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Authentic emotions as ethical guides?

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Abstract

Taking the feminist ethics of care and Taylor’s philosophy of the self as a point of departure, I pose the question whether emotions, as they postulate it, can be assumed to be “authentic” and in that capacity provide moral guidance. Relying on well-known sociological texts by Arlie Hochschild, Norbert Elias and Eva Illouz, I show that the violence-monopolizing nation-state along with the capitalist system of production and consumption have worked together to make us abandon, suppress, marginalize and modify what we possibly could refer to as “authentic” emotions. As a result, our emotional lives, if still open to “authentic” feelings at all, hang suspended between these and the cultural codes and rules prescribing what we should feel. Put even stronger, emotional ambivalence or schizophrenia is a typical phenomenon of our times, and thus emotions cannot be constitutive of our morals. I also point out that what Jaggar calls recalcitrant (and I call subversive) emotions are as constructed as conformist emotions. Taking side with Jaggar against Taylor, I suggest that the emancipatory potential of the (constructed) subversive emotions should be measured against the standard of human rights, rather than, as Taylor argues, in terms of everyday moral concerns.

References

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