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The Sense of Appropriateness. Emotions and Normativity (213)

Principal Investigator:

Emotions are capable of showing us what we deem important and hold dear. Do they hence also allow normative orientation? Or are we bound to norms exclusively on the grounds of rational discernment?

The project examines the following questions:
  • When are emotions appropriate?
  • How are notions of appropriateness formed (cultural codes for emotions, affect regulation)?
  • Do emotions play a role in binding us to moral and non-moral norms, do they form a sort of social adhesive or are they used as sanctions?
  • How to conceptualize the competence that is necessary for the orientation in situations with evaluative impact? Is sense perception combined with judgments and beliefs sufficient? Or does comprehending a situation as a whole require a sort of emotional competence, a sense of appropriateness, as a disposition?
While norms are valid intersubjectively and in different contexts, the sense of appropriateness denotes the intuitive grasp for the specificity of a situation, the competence to react smoothly and with a certain elasticity to varying conditions. It characterizes a creative ability of dealing with situations that is also capable of establishing new possibilities of action; it is for example the precondition for perceiving ruptures in literature and art in their avant-garde function and not only as the breaking of a taboo.

The sense of appropriateness can be developed and cultivated as tact, flair or sense of justice (sense of injustice). If taken seriously in its function for law, ethics, the arts and everyday orientation, it shows that philosophical emotion analysis can modify many conceptions that on first sight do not seem to be connected to emotions, such as sense perception, aesthetics, the concept of rationality and the foundation of ethics.


Landweer, H. (2011). Der Sinn für Angemessenheit als Quelle von Normativität in Ethik und Ästhetik. Andermann, K., Eberlein, U. (Eds.). Gefühle als Atmosphären. Neue Phänomenologie und philosophische Emotionstheorie. 57-78. Berlin: Akademie Verlag.