The eye roll, the smirk, the unilateral lip curl. These, psychologists tell us, are typical expressions of contempt. Across cultures, such expressions manifest an emotional response to norm violations, among them moral norms. As such, contempt is of tremendous personal and social significance – whether in the context of a marriage on the rocks or a country in the grips of racial unrest. Scholarship on contempt, however, lags far behind that of other emotional responses to norm violations, such as anger, disgust, and shame. Introducing original work by philosophers and psychologists, this volume addresses empirical questions concerning contempt’s emotional, cognitive, and behavioural signature. It invites the general reader to reflect on whether contempt is something to be embraced and cultivated as an emotional safeguard of valued norms or, rather, an emotion from which we have good reason – perhaps overriding moral reason – to distance ourselves so far as is psychologically possible. Advancing the nascent literature on contempt while setting future research agenda, the volume is a resource for advanced students and scholars of both empirical and normative moral psychology.
Introduction, Michelle Mason / 1. Contempt in Classical Moral Psychology, Michael Pakaluk / 2. Rejecting the Unworthy: The Causes, Components, and Consequences of Contempt, Ira Roseman / 3. Exploring Contempt Against the Background of Blame Bertram Malle, John Voiklis, and Boyoung Kim / 4. Contempt as a Dis-identifying AttitudeStephen Darwall / 5. Contempt in Arthurian Society and Ours Felicia Nimue Ackerman / 6., Contempt and AccountabilityZac Cogley / 7. Contempt at the Limits of Reactivity, Michelle Mason / 8. Above and Beneath Contempt David Sussman / 9. Moral Self-Preservation and ContemptKate Abramson / 10. Contempt, Honor, and Addressing Racism Macalester Bell / Bibliography / Index
Philosophy, psychology, science, history, and literature join forces in this carefully balanced edition. As a multi-faceted overview of a broad range of aspects, from ancient issues (is contempt morally justified?) to current affairs (the white supremacist movement), it will appeal to lay readers. But experts’ curiosity will also be satisfied by in-depth analyses and contributions to current research.
In a global and interconnected world where diverse groups—cultural, religious, racial, national—come into increasingly frequent contact, there are opportunities for innovation. But there is also the reality of clashes, conflicts, and contempt. The Moral Psychology of Contempt brings together eminent philosophers and psychologists who delve into this complicated and underexamined side of the human psyche. This book is timely and exceptionally inquisitive.
The Moral Psychology of Contempt does a great job of bringing scholars with different approaches and skill sets together, and the contributions add up to a fascinating exploration of a single, important but easily misunderstood facet of our minds. This kind of multidisciplinary, well-focused attention on the individual components of human moral nature is exactly what is needed right now.
Deeply informative, The Moral Psychology of Contempt moves us through time, across disciplinary boundaries and epistemological divides, to offer a richly nuanced account of this emotion that sits at the core of human morality.
Michelle Mason is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Minnesota. Her main research interests and publications are in moral psychology, including the nature and moral significance of person-focused evaluative attitudes (contempt, shame, pride, and love) and the connections between aretaic and rational appraisal of persons as agents.