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On Punishing Emotions

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This paper challenges recent influential arguments which would encourage legislators and courts to give weight to an assessment of the “evaluative judgements” expressed by the emotions which motivate crimes. While accepting the claim of Kahan and Nussbaum and others that emotions, other than moods, have intentional objects (“the cognitive conception”), and are not mere impulses which bypass cognition (“the mechanistic conception”), it suggests the following criticisms of their analysis. First, the concept of an emotional “evaluative judgement” tends to elide the distinction between (misleadingly named) “judgements” that are merely the sense of an emotion, and do not have the character of acts, and deliberative emotional judgements that do resemble acts and so properly fall within the corrective scope of the law. Second, intentional emotions are empowered by pre–intentional psychological resources which are less amenable than intentional states to the agent's conscious supervision: The traditional recognition of “infirmity” in mitigation of crimes uncharacteristic of the criminal's overall conduct towards others is justified by the unpredictable action of these pre–intentional elements and can survive the abandonment of the mechanistic conception of emotion.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Central Lancashire, UK

Publication date: 2003-03-01

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