What We Are Reading Today: Emotion and Virtue by Gopal Sreenivasan

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Updated 01 December 2020

What We Are Reading Today: Emotion and Virtue by Gopal Sreenivasan

What must a person be like to possess a virtue in full measure? What sort of psychological constitution does one need to be an exemplar of compassion, say, or of courage? Focusing on these two examples, Emotion and Virtue ingeniously argues that certain emotion traits play an indispensable role in virtue. With exemplars of compassion, for instance, this role is played by a modified sympathy trait, which is central to enabling these exemplars to be reliably correct judges of the compassionate thing to do in various practical situations. Indeed, according to Gopal Sreenivasan, the virtue of compassion is, in a sense, a modified sympathy trait, just as courage is a modified fear trait.

While he upholds the traditional definition of virtue as a species of character trait, Sreenivasan discards other traditional precepts. For example, he rejects the unity of the virtues and raises new questions about when virtue should be taught. Unlike orthodox virtue ethics, moreover, his account does not aspire to rival consequentialism and deontology. Instead Sreenivasan repudiates the ambitions of virtue imperialism.

Emotion and Virtue makes significant contributions to moral psychology and the theory of virtue alike.


What We Are Reading Today: Hobbesian Moral and Political Theory by Gregory S. Kavka

Updated 14 January 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Hobbesian Moral and Political Theory by Gregory S. Kavka

In recent years serious attempts have been made to systematize and develop the moral and political themes of great philosophers of the past.

Kant, Locke, Marx, and the classical utilitarians all have their current defenders and arc taken seriously as expositors of sound moral and political views.

It is the aim of this book to introduce Hobbes into this select group by presenting a plausible moral and political theory inspired by Leviathan.

Using the techniques of analytic philosophy and elementary game theory, the author develops a Hobbesian argument that justifies the liberal State and reconciles the rights and interests of rational individuals with their obligations.

Hobbes’s case against anarchy, based on his notorious claim that life outside the political State would be a “war of all against all,” is analyzed in detail, while his endorsement of the absolutist State is traced to certain false hypotheses about political sociology.

With these eliminated, Hobbes’s principles support a liberal redistributive (or “satisfactory”) State and a limited right of revolution.

Turning to normative issues, the book explains Hobbes’s account of morality based on enlightened self-interest and shows how the Hobbesian version of social contract theory justifies the political obligations of citizens of satisfactory States.