Guilty Thoughts

Angela M. Smith

in Morality and the Emotions

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199577507
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191731235 | DOI:
Guilty Thoughts

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This chapter explores an emotional experience many philosophers regard as puzzling: namely, the feeling of guilt we sometimes have about attitudes that are never expressed or acted upon in any way. Though many philosophers assume such feelings must be irrational, it is argued that sometimes they may in fact be a justified response to the violation of an attitudinal obligation we have to others. The argument has three stages. The first stage explores several reasons why one might object to the claim that we have attitudinal obligations to others, and argues that these reasons are not compelling. The second stage considers and rejects two proposals about how to rationalize our guilty feelings over unexpressed attitudes. The final stage shows that a contractualist moral theory, of the sort T.M. Scanlon defends, has the resources to make sense of the guilt we sometimes feel over unexpressed attitudes

Keywords: attitudes; blame; contractualism; emotions; guilt; responsibility; T.M. Scanlon

Chapter.  12328 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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