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Res Philosophica

Volume 92
The 11th Robert J. Henle Conference

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Displaying: 1-10 of 40 documents

winner of the 2015 res philosophica essay prize
1. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 4
Adam C. Pelser Respect for Human Dignity as an Emotion and Virtue
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Although it does not appear on many traditional lists of the virtues, respect for human dignity is an important virtue in its own right that is characterized as much by emotions as by other mental states and actions. The virtue of respect for human dignity essentially involves the dispositions to feel the emotion of respect for the dignity of others and an emotional sense of one’s own dignity. As exemplified by Nelson Mandela, this virtue also involves a keen perceptual sensitivity to humiliating and degrading treatment, along with dispositions to protest, correct, and prevent such treatment. The person with the virtue of respect for human dignity also will be disposed to feel indignation toward willful violations of human dignity, compassion for those whose dignity is violated, and various positive emotions in response to victories for human dignity. Although this virtue closely resembles other, more widely recognized, virtues, such as justice and love, it nevertheless is appropriate to treat respect for human dignity as a distinct virtue, as well as an emotion.
2. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 4
Susan Stark Ordinary Virtue
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A body of psychological data casts doubt on the idea of character traits. As a result, some conclude that situations determine action. This view, situationism, undercuts our conception of the individual as responsible for actions. Moreover, the situationist argues that virtue theories, because they emphasize character, are most vulnerable to this attack. At its extreme, situationists hold that there are no character traits of the sort virtue theory requires. I argue, however, that the virtue theorist can answer this critique. Their response elucidates the ordinary process of moral development and reveals that the human good is partly constituted by social context. The situationist, mistaken about the virtues, makes an important point: situations have a substantial bearing on our abilities to be morally good and to flourish. But accepting this need not undermine the virtue theorist’s view because human beings can learn to be sensitive to morally salient aspects of situations.
3. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 4
James Sias Being Good and Feeling Well
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This paper attempts to clarify the relation between moral virtue and the emotions, but with an ulterior motive: I want an account of this relation that is not only plausible on its own, but also, one that helps to explain when, and how, our emotions might contribute to the justification of moral beliefs formed on their basis.
4. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 4
Kristján Kristjánsson Grief: An Aristotelian Justification of an Emotional Virtue
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This article has three interrelated aims. The first is to analyze the concept of grief; the second is to argue for the putative rationality of grief (against Donald Gustafson’s contention to the contrary); and the third is to offer a moral justification of grief along broadly Aristotelian lines as an intrinsically valuable trait of character—a virtue. With regard to this third and ultimate aim, I argue not only that grief plays an unappreciated positive role in our moral experiences but flesh out a case for what exactly that positive moral role is. More precisely, I argue that grief is best justified as an Aristotelian desert-based emotional trait, incorporating two distinct desert-motivated desires, one specifically directed at the memory of the dead person as deserving of homage, the other more cosmically focusing on the general undeservingness of good people passing away. The argument goes against the grain of most previous instrumental justifications of grief and palpably violates David Konstan’s contention that grief involves “no reference to desert.”
5. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 4
Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung The Roots of Despair
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This paper is an exploration of the Thomistic vice of despair, one of two vices opposed to the theological virtue of hope. Aquinas’s conception of despair as a vice, and a theological vice in particular, distances him from contemporary use of the term “despair” to describe an emotional state. His account nonetheless yields a compelling psychological portrait of moral degeneration, which I explain via despair’s link to its “root,” the capital vice of sloth. Cases in which sloth and its offspring vices progress into full-fledged despair raise interesting issues about whether and how despair might be remediable. I conclude by considering puzzles regarding despair’s disordered effects on the intellect and will and weighing three possible means of remedying it.
6. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 4
W. Scott Cleveland The Emotions of Courageous Activity
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An apparent paradox concerning courageous activity is that it seems to require both fear and fearlessness—on the one hand, mastering one’s fear, and, on the other, eliminating fear. I resolve the paradox by isolating three phases of courageous activity: the initial response to the situation, the choice of courageous action, and the execution of courageous action. I argue that there is an emotion that is proper to each of these phases and that each emotion positively contributes to the performance of courageous activity in each of its phases. More specifically, I argue that fear, hope, and daring are necessary for complete courageous activity. My model of courageous activity explains why courage is a virtue that requires excellent emotion dispositions and resolves the paradox concerning the apparent need for both fear and fearlessness. Fear is required in the first phase and fearless daring in the third phase of courageous activity.
7. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 4
Robert C. Roberts The Normative and the Empirical in the Study of Gratitude
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Recent empirical work on the virtue of gratitude raises questions about the limits of that research and its methods to address normative questions about gratitude. I distinguish two kinds of norms for the emotion of gratitude—norms of genuineness and norms of excellence. I examine two kinds of empirical studies that aim to establish or contribute to the norms for gratitude: a so-called “prototype” approach, and a narrative vignettes approach, finding the latter far superior, and suggest various refinements that might improve accuracy. The main emotion types, of which gratitude is an example, have a conceptual structure that must be reflected in any normative analysis, and is far better reflected in the vignettes approach. Ultimately, however, formulation of norms of genuineness and of virtue must come from one or another tradition of careful reflection and debate about such concepts as gratitude; and the representatives of such traditions are philosophers and theologians.
8. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 4
Lauren Ware Erotic Virtue
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This paper defends an account of how erotic love works to develop virtue. It is argued that love drives moral development by holding the creation of virtue in the individual as the emotion’s intentional object. After analyzing the distinction between passive and active accounts of the object of love, this paper demonstrates that a Platonic virtue-ethical understanding of erotic love—far from being consumed with ascetic contemplation—offers a positive treatment of emotion’s role in the attainment and social practice of virtue.
9. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 4
Vida Yao Boredom and the Divided Mind
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On one predominant conception of virtue, the virtuous agent is, among other things, wholehearted in doing what she believes best. I challenge this condition by exploring the connections between the emotion of boredom and the states of continence and incontinence. An easily bored person is susceptible to these forms of inner disharmony because of two familiar characteristics of boredom: that we are often bored by what it is that we know would be best to do, and that occurrent states of boredom tend to give rise to positive interest in performing actions that we know would be bad to do. Moreover, while a susceptibility to boredom can indicate a lack of attentiveness, or be evidence of a vice such as ingratitude, it is in others inseparable from a number of positive qualities of character, such as perspicacity, liveliness, and certain forms of intelligence. Given this, we should reject wholeheartedness as a condition on the virtues, and recognize those possessed by more divided minds as well.
10. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 4
Kevin Patrick Tobia Wonder and Value
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Wonder’s significance is a recurrent theme in the history of philosophy. In the Theaetetus, Plato’s Socrates claims that philosophy begins in wonder (thaumazein).Aristotle echoes these sentiments in his Metaphysics; it is wonder and astonishment that first led us to philosophize. Philosophers from the Ancients through Wittgenstein discuss wonder, yet scant recent attention has been given to developing a general systematic account of emotional wonder. I develop an account of emotional wonder and defend its connection with apparent or seeming value. Recently, several philosophers invoke wonder to back non-eudaimonistic value judgments. I introduce methods to incorporate these judgments into a eudaimonistic moral framework. On the analysis presented, wonder requires its object to seem valuable, but whether the object is in fact valuable remains an open question. Wonder enraptures us with objects that might be of true or merely illusory value, grounded either in our own well-being or in non-eudaimonistic value.