Restoring emotion's bad rep: the moral randomness of norms

European Journal of Analytic Philosophy 2 (1):29-47 (2006)
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Despite the fact that common sense taxes emotions with irrationality, philosophers have, by and large, celebrated their functionality. They are credited with motivating, steadying, shaping or harmonizing our dispositions to act, and with policing norms of social behaviour. It's time to restore emotion's bad rep. To this end, I shall argue that we should expect that some of the “norms” enforced by emotions will be unevenly distributed among the members of our species, and may be dysfunctional at the individual, social, moral, or even species levels. I”ll adduce three considerations in support of that pessimistic view: The fallacy of adaptive fixation, the moral randomness of group selection, and the lack of fit between “natural norms” set up by evolution and those moral and social norms we would like philosophy to justify.

Author's Profile

Ronald De Sousa
University of Toronto, St. George Campus


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