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Moral Emotions

Emotions are part of the complex phenomenon of human morality undergoing new scrutiny with the advance of scientific discoveries and theoretical exploration of the human organism. No longer simplistically reduced to dangerously primitive impulses that must be contained and controlled, emotions are increasingly understood as highly evolved capacities that are integral to the human moral apparatus. This entry explores the role of and treatment of emotions in moral thought and discourse.

In the history of Western moral thought, representations of virtue and moral competence often valorize reasoned control over emotions. Aristotle’s golden mean, Plato’s Charioteer, Seneca’s Marcia, Immanuel Kant’s categorical imperative, and Sigmund Freud’s ego/superego/id exemplify such approaches. Over the past several decades, however, the philosophical view of emotions has been tempered by expanding knowledge of ...

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