Le CRÉ accueille Hichem Naar (Omaha), qui offrira une présentation intitulée « Gratitude and Time ».
This paper has two related goals: to uncover general ontological facts about gratitude and to explain what it takes for one to have reasons to hold an attitude of this sort. What is it to be grateful? One might think that being grateful is to feel a positive affective experience of some sort towards something or someone. Gratitude, on this account, is a rather short-lived mental episode that ‘comes and goes’ in a similar way ordinary episodes of emotions do. A problem with this account, however, is that being grateful seems different from what we might call feeling grateful in that the former can plausibly persist in a way the latter cannot. In fact, it seems possible to be grateful to someone for a lifetime, and being grateful to someone at a time does not seem to imply undergoing any experience towards him or her at that time. In being grateful, rather, one instantiates a long-standing disposition to feel and act in certain ways in relation to a given object, what we might call a ‘sentiment’ (Naar, forthcoming). Given the deep-seated character of gratitude, we might wonder what could possibly justify its formation. What reasons, if any, might there be for one to hold an attitude of this sort for such a long time? A generous action surely gives one a reason to perform certain actions, such as saying ‘thanks’ and performing a nice gesture in return, but it typically does not give one a reason to spend a lifetime performing actions of this kind. So what reasons could there be for one hold an attitude such as gratitude for a lifetime, and perhaps for one to have a duty to hold such an attitude? Isn’t it simply irrational to be grateful for a lifetime as a result of a mere act of kindness? In this paper, I argue that there are reasons to be grateful for a lifetime which are not reasons to spend a lifetime performing grateful actions. These reasons, however, are not objective in the sense that anyone who is the beneficiary of (e.g.) a generous action will have a reason to be grateful to the relevant person. Rather, these reasons are in part relative to the beneficiary’s cares and concerns. It is only when the generous act has a certain kind of significance to the beneficiary that it provides one with a reason to be grateful to – as opposed to act and feel in grateful ways with respect to – the benefactor.