Can contempt serve as a morally appropriate form of self-defense against the damage wrought by superbia? A critical analysis of Macalester Bell's account of contempt



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Tartu Ülikool


This thesis is focused on whether contempt could serve as a morally appropriate form of self-defense against superbia. My analysis is largely built on and developed in critical dialogue with a thesis put forward by Macalester Bell in her monograph “Hard feelings: the moral psychology of contempt” (2013). Bell is one of the few modern moral philosophers who have defended contempt as an emotion that has an important role to play in our moral lives. Even though contempt has often been rejected as a nasty and immoral emotion and it is not particularly difficult to come up with cases where contempt would indeed be unjustified, I find it hard to deny that there is a grain of truth in saying that the virtuous agent will love the good and hate the evil1. If we are to be consistent and wholeheartedly value morality, and we agree that emotions are important mediums through which we value things (as it is assumed by the current mainstream theories of emotion), then there seems to be a prima facie case for at least some hard feelings―understood as emotions that help us hold other people accountable for their wrongdoing, or, in case of superbia (which is more to do with character rather than some isolated acts of wrongdoing), their “badbeing” (Bell 2013: 39).



Bell, Macalester, self-defence, ethics, emotions, self-esteem, master's thesis, eetika, emotsioonid, enesehinnang, enesekaitse, häbi, solvamine