Meaning, Praise, and Anger: Essays in Moral Psychology

Access Restricted

Access to this document is restricted. Some items have been embargoed at the request of the author, but will be made publicly available after the "No Access Until" date.

During the embargo period, you may request access to the item by clicking the link to the restricted file(s) and completing the request form. If we have contact information for a Cornell author, we will contact the author and request permission to provide access. If we do not have contact information for a Cornell author, or the author denies or does not respond to our inquiry, we will not be able to provide access. For more information, review our policies for restricted content.

No Access Until

Permanent Link(s)

Other Titles


This dissertation explores philosophical issues related to meaning, praise and anger. The first chapter highlights cases in which one is causally responsible for something that alters the meaning of their life, but seemingly not morally responsible for doing so. In this type of case, the agent nonetheless takes themself to be responsible. I sketch an account—grounded in meaning in life as a distinctive value— to make more sense of these experiences from the perspective of the agent. The second chapter concerns private praise, private blame and the symmetry thesis about praise and blame. The chapter addresses the question of whether praise can be done privately and what that privacy would have to look like. I argue that the possibility of private praise should be used in the evaluation of newly emerging theories of praise. The third chapter highlights the way praise and blame function together to manage informal social groups. These groups determine how social goods are distributed, what ideas are taken seriously, the meaning of one’s utterances, and a person’s identity. The fourth chapter explores issues of praise in Shantideva’s Bodhisattvacaryāvatāra and highlights some puzzles that emerge from Shantideva’s seemingly conflicting advice about how we should praise others freely yet avoid being praised ourselves. Using the tools developed in the previous chapters, we can make sense of some of these Shantidevan suggestions about praise if we understand praise as changing one’s group and if we take seriously the possibility that the best thing to do is to praise something, but to do so privately. Finally, the fifth chapter is about anger. In it, I highlight how expressions of anger get their power from anger’s deviant nature. As such, insofar as theorists are successful in establishing or changing norms about anger, critics of anger give it power and defenders of anger defang it.

Journal / Series

Volume & Issue


140 pages


Date Issued




Anger; Blame; Groups; Meaning; Praise; Shantideva


Effective Date

Expiration Date




Union Local


Number of Workers

Committee Chair

Pereboom, Derk

Committee Co-Chair

Committee Member

Markovits, Julia
Shoemaker, David

Degree Discipline


Degree Name

Ph. D., Philosophy

Degree Level

Doctor of Philosophy

Related Version

Related DOI

Related To

Related Part

Based on Related Item

Has Other Format(s)

Part of Related Item

Related To

Related Publication(s)

Link(s) to Related Publication(s)


Link(s) to Reference(s)

Previously Published As

Government Document




Other Identifiers


Rights URI


dissertation or thesis

Accessibility Feature

Accessibility Hazard

Accessibility Summary

Link(s) to Catalog Record