Emotion and the Emotions

Susan Sauvé Meyer and Adrienne M. Martin

in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Ethics

Published in print January 2013 | ISBN: 9780199545971
Published online April 2013 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

Emotion and the Emotions

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The dominant consequentialist, Kantian, and contractualist theories by virtue ethicists such as G.E.M. Anscombe, Alisdair MacIntyre, Martha Nussbaum, and Michael Stocker have been criticized for their neglect of the emotions. There are three reasons why it might be a mistake for moral philosophy to neglect the emotions. (1) Emotions have an important influence on motivation, and proper cultivation of the emotions is helpful, perhaps essential, to our ability to lead ethical lives. (2) It is a plausible thesis that an ethical life involves feeling certain ways in certain circumstances and acting from certain feelings in certain circumstances. (3) Some emotions are forms of ethical perception, judgment, or even knowledge. This chapter examines the Ancient ethical tradition that inspires the virtue ethicists' critique, revealing versions of each of these three theses in one guise or another. It first considers the medieval transformations of the ancient doctrines, and then focuses on the third, more contentious thesis, distinguishing several versions of it in the moral philosophies of the seventeenth and eighteenth century and indicating some contemporary exemplars as well.

Keywords: virtue ethics; moral philosophy; ethical theory; emotions

Article.  18081 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Moral Philosophy ; Philosophy of Mind

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