This is Ben Vilhauer's Typepad Profile.
Join Typepad and start following Ben Vilhauer's activity
Join Now!
Already a member? Sign In
Ben Vilhauer
Recent Activity
This is in connection with Eddy's post about truth-tracking. Consider cases like the Robert Harris case. When most people just hear the story of the crime itself, they typically respond with the strongest sort of retributive anger. But when they know the whole story, including the horrific abuse Harris suffered as a child, the retributive anger is often replaced by empathy. It seems to me that the emotions we feel when we have full information should be thought to track the truth better than the emotions we feel when we have partial information.
Tamler, Yes, I think that's right. I think that empathic suffering strikes us as more virtuous when it's connected with the desire to relieve the suffering of the others with whom we empathize, and this is one way of understanding what's going on in making amends. But I think this is true about self-retributive guilt, too. That is, if we're retributivists, self-retributive guilt will also seem more virtuous when connected with a desire to make amends.
In some cases there may be non-retributive versions of, or analogs of, the retributive emotions at issue here. Suppose it's right that a central kind of guilt is best understood as a kind of self-retribution, and that free will skeptics can give no role to that kind of guilt in moral psychology. It might nonetheless be true that there was a non-retributive moral emotion that could play a similar role in moral psychology. I think there is a kind of remorse in which the wrongdoer suffers because he empathizes with the suffering of the person he has harmed. I don't think the idea of retribution has to play any role in explaining this kind of remorse. To my ears, empathy-based remorse sounds every bit as virtuous as self-retributive guilt (and maybe even more virtuous). This might be a start on working up a non-retributive moral psychology which is just as attractive from a virtue-ethics perspective as a retributive moral psychology.
Ben Vilhauer is now following The Typepad Team
Oct 31, 2013