect features of those who feel them. If we were different, our emotions
would be different. So, secondly, I argue that a number of the features that power
worries about emotions have their sources in what those who feel them are like,
rather than in emotions as such. However, both human nature and emotion are
capable of significant plasticity and diversity. We are also capable of a considerable
- but not infinite - degree of self-determination both about what we are like and what
our emotions are like.
Finally, I argue that the normative assumptions that power the objections to
emotion are themselves in need of revision - and in some tension with each other.
This leads to a McGufin-theory of emotion in moral agency: Problems with
emotion’s place in moral agency serve as indicators of unresolved tensions in our
thinking about moral agency, rather than just indicators of problems with emotion as
such. In view of this, I also argue for caution in any attempts to change emotion to
fit particular ideals of moral agency.||en