Hard Feelings: The Moral Psychology of Contempt

Hardcover | April 26, 2013

byMacalester Bell

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At a time when respect is widely touted as an attitude of central moral importance, contempt is often derided as a thoroughly nasty emotion inimical to the respect we owe all persons. But while contempt is regularly dismissed as completely disvaluable, ethicists have had very little to sayabout what contempt is or whether it deserves its ugly reputation. Macalester Bell argues that we must reconsider contempt's role in our moral lives. While contempt can be experienced in inapt and disvaluable ways, it may also be a perfectly appropriate response that provides the best way ofanswering a range of neglected faults.Using a wide variety of examples, Bell provides an account of the nature of contempt and its virtues and vices. While some insist that contempt is always unfitting because of its globalism, Bell argues that this objection mischaracterizes the person assessments at the heart of contempt. Contempt is,in some cases, the best way of responding to arrogance, hypocrisy, and other vices of superiority. Contempt does have a dark side, and inapt forms of contempt structure a host of social ills. Racism is best characterized as an especially pernicious form of inapt contempt, and Bell's account ofcontempt helps us better understand the moral badness of racism. It is argued that the best way of responding to race-based contempt is to mobilize a robust counter-contempt for racists.The book concludes with a discussion of overcoming contempt through forgiveness. This account of forgiveness sheds light upon the broader issue of social reconciliation and what role reparations and memorials may play in giving persons reasons to overcome their contempt for institutions.

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At a time when respect is widely touted as an attitude of central moral importance, contempt is often derided as a thoroughly nasty emotion inimical to the respect we owe all persons. But while contempt is regularly dismissed as completely disvaluable, ethicists have had very little to sayabout what contempt is or whether it deserves i...

Macalester Bell is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University and works in ethics and moral psychology. Her published papers take up fundamental questions concerning anger, blame, forgiveness, reparation, and inspiration.
Format:HardcoverDimensions:320 pages, 8.25 × 5.5 × 0.98 inPublished:April 26, 2013Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199794146

ISBN - 13:9780199794140

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Table of Contents

Introduction: The Moral Importance Of Contempt1. What Is Contempt?1.1 Contempt And Feeling Theories Of Emotion1.2 Intentionality, Rationality, And Cognitive Theories Of Emotion1.3 Contempt's Evaluative Presentation1.4 Active And Passive Contempt1.5 Contempt, Hatred And Disgust1.5.1 Contempt And Disgust1.5.2 Contempt And Hatred1.6 Potential Problem Cases1.6.1 Contempt For Non-Persons1.6.2 Self-Contempt2. Contempt As A Fitting Globalist Emotion2.1 Can Contempt Ever Fit Its Target?2.2 Defending Contempt Against The Fittingness Objection2.3 Fitting Evaluative Prioritizations2.4 Relationships, Fittingness, And Fitting Attitude Accounts Of Value3. Contempt And The Vices Of Superiority3.1 Superbia And Vices Of Superiority3.2 Hypocrisy And Arrogance3.3 Contempt As An Answer To Vices Of Superiority3.4 Cowardice, Stupidity, And Lightheartedness4. The Moral Value Of Contempt4.1 Passive Contempt In Aristotle And Nietzsche4.2 Contempt's Aptness Conditions4.3 Contempt's Moral Value4.3.1 Contempt's Instrumental Value4.3.2 Contempt's Non-Instrumental Value4.4 Challenges To An Ethic Of Contempt4.4.1 Contempt's Globalism And Aptness4.4.2 Respect-Based Arguments Against Contempt4.4.3 Contempt And Comparisons4.4.4 Withdrawal And Moral Address4.5 Do We Have An Obligation To Contemn?5. Contempt, Racism, And Civility's Limits5.1. Contempt And Anti-Black Racism: The Case Of The Obama Bucks Cartoon5.2 Race-Based Contempt As A Vice5.3 Race-Based Contempt As Unfitting5.4 Race-Based Contempt As Inapt5.5 Contempt And Civility6. Contempt, Forgiveness, And Reconciliation6.1 A Problem With The Standard Account Of Forgiveness6.2 The Fundamental Features Of Forgiveness6.3 The Standard Account Of Our Reasons To Forgive6.3.1 Repentance6.3.2 Excuses And Good Intentions6.4 Reasons To Overcome Contempt Through Forgiveness6.4.1 Character Transformation6.4.2 Shame6.5 Do We Genuinely Forgive In Overcoming Contempt?6.6 Contempt, Symbolic Reparations And Social ReconciliationConclusion: "Contempt Is Not A Thing to Be Despised"Bibliography