Philosophy

Research Article

Morality and the Retributive Emotions

Philip Leon

Just as the pleasant experience differs from the non-pleasant or unpleasant, and (according to many at least) the aesthetic from the non-aesthetic, internally or qualitatively, and not merely in degree, or externally or relationally, so, it is natural to expect, a moment of moral living differs from a moral or immoral moment. Indeed, from many quarters, and most emphatically from the Stoic and Christian, we have been wont to hear that if we but leave our sinful or indifferent lives and put on righteousness or goodness, we shall become new men or men reborn, even creatures of a different species. But according to many (perhaps most) analyses of morality these promises of transfiguration or translation are nonsensical lies: for the moral experience, as exhibited in these analyses, differs from the non-moral or immoral only in respect of external relations, or at the most in degree. Whether the truth resides in the promises or in the analyses is, obviously, a question of no mean import. It is also a vast one, while the time and space that can be given up to an article are brief; hence the following will be barely more than a raising of the question, or a provocation, by means of rough statements, some dogmatic, others hypothetical.