Gratitude: The dark side

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


I wish to consider the darker side of gratitude. When we look at the past, whether it is that of individuals or the broader historical picture, the question of gratitude comes up, but often in a perverse and highly disturbing form. This has been neglected in discussions of gratitude. The major test case will be the “nonidentity problem”: the ways in which good and bad deeds not only affect people, but also determine their existence. This has striking and unpleasant implications for our attitudes towards the past, for our existence depends upon terrible occurrences throughout history, and an attitude of simple affirmation seems morally callous. Attitudes towards good and bad people also become complex and often perverse. Moreover, not only may our reasonable attitudes towards the deeds of benefactors and malefactors quite reasonably become very odd, but our side of the deal, what we “give back” to our benefactors, can be sullied. I conclude, more positively, by briefly reflecting upon the scope that is left to us for gratitude.
Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationPerspectives on Gratitude
Subtitle of host publicationAn interdisciplinary approach
EditorsDavid Carr
PublisherTaylor and Francis Inc.
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9781317568421
ISBN (Print)9781138830936
StatePublished - 16 Feb 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Social Sciences


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