Resentment and 'Ressentiment': Resentment as a Valuable Moral Sensibility

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Title: Resentment and 'Ressentiment': Resentment as a Valuable Moral Sensibility
Author: Jordan, Candace
Advisor: Johnson, Terrence L.
Department: Haverford College. Dept. of Religion
Type: Thesis (B.A.)
Issue Date: 2012
Abstract: In this thesis I explore an ethical concept of resentment that stands apart from Nietzsche’s damaging portrayal of the similar concept of ressentiment. Resentment is an important moral sensibility that expresses displeasure at harm and a condemnation of the cause of suffering. Nietzsche coined ressentiment as a psychological force constituted by resentment, revenge, envy, and hatred. First sketched in On the Genealogy of Morality, ressentiment responds to the feeling of impotence and leads to the loss of integrity, the inability to affirm life, and the inability of positive value formation. Rather than holding ressentiment and resentment together, I explore resentment’s potential uses. In announcing displeasure in response to harm, resentment asserts that we are persons to whom certain harms should not be done. Further, I explore how resentment can call perpetrators of these harms to account for their offenses. I then explore Nietzsche’s recommendations for managing ressentiment, such as affirming past abuses, forgetting offenses, and simply letting go of ressentiment when nothing is available to ameliorate it. While Nietzsche requires individual persons to overcome ressentiment in isolation, resentment may demand that perpetrators of harm aid the resenter in overcoming resentment. Resentment resists the individual account on which ressentiment rests, instead exposing the depth of human relatedness.
Subject: Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm, 1844-1900 -- Views on resentment
Subject: Resentment
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Jordan, Candace. "Resentment and 'Ressentiment': Resentment as a Valuable Moral Sensibility". 2012. Available electronically from

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