Emotions

In bioethics, as in ethics more generally, there is much debate about the significance of emotions in an account of moral character. Intuitively speaking, emotions are important because as moral beings we care not only about how we act but also about how we feel—what our moods are, as well as our attitudes and affects. Within the practice of healthcare, the emotions of compassion and empathy seem to have a particularly important place in a full description of decent and ethical treatment of a patient. The general point is not that emotion is internal and action external, because both action and emotion have exterior moments that point to deeper interior states, commonly thought of as character. Rather, emotions are important as modes of sensitivity that record what is morally salient and that then communicate those concerns to self and others. Thus, to grieve, pity, show empathy, or love is to focus on an aspect of self or other and to grasp information to which purer cognition or thought may not have access. Generally put, different emotions are sensitive to different kinds of salience. In the case of grief, what is salient is that humans suffer and face loss; in the case of pity, that they sometimes fail through blameless ignorance, duress, sickness, or accident; in the case of empathy, that they need the expressed support and union of others who can understand and identify with them; and in the case

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