Moral Emotion, Autonomy and the ‘Extended Mind’

Edward Harcourt


This paper interweaves a ‘micro’ theme concerning shame and guilt and a ‘macro’ theme concerning self-regulation generally. Neither shame nor guilt is more other-independent than the other. Moreover, because other-dependence in either emotion is not a mark of heteronomy, neither emotion is more characteristic of a well-functioning moral consciousness. Then, relying on phenomena described by ‘extended mind’ theorists, I argue that a common view of self-regulation in children – that it is importantly other-dependent – is also true of adult self-regulation. But that is all the more reason to think that other-dependence and a well-functioning moral consciousness can go together. Moreover, since shame and guilt are one aspect of self-regulation, if other-dependence can be a characteristic generally of our well-functioning self-regulation – the ‘macro’ thesis – this supports the ‘micro’ thesis that other-dependence can characterize the well-functioning of both shame and guilt. The conclusion is that heteronomy lies not in the fact of other-dependence but in the nature of the dependence.


guilt; shame; self-regulation; autonomy; heteronomy; social cognition

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