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Olberding, Amy. Community Practices and Getting Good at Bad Emotions
2023, Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 93:9-21
Added by: Deryn Mair Thomas

Early Confucian philosophy is remarkable in its attention to everyday social interactions and their power to steer our emotional lives. Their work on the social dimensions of our moral-emotional lives is enormously promising for thinking through our own context and struggles, particularly, I argue, the ways that 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 essay, I explore how our current social practices may fail to support expressions of disappointment and thus suppress our ability to feel it well.

Comment: This essay explores the ways that society and social culture can either facilitate or inhibit our opportunities to practice feeling, experiencing, and managing bad (or undesirable) emotions, and the problems that might be associated with our failure to do so. In particular, the author focuses on the feelings of grief and dissapointment, highlighting their importance in the context of a full and flourishing life. Without them, we may lose other interpersonal and empathetic skills which allow us to live well with others and approach others in good faith. As such, this essay bears obvious relevance to topic areas such as philosophy of death and Confucian philosophy, but also applies more broadly to questions about the practice of virtue, philosophy of emotions, applied/everday ethics, and the cultivation of pro-social habits.

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