Monday, December 14, 2009


Okay first watch this movie:

EMBED-Wife Cries Over Return of the Jedi - Watch more free videos

Isn't she adorable?  (no she's not my wife and no thats not me).

This just got me thinking about emotions, how little control we have over them, and how much they influence our actions and behavior. 

I'm sure the lady in the movie wouldn't want to be feeling so emotional over every movie that she sees (I'd hate to see her after watching Titanic).  She can't help it.  Emotions simply happen to us, whether we'd like to or not.  Now, normally this isn't too much of a problem, except when they begin to cross moral lines.  I'm happy at a funeral, I'm sad at a birthday, or I fall in love with someone who isn't my significant other (I'm thinking about you Tiger). 

But if we can't control these emotions, then why do we get blamed for them?  I usually say that it doesn't make sense to hold people responsible for acts that they have no control over, but that doesn't mean there isn't any kind of room for moral evaluation here.  Typically, morality comes in three categories of things that we evaluate:  Actions, Consequences, and Agents.  Kantianism evaluates actions, Utilitarianism evaluates consequences, and virtue theory evaluates agents.  Now, not being a product of free will, emotional actions shouldn't play much of a role in Actions or Consequences (unless the act is simply motivated by the emotion rather than the emotion itself... slight distinction.  Cheating is motivated by an emotion, falling in love with someone else is just the emotion itself). 

So what can we say about people's character who have the incorrect emotional response?  Are they insensitive or hypersensitive?  Is that really a character flaw?  I think it is, depending on what the kind of sensitivity that we're talking about. 

Ultimately, I think at the root of ethics, there requires a kind of moral sensitivity that people can have to varying degrees.  Its what makes people care about doing what is right, interested in discovering the reasoning behind moral judgments, and makes morality intrinsically valuable...  Its a kind of "taking pleasure in."  Typically, people call it conscience, righteousness, moral superiority, etc.  But this is something that should be fostered...  Less we be too insensitive that we don't care about ewoks dying, or Anakin never being with his son.

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