PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractGuilt is routinely characterized as an emotion that is not central to morality. Guilt is often described in blanket terms that characterize it as a negative emotion that is harmful to the self, and that does not motivate people to act in pro-social ways. Some argue that guilt should be eliminated from our repertoire of moral emotions altogether. In this paper, I will defend the role of guilt in moral life. First, guilt has an important function in moral motivation. Psychological studies suggest that guilt motivates us to maintain our interpersonal relationships and cooperate with others. Additionally, guilt may play an important role in moral development, aiding in the acquisition of a moral sense. For these reasons, I will argue that it is morally appropriate to feel guilt, and that the cost of guilt is outweighed by its benefits. Therefore, guilt should not be eliminated from our repertoire of moral emotions, as this would eliminate an essential feature of moral life.
Degree ProgramHonors College