I will argue that thick concepts and emotions are made for each other. This was something very well seen by Bernard Williams, and explicitly discussed in his earlier work – in particular in his brilliant paper “Morality and the emotions”.1 However, although the relation between thick concepts and emotions is clearly important for moral philosophy and psychology, and clearly goes deep in the psychology of individual people, it is a relation that is not easily accounted for philosophically. I want to resist the temptation – one to which many philosophers have succumbed – of oversimplifying the relation by placing it at too general a level. Amongst the generalisers, Williams’ target was emotivism. Mine will be neo-sentimentalism. In place of these general accounts, I want to bring into the picture the
role that emotional dispositions play in the psychology of individuals. These dispositions, properly understood, not only help to explain the connection between depth of feelings and sincere judgements involving thick concepts; they also help to explain, in ways that no general account can aspire to do, our individual inconsistencies. First, though, I will need to begin with an outline of the notion of thick
concepts, which I will take as an extension of what was Williams’ main focus, thick ethical concepts. Then I will consider the very important idea of fully embracing, or being fully engaged with, a thick concept. It is at this point that the connection with emotion and the idea of depth of feeling and sincerity will emerge, and this will lead me to a discussion of what emotional dispositions are, and what their explanatory role is in this area.