Norm-Expressivism: Requirements & Possibilities for Moral Emotions : Narrow Moral Emotions and Broad Capacities
Abstract: The contemporary metaethical theory, norm-expressivism, maintains that a moral judgment expresses one’s acceptance of norms governing guilt and anger. The theory’s founder, Allan Gibbard, argues that this understanding of the moral claim is supported through both the realization of weaknesses in other accounts and a naturalistic consideration of the way in which moral judgments function in our moral lives. Thus, a moral judgment is the acceptance of norms that permit (or require, in this case) anger at those who engage in wrongdoing and feelings of guilt by those who do wrong. Because Gibbard arrives at this analysis, in part, through an understanding of the natural psychic mechanisms that determine our moral lives, norm-expressivism is then (largely) grounded upon the cogency of certain empirical claims. Should norm-expressivism be a cogent theory, then this would have implications upon the nature of guilt and anger. Guilt and anger would need to, in fact, be stronger motivators than are other moral emotions, moral judgments must be capable of influencing these moral emotions and yet anger and guilt could not entail (nor necessarily be caused by) moral judgments. Should guilt and anger turn out to be (or be necessarily caused by) moral judgments, then norm-expressivism would offer a circular account of the moral judgment. This project will survey diverse theories of emotion in order to assess the compatibility of these theories with norm-expressivism. After introducing norm-expressivism, I will propose seven conditions for a compatible theory of emotion. I will argue that norm-expressivists can find theories of emotion that frame the nature of guilt and anger in ways consistent with the truth of their metaethical theory. While many facts about the nature of guilt and anger remain unanswered by the scope of this project, I will argue that there are theories of emotion (and more than Gibbard supposed) that provide frameworks to explain both the nature of emotion and emotion typology in a way consistent with norm-expressivism.
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