At a time when respect is widely touted as an attitude of central moral importance, contempt is often derided as a thoroughly nasty emotion inimical to the respect we owe all persons. But while contempt is regularly dismissed as completely disvaluable, ethicists have had very little to say about what contempt is or whether it deserves its ugly reputation. Macalester Bell argues that we must reconsider contempt's role in our moral lives. While contempt can be experienced in inapt and disvaluable ways, it may also be a perfectly appropriate response that provides the best way of answering a range of neglected faults. Using a wide variety of examples, Bell provides an account of the nature of contempt and its virtues and vices. While some insist that contempt is always unfitting because of its globalism, Bell argues that this objection mischaracterizes the person assessments at the heart of contempt. Contempt is, in some cases, the best way of responding to arrogance, hypocrisy, and other vices of superiority. Contempt does have a dark side, and inapt forms of contempt structure a host of social ills.
Racism is best characterized as an especially pernicious form of inapt contempt, and Bell's account of contempt helps us better understand the moral badness of racism. It is argued that the best way of responding to race-based contempt is to mobilize a robust counter-contempt for racists. The book concludes with a discussion of overcoming contempt through forgiveness. This account of forgiveness sheds light upon the broader issue of social reconciliation and what role reparations and memorials may play in giving persons reasons to overcome their contempt for institutions. "I've read Bell's book on contempt with great interest and pleasure. Its central thesis is bold: Bell analyses contempt, and convincingly defines circumstances in which it is a morally appropriate emotion. The case she makes is original and very thoroughly argued, and it's clearly and accessibly written." - Ronald de Sousa, Department of Philosophy, University of Toronto
Macalester Bell is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University and works in ethics and moral psychology. Her published papers take up fundamental questions concerning anger, blame, forgiveness, reparation, and inspiration.
Introduction: The Moral Importance Of Contempt ; Chapter 1: What Is Contempt? ; 1.1 Contempt And Feeling Theories Of Emotion ; 1.2 Intentionality, Rationality, And Cognitive Theories Of ; Emotion ; 1.3 Contempt's Evaluative Presentation ; 1.4 Active And Passive Contempt ; 1.5 Contempt, Hatred And Disgust ; 1.5.1 Contempt And Disgust ; 1.5.2 Contempt And Hatred ; 1.6 Potential Problem Cases ; 1.6.1 Contempt For Non-Persons ; 1.6.2 Self-Contempt ; Chapter 2: Contempt As A Fitting Globalist Emotion ; 2.1 Can Contempt Ever Fit Its Target? ; 2.2 Defending Contempt Against The Fittingness Objection ; 2.3 Fitting Evaluative Prioritizations ; 2.4 Relationships, Fittingness, And Fitting Attitude ; Accounts Of Value ; Chapter 3: Contempt And The Vices Of Superiority ; 3.1 Superbia And Vices Of Superiority ; 3.2 Hypocrisy And Arrogance ; 3.3 Contempt As An Answer To Vices Of Superiority ; 3.4 Cowardice, Stupidity, And Lightheartedness ; Chapter 4: The Moral Value Of Contempt ; 4.1 Passive Contempt In Aristotle And Nietzsche ; 4.2 Contempt's Aptness Conditions ; 4.3 Contempt's Moral Value ; 4.3.1 Contempt's Instrumental Value ; 4.3.2 Contempt's Non-Instrumental Value ; 4.4 Challenges To An Ethic Of Contempt ; 4.4.1 Contempt's Globalism And Aptness ; 4.4.2 Respect-Based Arguments Against Contempt ; 4.4.3 Contempt And Comparisons ; 4.4.4 Withdrawal And Moral Address ; 4.5 Do We Have An Obligation To Contemn? ; Chapter 5: Contempt, Racism, And Civility's Limits ; 5.1. Contempt And Anti-Black Racism: The Case Of The ; Obama Bucks Cartoon ; 5.2 Race-Based Contempt As A Vice ; 5.3 Race-Based Contempt As Unfitting ; 5.4 Race-Based Contempt As Inapt ; 5.5 Contempt And Civility ; Chapter 6: Contempt, Forgiveness, And Reconciliation ; 6.1 A Problem With The Standard Account Of Forgiveness ; 6.2 The Fundamental Features Of Forgiveness ; 6.3 The Standard Account Of Our Reasons To Forgive ; 6.3.1 Repentance ; 6.3.2 Excuses And Good Intentions ; 6.4 Reasons To Overcome Contempt Through Forgiveness ; 6.4.1 Character Transformation ; 6.4.2 Shame ; 6.5 Do We Genuinely Forgive In Overcoming Contempt? ; 6.6 Contempt, Symbolic Reparations And Social ; Reconciliation ; Conclusion: "Contempt Is Not A Thing to Be Despised" ; Bibliography