Ideals and Idols: On the Nature and Appropriateness of Agential Admiration

In Alfred Archer & Andre Grahlé (eds.), The Moral Psychology of Admiration. Rowman and Littlefield (2019)
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When we admire a person, we don’t just have a wow-response towards them, as we might towards a painting or a sunset. Rather, we construe them as realizing an ideal of the person in their lives to a conspicuous degree. To merit admiration, it is not enough simply to do something valuable or to possess desirable character traits. Rather, one’s achievements must manifest commitments and character traits that define a worthwhile ideal. Agential admiration, I argue, is a person-focused attitude like shame, contempt, and hubristic pride, not an act-focused one like gratitude or guilt, not to mention mere evaluation as excellent. Given its holistic focus, its motivational effects permeate our interactions with its target, who is construed as an exemplar. Consequently, even if someone is admirable in some way, admiring them may be all-things-considered inappropriate, if they fall short of other ideals that we ought to care about.
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