In Defense of Sentimentality

Gerda Wever-Rabehl in Metapsychology:

Home_porcelain03Among many philosophers, talk about sentimentality, kitsch or erotic love is just not done. Yet in Defense of Sentimentality, [Robert] Solomon talks specifically about those emotions so often and so easily dismissed by philosophers.  While post-modernism, feminism and cognitive science have by now quite adequately wiped out the dichotomy between emotion and reason, Solomon does not merely emphasize this by now well-established interconnection between the two. He goes one step further and takes aim at the philosopher’s contempt for what are more often than not considered to be lowly emotions, such as horror, gratitude, sentimentality and the desire for vengeance. He then proceeds to question “the emphasis on dullness and self-righteousness as a prominent feature of philosophical and political discussions of the virtues” (p. 186). Rather than continuing this focus on dull and big theories, Solomon concentrates on the ways in which we actually experience emotions such as a fondness for kitsch, enthusiasm, energy and being “turned on” (emotions considered at best feeble by the philosophical establishment) and explores in refreshing and amusing ways their virtues. It is the stuff, says Solomon, whether philosophers like it or not, of which the human condition is made and without which civilized life would simply be impossible.

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