Moral Anxiety: A Kantian Perspective

In David Rondel (ed.), The Moral Psychology of Anxiety. Moral Psychology of the Emotions (2024)
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Moral anxiety is the unease that we experience in the face of a novel or difficult moral decision, an unease that helps us recognize the significance of the issue we face and engages epistemic behaviors aimed at helping us work through it (reflection, information gathering, etc.). But recent discussions in philosophy raise questions about the value of moral anxiety (do we really do better when we’re anxious?); and work in cognitive science challenges its psychological plausibility (is there really such an emotion?). Drawing on Kant and Kantians, I develop a model of moral anxiety (or ‘conscience’ in Kant’s terminology) that highlights both its empirical credentials and its distinctive value. Kant, it turns out, was an early—and sophisticated—dual-process theorist.

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Charlie Kurth
Western Michigan University


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