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Virtuous feelings? Three grades of emotional rationality

Anselm W. Müller


Respected traditions oppose emotionality to reason. In recent decades there has been growing awareness of, and attention to, the rational side of feelings. In particular, emotions have been taken to embody value judgements. I argue instead that every type of emotion owes its specific character to a (quasi-)inferential pattern that connects the import of a token emotion’s occasion, or object, with the meaning of its manifestation in a response. Man’s ability and tendency to connect occasions with responses in this way constitutes a first degree of emotional rationality. A second degree is attained where the subject’s emotionality accords with their settled normative views on what to feel. And where these views are right, namely in a virtuous life, the subject is emotionally rational to a third degree.


emotion; rationality; morality; motivation; virtue ethics

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