The Ethics of Emotions


We judge people for how they feel, and not just for what they do. We sometimes judge them for having the wrong emotional reaction to some event or situation ("How can you be happy at a time like this?"); in other cases we judge them for having the right reaction for too long, or not long enough (King Claudius to Hamlet: "'Tis sweet and commendable in your nature, Hamlet, To give these mourning duties to your father...but to persevere in obstinate condolement is a course of impious stubbornness; 'tis unmanly grief".) This talk will try to answer these questions: do these judgments make any sense? And, if they do, what does that tell us about what feelings are?