Over the last decade, I have been developing an interconnected set of claims and arguments concerning the second-personal character of central moral phenomena. My focus has been the deontic moral notions of obligation, duty, right, wrong, rights, and so on, which I have argued are distinguished by their conceptual connection to accountability and to the Strawsonian reactive attitudes through which we hold one another and ourselves answerable (Strawson, “Freedom and Resentment”). Two central tenets are, first, that it is a conceptual truth that an act is wrong if, and only if, it is an act of a kind that it would blameworthy to perform without excuse. (Since all other deontic notions can be defined in terms of wrongness (and wronging), this means that all deontic ideas are tied to blameworthiness.) Second, blame is a reactive attitude that implicitly addresses a demand to its object, presupposes the authority to do so, and bids for its object to acknowledge this authority and hold himself accountable for his action. It is the implicit element of address that makes reactive attitudes second personal (or, as Strawson says, “interpersonal”). Reactive attitudes are felt from a presupposed perspective of relationship (better, relating) to their objects.
More recently, I have begun to do some work on a group of reactive attitudes that have the same second-personal, reciprocation-seeking structure, but that are unlike accountability-seeking deontic reactive attitudes like blame, resentment, and guilt.
I call these second-personal attitudes of the heart, using ‘heart’ in its customary metaphorical sense to refer to that aspect of the human psyche through which we are heartened or disheartened, inspired or deflated, encouraged or discouraged, filled with hope and joy or emptied by despair or sadness. These attitudes express an open heart to a (hoped for) open heart, seeking reciprocation. Whereas I have been arguing for a while that deontic reactive attitudes express and presuppose mutual (second-personal, recognition) respect, my thesis in this new work is that attitudes like trust, love, (personal) hope, and gratitude mediate forms of person attachment and connection that are not essentially deontic. These latter attitudes are the currency of connections of the heart.
One paper, “Trust as a Second-Personal Attitude (of the Heart)” argues that elements of classic theories of trust by Annette Baier, Karen Jones, and Richard Holton commit them to the idea that trust is a second-personal attitude that is distinguished from reliance by justifying responses of personal hurt, disappointment in the trusted, and sometimes even betrayal, that presuppose second-personal relations. Trust always seeks a kind of reciprocation, even if it is only the trusted’s trust in the truster’s trust. And it presupposes or insinuates a form of connection through which truster and trusted can affect one another personally.
Perhaps the clearest case of a non-deontic second-personal attitude of the heart is love of the kind that, as Strawson puts it, “two adults can sometimes be said to feel reciprocally, for each other.” A second paper I am working on, “Love’s Second-Personal Character: Reciprocal Holding, Beholding, and Upholding,” discusses love as a second-personal attitude of the heart.
Avowals of love formulated with the second-person pronoun do not purport simply to transmit information that could in principle be expressed or appreciated third personally. They are second-personal transactions—confessions, declarations, or professions of love. Love is most naturally expressed in a second-personal way that seeks uptake and reciprocation, thereby constituting a loving relationship.
Unlike blame and resentment, which presuppose some authority to make claims and demands of others and hold them accountable for compliance, love is not a deontic attitude. Even in friendship, love is nothing we can claim or hold others to account for. Love is like God’s grace, something we can neither earn nor deserve but that can only be freely given as the gift of an open heart. This does not mean that friends and lovers do not frequently or even normally expect, and take themselves to have standing to claim, various things from one another, e.g., to be careful with one another’s friendship or love (to “take good care of my heart”). It just means that love, unlike (recognition) respect, is not itself essentially something we can legitimately claim or demand.
Blame and resentment seek reciprocation by attitudes and conduct that express respect for the authority to claim they implicitly presuppose. But whereas respect can arise buy reciprocation through acceptance of the claim for respect, love cannot arise through acceptance of a claim for love. Even if there could be a legitimate claim to love, the most that could arise through accepting the claim’s legitimacy would be respect for someone’s authority to make it and for them as having this authority. And this helps us see why there could not be a legitimate claim to love, even if there can be legitimate claims to forms of conduct that people in a loving relation warrantedly expect of one another. Love is nothing that could be given as a result of accepting a valid claim; love cannot arise from respect.
Love is perhaps the quintessential attitude of the heart. Love lays the heart open to another heart, hoping it will be openly received, seeking love in return, and making us vulnerable to the other in ways that can fill our hearts with the joy of love’s requital or bring heartache or heartbreak. Strawson mentions “hurt feelings” as a kind of reactive attitude since it is an attitude to which we are susceptible from the participant stance when we relate to others personally in these ways. (See also Kate Abramson and Adam Leite, “Love as a Reactive Emotion.)
That trust is also, like love, a second-personal attitude of the heart can be seen by its implication in love. Lovers and friends entrust their feelings and hearts to one another. Though they have no legitimate claim to their feelings’ acceptance and return, they can hope and even trust that they will be, and are naturally disposed to feel hurt and personal disappointment when they are not. But trust reveals itself as an attitude of the heart even when it is not an expression of love.
Trust is a form of confidence in someone and therefore a source of encouragement. Someone can be heartened by our trust, both moved and encouraged by it. Similarly, others can be disheartened by our failure to trust them. And if our trust is accepted but then not fulfilled, or worse, if though accepted, it is trifled with, then we are likely to feel hurt and disheartened as well. On the other hand, if it is fulfilled, then this can buoy both our spirits and the one we trusted reciprocally also. (So we might as easily call trust and love “attitudes of the spirit.”)
Of course, things may be more complicated. Trust can be welcomed in some ways but a burden in others: a source of confidence and encouragement, on the one hand, but a yoke of expectation, on the other. But personal relationships are complicated in just these ways. And that trust can be so also simply reflects the role trust plays as an attitude of the heart in constituting personal relationships.
Trust and love are but two examples of attitudes of the heart. Two others are gratitude and the kind of hope, which Adrienne Martin calls “normative hope,” that one can invest in someone. These also typically imply non-deontic personal relations where something personal is at stake—benefits and injuries to our “hearts” that affect us, as we say, “personally.” Although we sometimes speak of simply being grateful for something without any clear idea of anyone to be grateful to, gratitude is most naturally seen as a response that views a benefit as a gift, even when, as it were, gratitude’s “indirect object,” a giver to whom we should be grateful to, is unclear. There is a clear difference between gratitude for some benefit and simply being pleased that one has it. Similarly, receiving a gift is not just getting a good thing; it is receiving something one understands to have been given on the assumption that it would be taken to express some form of benevolent regard, that is, an expression of the heart. So gratitude is also most naturally understood as a reciprocating expression of the heart.
Similarly, when we invest our hopes in someone, we make both ourselves and the person in whom we invest them liable to new forms of personal benefit and injury. As with trust, forms of personal satisfaction and disappointment and related personal feelings and attitudes now become possible. And also like trust, being an object of personal hope can be encouraging and enlivening, or be experienced as an albatross of unwelcome or burdensome attachment.
Although attitudes of the heart differ from the more widely discussed, and perhaps better understood, deontic reactive attitudes that structure the fundamental moral relationship holding between equal mutually accountable moral persons, they are obviously no less central to human life. They are the currency of personal relationship through which we connect with and relate to one another personally.