The Trouble With Ambivalent Emotions

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Colleges, School and Institutes


Mixed or ambivalent emotions have long intrigued philosophers. I dissect various putative cases of emotional ambivalence and conclude that the alleged 'psychological problem' surrounding them admits of a solution. That problem has, however, often been conflated with a 'moral problem' - of how one should react morally to such ambivalence - which remains active even after the psychological one has been solved. I discuss how the moral problem hits hardest at virtue ethics, old and new. I distinguish between particularist and generalist (Aristotelian) virtue ethics, and pay special attention to the latter. After discussing critically previous attempts at an Aristotelian solution of the 'moral problem' by McDowell, Stark and Carr, I pay special attention to the role of phronesis as a second-order meta-emotion and mediator, and consider how that may offer a way out of the impasse. I finally present some concluding remarks about the idea of a constructive dividedness of mind.

Bibliographic note

Copyright 2010 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)485-510
Number of pages26
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2010