Kristján Kristjánsson - December 2015 Meeting Topic

Awe:

An Aristotelian analysis of a non-Aristotelian emotion virtue

Kristján Kristjánsson

Abstract: While interest in the emotion of awe has surged in psychology (especially positive psychology), philosophers have yet to devote a single self-standing article to awe’s conceptual contours and moral standing. The present article aims to rectify this imbalance and begin to make up for the unwarranted philosophical neglect. In order to do so, awe is given the standard ‘Aristotelian treatment’ to uncover its conceptual contours and moral relevance. Aristotelianism typically provides the most useful entry point to ‘size up’ any emotion – more problematically here, however, as Aristotle did not himself identify awe. The paper critiques and proposes to improve upon existing psychological conceptual analyses of awe; probes the question why Aristotle ignored it; addresses an often-presumed link between awe and humility which has bearings on its moral status; and finally explores some educational ramifications of the emerging account of awe.

Key words: awe; conceptual analysis, Aristotle; humility, moral worth