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Feeling better about moral dilemmas

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There has been a trend in contemporary ethics to believe that a morally admirable agent would feel negative self-assessing emotions following even the best possible choice in a moral dilemma. A commonly held reason for holding this position is that agents who are well-brought up are trained to feel negative self-assessing emotions when they do something morally forbidden under ordinary circumstances, and that agents acting for the best in a dilemma will nonetheless recognize their deed as morally forbidden. I challenge this view and reach the conclusion that without the further notion that the agent morally failed, negative self-assessing emotions ought to be discouraged in favour of emotions such as grief and sadness, which are negative and self-conscious, but not self-assessing. I then offer some cognitive strategies moral educators could impart to help persons feel emotions that better reflect the nuances of moral dilemmas.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03057240500049307

Affiliations: Lake Superior State University USA

Publication date: March 1, 2005

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