The Plural Role of Emotions in Ethics

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This paper identifies a plurality of roles for emotions in practical reasoning by examining how different ethical approaches enable the recognition of the role of emotions in decision-making. By using ethical dilemmas we show how emotions appear in Intuitionism, Utilitarianism, and Deontological Ethics. The analysis reveals that emotions can appear in different places: sometimes as motivational forces, other times as ends-in-view, sometimes as overarching contextual modes, and finally that they are sometimes reasons for action and at other times they are causes for actions. In addition, we argue that the most recent developments of philosophy of emotions demand a more complex perspective about emotions and that the impact of emotions in ethics should take into consideration layers of emotions (Mendonça 2013). We conclude that the issues raised reinforce Bernard Williams’ claim that our notion of rationality is incomplete without emotions and sentiments for ‘it would be a kind of insanity never to experience sentiments of this kind towards anyone, and it would be an insane concept of rationality which insisted that a rational person never would’ (Williams 1981: 29), and suggest a series of future issues to be explored which would further explain the connection between values and emotion as to do justice to a more complete and rich notion of rationality.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEssays on Values and Practical Rationality
Subtitle of host publicationEthical and Aesthetical Dimensions
EditorsAntónio Marques, João Sàágua
Place of PublicationBern
PublisherPeter Lang
Number of pages2
ISBN (Print)978-3-0343-3153-1
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Publication series

NameLisbon Philosophical Studies - Uses of Languages in Interdisciplinary Fields


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