Macalester Bell, “What’s So Special about Resentment

Macalester Bell works in ethics and moral psychology. She also teaches and does some research in aesthetics and feminist philosophy. Within ethics and moral psychology, she is especially interested in articulating an account of the appropriate attitudinal responses to serious immorality and injustice. As part of this project, she has published papers on blame, forgiveness, inspiration, and the virtues and vices of anger.

Macalester Bell is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University.

Macalester Bell defends contempt as a moral emotion and recommends cultivating a disposition to feel apt contempt. She endorses a general account of emotions on which they are "cognitive" without implying belief or judgment of their content; rather, they are perception-like, "presenting" objects in one evaluative dimension or another. Contempt in particular has four salient properties. 1) It takes whole persons (rather than persons' actions or character traits) as its object; thus it is a "globalist" or "totalizing" evaluative perception of its target (usually some person or group, though institutions can also be contemned). 2) It is a "dismissive and insulting attitude that manifests disregard for its target" (8, italics original), presenting him or her as low in status by some standard of value that the subject cares about. 3) It is comparative or reflexive; "the contemnor makes a comparison between herself and the object of her contempt, and sees the contemned as inferior to her along some axis of comparison" (41). 4) Characteristically the subject shuns or withdraws from involvement with the object of contempt.


Macalester Bell - Bryn Mawr College

by Macalester Bell


Macalester Bell is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University and works in ethics and moral psychology. Her published papers take up fundamental questions concerning anger, blame, forgiveness, reparation, and inspiration.