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Kant’s views in this regard have understandably been the subjectof much controversy. Many object that we do not think better ofactions done for the sake of duty than actions performed out ofemotional concern or sympathy for others, especially those things wedo for friends and family. Worse, moral worth appears to require notonly that one’s actions be motivated by duty, but also that noother motives, even love or friendship, cooperate. Yet Kant’sdefenders have argued that his point is not that we do not admire orpraise motivating concerns other than duty, only that from the pointof view of someone deliberating about what to do, these concerns arenot decisive in the way that considerations of moral duty are. What iscrucial in actions that express a good will is that in conforming toduty a perfectly virtuous person always would, and so ideally weshould, recognize and be moved by the thought that our conformity ismorally obligatory. The motivational structure of the agent should bearranged so that she always treats considerations of duty assufficient reasons for conforming to those requirements. In otherwords, we should have a firm commitment not to perform an action if itis morally forbidden and to perform an action if it is morallyrequired. Having a good will, in this sense, is compatible with havingfeelings and emotions of various kinds, and even with aiming tocultivate some of them in order to counteract desires and inclinationsthat tempt us to immorality. Controversy persists, however, aboutwhether Kant’s claims about the motive of duty go beyond thisbasic point (Timmermann 2007; Herman 1993; Wood 1998; Baron 1995).

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Moral character: What it is and what it does - …

Second, virtue is, for Kant, strength of will, and hence does notarise as the result of instilling a “second nature” by aprocess of habituating or training ourselves to act and feel inparticular ways. It is indeed a disposition, but a disposition ofone’s will, not a disposition of emotions, feelings, desires orany other feature of human nature that might be amenable tohabituation. Moreover, the disposition is to overcome obstacles tomoral behavior that Kant thought were ineradicable features of humannature. Thus, virtue appears to be much more like what Aristotle wouldhave thought of as a lesser trait, viz., continence orself-control.

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The Hellenistic philosophers' observations about nasty emotions arenot wholly compelling. Surely it is possible to see at least someemotions as having a positive contribution to make to our moral lives,and indeed we have seen that the verdict of cognitive science is thata capacity for normal emotion appears to be a sine qua non for therational and moral conduct of life. Outside of this intimate but stillsomewhat mysterious link between the neurological capacity for emotionand rationality, the exact significance of emotions to the moral lifewill again depend on one's theory of the emotions. Inasmuch asemotions are partly constituted by desires, as some cognitivisttheorists maintain, they will, as David Hume contended, help tomotivate decent behavior and cement social life. If emotions areperceptions, and can be more or less epistemically adequate to theirobjects, then emotions may have a further contribution to make to themoral life, depending on what sort of adequacy and what sort ofobjects are involved. Max Scheler (1954) was the first to suggest thatemotions are in effect perceptions of “tertiary qualities”that supervene in the (human) world on facts about social relations,pleasure and pain, and natural psychological facts, a suggestionrecently elaborated by Tappolet (2000).

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Other models propose mutually conflicting ways of locatingemotion within the general economy of the mind. Some treat emotion asone of many separate faculties. For Plato in the Republic,there seems to have been three basic components of the human mind:the reasoning, the desiring, and the emotive parts. For Aristotle, theemotions are not represented as constituting a separate agency ormodule, but they had even greater importance, particularly in themoral life, our capacity for which Aristotle regarded as largely aresult of learning to feel the right emotions in the rightcircumstances. Hume's notorious dictum that reason is and ought to bethe slave of the passions also placed the emotions at the very centerof character and agency. For Spinoza, emotions are not lodged in aseparate body in conflict with the soul, since soul and body areaspects of a single reality; but emotions, as affections of the soul,make the difference between the best and the worst lives, as theyeither increase the soul's power to act, or diminish that power. Inother models, emotions as a category are apt to be sucked into eitherof two other faculties of mind. They are then treated as merecomposites or offshoots of those other faculties: a peculiar kind ofbelief, or a vague kind of desire or will. The Stoics made emotionsinto judgments about the value of things incidental to an agent'svirtue, to which we should therefore remain perfectlyindifferent. Hobbes assimilated “passions” to specific appetites oraversions. Kant too saw emotions as essentially conative phenomena,but grouped them with inclinations enticing the will to act on motivesother than that of duty.

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The role of emotions in our experience of art and literature is anobviously promising area which has received much attention in recentdecades. Robert Gordon (1987) was one of the first to suggest that theknowledge we have of the states of mind of others, and particularly oftheir emotional condition, is derived not from any psychologicaltheory, but from an active simulation of that other's state. There issuggestive neurological evidence that this might be on the right trackfrom the discovery of “mirror neurons” that aresimilarly activated both by a concrete action and by the sight of thesame concrete action in another (Gallese and Goldman 1998). The ideahas been developed by Keith Oatley (2012), as an approach toliterature. Fiction, he argues on the basis of much empiricalwork, works as a simulation run on the wetware of the reader'smind, and has the power to change us. This view is also supported byMartha Nussbaum, who despite being firmly in the cognitive camp, hasinsisted that the kind of knowledge involved in moral appraisal isboth affective and cognitive. For that reason, the full force ofcertain moral truths can best be grasped through the medium ofliterature rather than philosophical argument. (Nussbaum 1990; 1994;2001; Baier 1995; Hogan 2011).

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In the past two decades, the philosophy of emotions has becomeenriched with a number of perspectives that have both embraced andinspired inter-disciplinary studies. In this section, not allreferences are to works by professional philosophers: some referencesare to philosophically significant work in psychology, sociology, orneuroscience. Most significantly, the study of emotions has had aconsiderable impact on ideas about the intersection of morality,politics, psychiatry and law.