How can we explain the rational diminution of backward-looking emotions (e.g., grief, regret, and anger) without resorting to pragmatic or wrong kind of reason explanations? That is to say, how can the diminution of these emotions not only be rational but fitting? In this paper, I offer an answer to this question by considering the case of anger. In Sect. 1, I examine Pamela Hieronymi’s account of forgiveness as the rational resolution of resentment. I argue that Hieronymi’s account rests on an assumption about the rationality of emotions (and of attitudes in general)—namely, that a rational (and fitting) change in emotion entails a change in the fact that constitutes the reason for the emotion. Then, in Sect. 2, I consider Agnes Callard’s recent criticism of accounts like Hieronymi’s as well as Callard’s alternative account of the rational resolution of anger. I argue that Callard offers a promising account but fails to explain how it avoids the criticism she levels against Hieronymi and others. Finally, in Sect. 3, I reject Hieronymi’s assumption and argue that an emotion can cease to be fitting without any change in the fact that constitutes the reason for it. I also explain how my proposal can complement Callard’s account of the rational dissipation of anger. My discussion of anger leads to a solution to the general problem about backward-looking emotions: a fitting backward-looking emotion can fittingly diminish when it is part of a process that is itself a fitting response to the past occurrence.
KeywordsEmotion Fittingness Reasons Moral psychology Anger Forgiveness
Earlier versions of this material were presented at Humboldt University and at the Israel Philosophical Association. I am grateful to audiences on these occasions. I also want to thank Agnes Callard, Benjamin Kiesewetter, Barry Maguire, and Jay Wallace. This essay was written with the support of the Martin Buber Society of Fellows at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
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