Emotion and morality: a sociological reading of the philosophy of emotion



Publication Details

McKenzie, J. (2019). Emotion and morality: a sociological reading of the philosophy of emotion. In R. Patulny, A. Bellocchi, R. Olson, S. Khorana, J. McKenzie & M. Peterie (Eds.), Emotions in Late Modernity (pp. 56-68). Oxon, United Kingdom: Routledge. https://www.routledge.com/Emotions-in-Late-Modernity-1st-Edition/Patulny-Bellocchi-Olson-Khorana-McKenzie-Peterie/p/book/9780815354321

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There are paradigmatic differences in the study of morality between the disciplines of philosophy and sociology. On the surface, this could be understood as a distinction over the study of what ethics are in the former (Prinz 2004b; Rawls 1971), from what they do in the latter (Bauman 1994; Durkheim 1973; Turner & Stets 2006). A similar claim could be made about the study of emotion in late modernity in these disciplines, as philosophers have generally focused on questions about what emotions are and where they come from, while sociologists have given greater attention to the impact and role of emotion in matters of social interaction, power and identity. When bringing together questions about emotions and morality, a number of important genealogical differences between sociology and philosophy surface. Enlightenment philosophers like Immanuel Kant and Jeremy Bentham have historically treated emotions as an encumbrance to ethical theory, as emotionality has been associated with irrationality and clouded judgement. One resulting narrative has treated emotion as something to overcome, as an untrustworthy and hot-headed co-pilot to the logical and rational mind. While these views were common among the Classical and Enlightenment era philosophers, they no longer stand up against contemporary understandings of the mind and emotion in late modernity (Denzin 1980; Holmes 2010; Prinz 2006).

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