Second-Personal Attitudes From the Heart (by Stephen Darwall)

Posted on April 8, 2015 by


Stephen Darwall has written a very thoughtful post on a class of reactive attitudes that he dubs “attitudes of the heart”. “Heart”, he writes, “in its customary metaphorical sense to refer to that aspect of the human psyche through which we are heartened or disheartened, inspired or deflated, encouraged or discouraged, filled with hope and joy or emptied by despair or sadness.”

I found the post very interesting and thought that readers might like to take a look, see below for an excerpt and see HERE for the post in it’s entirety which I recommend because the comments are quite helpful as well.

Here is an excerpt:

“Love is perhaps the quintessential attitude of the heart. Love lays the heart open to another heart, hoping it will be openly received, seeking love in return, and making us vulnerable to the other in ways that can fill our hearts with the joy of love’s requital or bring heartache or heartbreak. Strawson mentions “hurt feelings” as a kind of reactive attitude since it is an attitude to which we are susceptible from the participant stance when we relate to others personally in these ways. (See also Kate Abramson and Adam Leite, “Love as a Reactive Emotion.)

That trust is also, like love, a second-personal attitude of the heart can be seen by its implication in love. Lovers and friends entrust their feelings and hearts to one another. Though they have no legitimate claim to their feelings’ acceptance and return, they can hope and even trust that they will be, and are naturally disposed to feel hurt and personal disappointment when they are not. But trust reveals itself as an attitude of the heart even when it is not an expression of love.

Trust is a form of confidence in someone and therefore a source of encouragement. Someone can be heartened by our trust, both moved and encouraged by it. Similarly, others can be disheartened by our failure to trust them. And if our trust is accepted but then not fulfilled, or worse, if though accepted, it is trifled with, then we are likely to feel hurt and disheartened as well. On the other hand, if it is fulfilled, then this can buoy both our spirits and the one we trusted reciprocally also. (So we might as easily call trust and love “attitudes of the spirit.”)

Of course, things may be more complicated. Trust can be welcomed in some ways but a burden in others: a source of confidence and encouragement, on the one hand, but a yoke of expectation, on the other. But personal relationships are complicated in just these ways. And that trust can be so also simply reflects the role trust plays as an attitude of the heart in constituting personal relationships.

Trust and love are but two examples of attitudes of the heart. Two others are gratitude and the kind of hope, which Adrienne Martin calls “normative hope,” that one can invest in someone. These also typically imply non-deontic personal relations where something personal is at stake—benefits and injuries to our “hearts” that affect us, as we say, “personally.” Although we sometimes speak of simply being grateful for something without any clear idea of anyone to be grateful to, gratitude is most naturally seen as a response that views a benefit as a gift, even when, as it were, gratitude’s “indirect object,” a giver to whom we should be grateful to, is unclear. There is a clear difference between gratitude for some benefit and simply being pleased that one has it. Similarly, receiving a gift is not just getting a good thing; it is receiving something one understands to have been given on the assumption that it would be taken to express some form of benevolent regard, that is, an expression of the heart. So gratitude is also most naturally understood as a reciprocating expression of the heart.”

I highly recommend the post and feel free to comment on elements of the post you find illuminating here.