Moral Sanctions: Two Traditions of Understanding

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The paper is aimed at providing general outlines of the more than two-century history of the theory of moral sanctions. It rests on a thesis about unity of all disciplines studying morality. The aim of the paper has been achieved trough an analysis of how some basic concepts were borrowed and basic ideas were transformed. The first tradition links moral sanctions with public condemnation. Some of its adherents simply identified public condemnation with moral sanction. This opinion prevailed until the middle of the XXth century. Later it was suggested that a sanction becomes genuinely moral only when a transgressor herself is sensitive to condemnation because she recognizes that she deserves it and feels shame, guilt or remorse. It means that an external side of the sanction has to be complemented by an internal one. The first tradition presupposes a deep and thorough analysis of an external side of the moral sanction, i.e. various forms of sanctioning behavior (avoidance, censure, denunciation, reproach, scolding etc.) The second tradition was initiated by J.S. Mill and H. Sidgwick, it includes among moral sanctions the very negative emotions of self-appraisal. For adherents of this tradition, model and most important moral sanctions are internal: guilt and remorse. Characteristics of internal (autonomous) and external (heteronomous) sanctions were established in the XXth century anthropology. Later this distinction became current in the contemporary ethics.

About the authors

Andrey V. Prokofyev

Institute of Philosophy, Russian Academy of Sciences

Author for correspondence.
ORCID iD: 0000-0001-5015-8226

D.Sc. in Philosophy, associate professor, leading researcher, Department of Ethics

12/1 Goncharnaya Str., Moscow, 109240, Russian Federation


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