An inquiry concerning the place of emotions in virtue ethics (a comparison between Aristotle and Kant

Thesis Type: Doctorate

Institution Of The Thesis: Orta Doğu Teknik Üniversitesi, Graduate School of Social Sciences, Turkey

Approval Date: 2005


Supervisor: AHMET İNAM


This dissertation examines the claim that, unlike utilitarianism and deontology, virtue ethics ascribes a positive role to emotions in moral evaluation by taking them as the constituents of moral goodness and moral value. I wish to identify the limit and scope of this claim and to show what kind of emotion theory is suitable for explaining the essential features of virtue ethics. To do so, I defend some kind of cognitivism, the cognitive-affective theory of emotion, as the most suitable theory for virtue ethics. I argue that the moral significance that virtue ethicists assign to emotions can only be explained by such a holistic and non-reductionist account of emotions. In order to demonstrate how the virtue ethicists̕ positive treatment of emotions with respect to moral evaluations works in theory, I have looked at Aristotle̕s theory of emotions and ethics, paying special attention to his notion of the ءmean relative to us.̕ We shall see that the ءmean relative to us,̕ which entails the existence of suitable emotions being felt by the moral agent, is justified on the basis of such an idea. The other main purpose of this dissertation is to examine whether Kant̕s ethics is compatible with virtue ethics. My interpretation is that Kant̕s position on emotions oscillates between the negative and the instrumentalist view, while Aristotle̕s view is moralist. I will argue that even the most celebrated Kantian feeling of respect does not fall under the moralist position. Although Kant recognizes emotions as morally relevant in the determination of duties of virtue, the kind of roles he assigns to them are merely aesthetic, instrumental, or ornamental and regulative, all of which are secondary to pure practical reason. But, in virtue ethics, emotions and feelings play actual causative roles. They can both influence and be influenced from reason in the determination of virtuous