Emotional optimality and moral force

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This paper begins by exploring the ways, including moral ways, in which emotions are evaluated, and the ways in which emotions are considered – by semi-emotivists and by semi-rationalists – to track moral value. The notion of emotional authenticity is discussed and also the need to move beyond authenticity into the moral realm. The question is raised of whether an episodic emotion can legitimately carry overriding moral force in a specific case, C, even though it has been shown to be morally amiss with respect to the details of C? The notion of moral “emotional optimality” is introduced and various cases examined in which morally sub-optimal emotions may seem to have overriding moral force. Some of the cases do not stand up to scrutiny, but others remain persuasive: cases in which a sub-optimal emotion instantiates an invaluable disposition that cannot be sustained psychologically without sporadic sub-optimal manifestations, and cases in which a sub-optimal emotion cannot be changed cost-effectively.


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