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People often take pride in things that they don't have control over, or events and accomplishments in which they were not involved. For example, an American might be proud of the United State's role in World War 2 even though it occurred long before he was even born. Much the same could be said of pride of one's race, university, local sports team, extended family or ancestry, and so on. How can this kind of pride be justified?

Standardly, philosophers think of pride as closely related to deservedness. Pride, on this view, amounts to taking pleasure in one's excellence or accomplishments. To have proper pride therefore requires that one have an accurate appraisal of one's excellence or accomplishments. To take more pleasure than one's excellence or accomplishments merit is to exhibit vanity. To take less pleasure than one's excellence or accomplishments merit is to exhibit excessive modesty or a lack of self-respect. (This analysis of pride owes much to Aristotle's discussion of pride in the Nicomachean Ethics .) So what of those who (as you ask) are 'proud of' their nation's past accomplishments, or in the victories of their favorites sports teams, etc.? On its face, pride seems unjustified in these cases. For these are not the person's accomplishments but the accomplishments of others. It would, I agree, be a form of noxious self-flattery for someone born well after the Second World War to take literal pride in the US'...

Hello. I wanted to ask about revenge. (1) Is there anything morally wrong with taking revenge? (2) If the urge to take revenge is a genetic instinct (and surely, it's quite plausible that it might be), why should it have less moral authority than any other feeling about right and wrong? The background to this question is that, while there's no explicit eye-for-an-eye in the laws of most contemporary societies, usually judges take community expectations and appropriate punishment into account when sentencing, and not just factors like legal requirements, precedence, rehabilitation and deterrence -- so revenge is arguably still very much a part of modern law.

Modern legal systems and practices are probably shaped by a number of different factors, as you note. Criminal sentencing, for example, is likely to reflect concerns about rehabilitation, deterrence, consistency — and revenge. You rightfully ask: Should revenge have a place in how wrongdoers are treated -- is there something morally suspect about revenge? First, it's key to recognize that revenge does not simply aim at making a wrongdoer worse off. Revenge is instead partly a matter of motive: Whenever we punish someone, we aim to make them worse off in some way. What distinguishes revenge from deterrence and other motives is that in acting so as to avenge, we aim to make the wrongdoer worse off for no other apparent reason than that the wrongdoer should be made to suffer. We aren't attempting to discourage the wrongdoer (or others) from acting wrongly, nor are we attempting to use the suffering as a way to improve the wrongdoer's character, etc. Revenge is fundamentally vindictive . To punish a...

Am i wrong in assuming the admiration of things, ideas, and/or people comes along with not only an unspoken, but definite predilection for them? - or is it possible to have that admiration, but dislike them entirely? i.e. Thinking something is the greatest thing ever, but all of its positive attributes are why you don't like it; maybe because of how the results of using said attributes makes you feel. Or would you say that the person doesnt truly admire it or even that they dont truly dislike the results?

Your questions raise intriguing issues regarding how various goods or values are related. As best I can tell, whatever our reasons for admiring something or someone, these reasons need not be accompanied by reasons to like that thing or person, and can even be accompanied by reasons to dislike that thing or person. I don't much care for golf, finding the game far too genteel and slow moving. But I can certainly admire the skill of a world class golfer or the skill shown by a particular player in a particular tournament. I certainly doubt I'd want to be present for that tournament or want to meet the golfer. Admiration seems, then, often disinterested in a way that 'liking' or 'having a predilection for' is not. You also ask about not liking something or someone because of its "positive attributes." That seems possible too. For instance, one might dislike someone you admire because the attributes you admire in them 'crowd out' other positive attributes. A person can be admirable for being very hard...

It is common to characterize emotions as unhelpful in moral discernment. When faced with a situation that requires careful moral deliberation, emotion is often set aside, while reason and evidence are taken to be very important. Isn't always this the case? Do emotions really have no value in moral discernment, or they have to some extent but some philosophers have just neglected their part?

You're certainly correct that there is a tendency in suppose that reason and emotion are antagonists, and that with respect to morality in particular, we should be guided by reason rather than emotion. And there may be major figures in the history of philosophy (Plato comes to mind) who really did see reason and emotion as in stark and irreconcilable tension. But there's a pretty significant segment of philosophers, both historical and contemporary, who don't think that reason and emotion are such enemies when it comes to moral reasoning and decision. On this view, reason and emotion are essential partners in moral thought and deliberation instead of implacable antagonists. A popular account (one that I myself find attractive) distinguishes between moral truth and moral knowledge: Emotions, on this view, are not a source of moral truth, but do enable you to know moral truths. Suppose that, as you end a day of busy holiday shopping, you see a fellow shopper carrying a large bundle of shopping bags. She...

For many years, I believed that I was responsible for having injured someone, and I accepted that. However, due to extenuating circumstances, while I believed that I was indeed responsible for having caused this injury, I was unable to feel guilty for it, and wondered why I was so callous. Decades later, I learned that I had NOT injured this individual after all! While I felt relieved to learn this, I also feel that it doesn't really absolve me of my apparent callousness during all those years when I'd thought I really HAD hurt her. In other words, I feel rather guilty now for NOT having felt guilty in the past! Philosophically and ethically speaking, what do you think?

Ethically speaking, I'd say that your present guilt at not having felt guilt in the past speaks positively of your own moral character. As it turns out, you did not in fact have reason to feel guilt in the past because you had not injured another person. Nevertheless, to feel guilt when you (believe you) have injured another is morally valuable. For one, such guilt indicates a recognition of your own wrongdoing and is evidence of your moral knowledge and perceptiveness. And from a more consequentialist or utilitarian point of view, being susceptible to guilt encourages us not to injure others. After all, guilt feels bad, so being susceptible to guilt is good inasmuch as the desire to avoid justified guilt should engender a desire to avoid injuring others. The guilt you're feeling now is what philosophers such as Harry Frankfurt call a 'second-order' attitude: Your present guilt is directed at (or we might put it more technically, has as its object) your earlier lack of guilt. It is an attitude...