This question points to a tension in our pre-theoretical views aboutemotions. On the one hand, they seem to be mental states with respectto which we are passive, and over which we have no control. Thisreflects the phenomenology of emotional experience. On the other hand,we sometimes expect people to have certain emotions, and criticizepeople for having certain emotions.
If, as many philosophersbelieve, responsibility presupposes control, given that emotions seemto be states over which we have no control, it would seem, then, thatwe cannot be responsible for our emotions. So, on the one hand, itwould seem that we ought not to be responsible for our emotions, whileon the other hand, we do hold people responsible for their emotions. Isthere any way to resolve this tension?
I think that this tensionmay be resolved by reconceiving the notion of control at issue here.Rather than locating the control necessary for responsibility indecision, it could be relocated in rationality. So instead of requiringthat our emotions be subject to our choice or decision if we are to beresponsible for them, we might want to say that we are responsible foremotions insofar as they are reason-sensitive states.
The virtueof such an account is that it can acknowledge the passivity of ourexperience of emotions, without taking that phenomenological passivityas a normative disqualification. Moreover, it provides a principled wayto distinguish emotions from other passive states for which we are notresponsible.
For example, pains, like emotions, are stateswith respect to which we are passive. However, we do not normally holdpeople responsible for being in pain. If we take reason-sensitivity tobe a condition of responsibility, then this would explain why we don'thold people responsible for pains, because they do not reflect reasons,while we do hold people responsible for emotions.
One might wellwonder whether the idea that responsibility can be grounded inreason-sensitivity is generalizable, whether it can provide the basisfor a general account of moral responsibility. Following T.M. Scanlon, I think it can; for more details, see T. M. Scanlon, What We Owe To Each Other, Chapter 6, "Responsibility."