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In Defense of Sentimentality

Robert C. Solomon

Published in print September 2004 | ISBN: 9780195145502
Published online November 2004 | e-ISBN: 9780199834969 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/019514550X.001.0001
In Defense of Sentimentality

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Philosophy has as much to do with feelings as it does with thoughts and thinking. It requires sensitivity and a kind of devotion as well as curiosity about the world and a critical spirit. It is a fascination not only with abstract ideas and logically possible worlds but with concrete and very real human concerns and engagements, “the human condition” To be a philosopher is to be steadfastly attentive to what it means to be human, to the passions as well as to much-celebrated “rationality” It is to be concerned with what it means to “exist,” to the satisfactions and worries and real life joys and confusions that affect us all. That is why one of the canonical exhortations in philosophy, inherited from the Delphic Oracle via Socrates, has always been “know thyself,” for it is through unusually rigorous self-examination that we come to know not only ourselves but our Selves, our deepest feelings, fears, and hopes. Philosophy, accordingly, in its concern for feelings, requires not only emotional sensitivity but an understanding of the emotions, not as curious but marginal psychological phenomena but as the very substance of life. And yet, philosophy and philosophers have much more often than not shunned the emotions and defined their profession and themselves strictly in terms of reason and rationality. In the history of philosophy sensitivity is often dismissed as mere “sentimentality.” Sentiment and sentimentality are to be avoided. In this book I am concerned to defend sentimentality and the emotions–at least, some emotions–as essential to life. Foremost among the essential emotions are the sentiments of love and compassion. Not all of the sentiments are so kindly, however. Accordingly, I discuss not only such “moral sentiments” as sympathy and compassion but also grief, gratitude, love, horror, and even vengeance. All of these have suffered from considerable abuse, though from different quarters, but all of them play a central if not essential role in our experience and our lives.

Keywords: emotions; sentimentality; sentiment/ sentiments; kitsch; philosophy; love; erotic love; sympathy; compassion,forgiveness; reasons and rationality; grief; gratitude; anger; vengeance; horror; seven deadly sins; spirituality

Book.  316 pages. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

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Table of Contents

In Defense of Sentimentality in In Defense of Sentimentality

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Sympathy and Vengeance in In Defense of Sentimentality

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Care and Compassion in In Defense of Sentimentality

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On Grief and Gratitude in In Defense of Sentimentality

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Real Horror in In Defense of Sentimentality

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Comic Relief in In Defense of Sentimentality

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Spirituality as Sentimentality in In Defense of Sentimentality

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The Virtue of (Erotic) Love in In Defense of Sentimentality

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Reasons for Love in In Defense of Sentimentality

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