The London Lectures 21-22: Expanding Horizons
Amy Olberding (University of Oklahoma)
Early Confucian philosophy is remarkable in its attention to everyday social interactions and their power to steer our emotional lives. The Confucians argued that engineering our social practices to favour expressions of important values can help instil important moral emotions: Teaching a child to say “thank you” can school her in feeling gratitude, for example. Their work on the social dimensions of our moral-emotional lives is enormously promising for thinking through our own context and struggles. I am particularly interested in how our public rhetoric and practices may steer us away from some emotions it can be important to have, especially negative emotions. Some of our emotions are bad – unpleasant to experience, reflective of dissatisfactions or even heartbreak – but nonetheless quite important to express and, more basically, to feel. Grief is like this, for example. So, too, is disappointment. In this talk, I want most of all to explore how our current social practices may fail to support expressions of disappointment and thus suppress our ability to feel it well. There are, I argue, losses to our moral lives where we are socially encouraged to emotions such as anger, outrage, or cynical resignation but must struggle to find a place for disappointment.