Admiration, moral knowledge and transformative experiences

  • Maria Silvia Vaccarezza Università di Genova
Keywords: admiration, moral knowledge, transformative experiences, integrity


In this paper, I examine the role played by the emotion of admiration in formulating moral judgments. First, I discuss whether and when admiration is a reliable source of moral knowledge, or, on the contrary, it misleads the subject, leaving her prey to forms of uncritical devotion to unworthy objects of admiration. To do so, I try to elucidate which underlying theory of emotions best allows one to characterize admiration as a reliable source of moral knowledge. Second, I introduce the notion of transformative moral experience, understood as a subclass of transformative experiences (cf. Paul 2014), and I argue that it is precisely admiration that ensures the rationality of the choices made in such experiences. Finally, in light of this analysis, I show how admiration—together with the constellation of positive and negative emotions connected to the perception of moral exemplarity—acts as a central element for the maintenance of moral integrity. I defend, in particular, the idea that integrity should not be understood as mere coherence, nor as a static maintenance of the moral status quo, but as being firmly rooted in one’s own identity yet open to novelty (see Rees and Webber 2014; Cox, La Caze, and Levine 2014, 2017) and especially to the novelty represented by transformative moral experiences.

How to Cite
Vaccarezza, M. S. (2019). Admiration, moral knowledge and transformative experiences. HUMANA.MENTE Journal of Philosophical Studies, 12(35), 150-166. Retrieved from