The first modern philosophical exploration of gratitude
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"This is a solid piece of work. The author has done the profession of philosophy the service of putting into more helpful order than anyone else has done (to my knowledge) the variety of issues and often confusing views and positions that are to be found in the literature on the topic of gratitude."
Claudia Card, University of Wisconsin
In this century, the topic of gratitude has received little more than passing attention, yet, in earlier periods of Anglo-American moral philosophy, ingratitude was treated as a serious vice. Terrance McConnell provides the first contemporary philosophical exploration of the phenomenon of gratitude. Arguing that it is both an obligation and a moral sentiment, he discusses ways in which gratitude seems to conflict with other important theses in ethical theory. He offers examples from several contexts, including political and filial obligations and relations between friends and casual acquaintances.
McConnell describes conditions that generate debts of gratitude, the requirements of such debts, and the relationship between moral requirements and emotions. He discusses the question of whether gratitude toward someone interferes with the impartiality that is morally required in other situations. He also shows how various moral traditionsutilitarianism, Kantianism, and the ethics of virtuecan account for some aspects of the morality of gratitude, but not all.
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1. When Gratitude Is Owed
The Efforts of the Benefactor
The Motives of the Benefactor
The Intentions of the Benefactor
The Desires of the Beneficiary
The Receipt of Benefits
2. What Gratitude Requires
Doubts About Gratitude
Gratitude and Equal Benefits
Gratitude, Feelings, and Reasons for Action
When Has a Debt of Gratitude Been Discharged?
Responses to Difficulties
3. Gratitude, Feelings, and Emotions
The Problem and the Positions
The "Indirect Control" View
A Third View
Advantages of the Third View
4. Gratitude and Impartiality
Impartialism: An Initial Defense
Problems for Personalists
Further Suspicions About Impartialism
Partiality and the Role-Related Obligations
5. Gratitude and Moral Theories
Kant on Gratitude
The Ethics of Virtue
6. Gratitude and Political Obligations
What Is to Be Shown
The Gratitude Account of Political Obligations
An Implication of the Argument
Does Gratitude Require Obedience to the Law
7. Gratitude and Filial Obligations
The Gift of Life?
English's Friendship Account
Criticisms of the Friendship Account
The Gratitude Account
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About the Author(s)
Terrance McConnell is Professor of Philosophy at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
Philosophy and Ethics
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