Know Your Limits: self-conscious emotions and their role in moral self-knowledge
My particular interests lie in the sorts of moral thinking that are expressed by what we sometimes call ‘self-conscious emotions’. That is to say, emotions such as shame, guilt and regret, which take as their objects the moral states of our own selves. Not only do I think that these sorts of emotions are fundamentally important in our ordinary moral thinking, and that they express deeply embedded hopes and anxieties that serve as sources of that kind of thinking; but they also seem to be significant in providing us with a sort of moral self-knowledge: they often reveal to us the limits of what it is possible for us to be while still remaining members of our moral communities – where one must stand if one is to make for oneself a meaningful life. It is my hope that by understanding better the power and the place of guilt and shame and embarrassment and hubris and so on, we can see more brightly illumined some of important but sometimes undervalued connections between certain questions of moral thinking and certain other questions of epistemology, psychology and political history. For these understandings, I turn to resources literary and historical as well as philosophical.