The Origin and Development of the Moral Ideas - Vol. 1

By Edward Westermarck | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
THE NATURE OF THE MORAL EMOTIONS (concluded)

WE have seen that moral disapproval is a form of resentment, and that moral approval is a form of retribu- tive kindly emotion. It still remains for us to examine in what respects these emotions differ from kindred non- moral emotions--disapproval from anger and revenge, approval from gratitude--in other words, what charac- terises them as specifically moral emotions.

It is a common opinion, held by all who regard the intellect as the source of moral concepts, that moral emotions only arise in consequence of moral judgments, and that, in each case, the character of the emotion is determined by the predicate of the judgment. We are told that, when the intellectual process is completed, when the act in question is definitely classed under such or such a moral category, then, and only then, there follows instantaneously a feeling of either approbation or disapprobation as the case may be.1 When we hear of a murder, for instance, we must discern the wrongness of the act before we can feel moral indignation at it.

It is true that a moral judgment may be followed by a moral emotion, that the finding out the tendency of a certain mode of conduct to evoke indignation or approval is apt to call forth such an emotion, if there was none before, or otherwise to increase the one existing. It is, moreover, true that the predicate of a moral judgment, as

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1
Fleming, Manual of Moral Philosophy, p. 97sqq. Fowler, Principles of Morals, ii. 198sqq.

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