2015 Res Philosophica Essay Prize

Virtue and the Emotions

Guest Editor: Kevin Timpe

Prize Winner: Adam C. Pelser
“Respect for Human Dignity as an Emotion and Virtue” (click ‘show document’ for the free download)
Abstract (Show/Hide)
Though it does not appear on many traditional lists of the virtues, respect for human dignity is an important virtue in its own right that is characterized as much by emotions as by other mental states and actions. The virtue of respect for human dignity essentially involves the dispositions to feel the emotion of respect for the dignity of others as well as an emotional sense of one’s own dignity. As illustrated here through narrative examples from the life of Nelson Mandela, respect for human dignity also involves a keen perceptual sensitivity to humiliating and degrading treatment, along with dispositions to protest, correct, and prevent such treatment. The person with the virtue of respect for human dignity also will be disposed to feel emotions such as indignation toward those who willfully violate the dignity of others and compassion for their victims, as well as positive emotions in response to the successful promotion of human dignity. Although the virtue of respect for human dignity thus bears a close resemblance to other, more traditionally recognized, virtues, such as justice and love, it nevertheless is appropriate to treat respect for human dignity as a distinct virtue, as well as an emotion.
Adam C. Pelser is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado. His research interests include ethics, moral psychology, philosophy of religion, and the epistemology of perception and his work in these areas has been published in Faith and Philosophy, History of Philosophy Quarterly, Philosophia Christi, and other journals, as well as in edited volumes including Emotion and Value (ed., Roeser and Todd, OUP, 2014) and Handbook of Value (ed., Brosch and Sander, OUP, forthcoming). He is currently working on articulating the connections between emotion and character, defending an important role for emotions in moral, aesthetic, and religious epistemology, investigating the nature of temptation and its relationship to virtue, and identifying strategies for cultivating the moral and intellectual virtues of respect.
Original Call For Papers (Show/Hide)

Virtue and the Emotions

Guest Editor: Kevin Timpe (Northwest Nazarene University)

Deadline for Submission: February 1, 2015

Prize: $3,000

Call for Papers

Res Philosophica invites papers on the topic of virtue and the emotions for the 2015 Res Philosophica Essay Prize. The author of the winning paper will receive a prize of $3,000 and publication in the associated special issue of the journal on the same topic. Submissions for the prize will be automatically considered for publication in the journal's special issue unless otherwise requested.


The claim that the emotions, either in general or individually, are intimately connected with virtue goes back to antiquity. But even then, the nature of that connection was disputed, ranging from Aristotle’s view that certain virtues dispose us to feel the right amount of emotion to the stoic views that the emotions (or, more accurately, the passions) are things that we suffer and should try to escape. As Ronald de Sousa notes, “The complexity of emotions and their role in mental life is reflected in the unsettled place they have held in the history of ethics.” This special issue of Res Philosophica seeks to explore this complexity.

Papers on individual emotions and their connection (or lack thereof) to virtue are welcome. For example, are there certain emotions (e.g., shame or disgust) that are never virtuous? Other papers might question the degree to which our emotions can be tempered by right reason in the way that much virtue theory requires, or even whether or not such tempering is possible.

Papers may also draw on recent empirical work on the emotions (as well as other disciplines like psychology and cognitive neuroscience) to question traditional understandings of the emotions or their connection to virtue.

Papers from a wide theoretical understanding of the virtues and emotions are encouraged.

Selected papers will be included in a special issue of Res Philosophica along with invited papers by Robert Roberts, Michael Slote, Susan Stark, James Van Slyke, and Christina Van Dyke.