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My profile My library Metrics Alerts. Sign in. Sociology and Anthropology Professor, Concordia University. In recent times, some proposals have been made to integrate psychological constructionism with other research programs. Others have proposed that we sharply distinguish between the phenomenological and the motivational side of affective phenomena, handing out the motivational side of some basic emotions to a new theory of survival circuits and reserving folk psychological emotion terms to designate feelings exclusively, with the latter understood as cognitively constructed LeDoux , ; note the contrast with LeDoux Another option with some elements of overlap with psychological constructionism is social constructionism.

These differences have since been shown with respect to both the emotion lexicon e. Jean Paul Sartre [] can be considered the first to offer a general, although idiosyncratic, theory of emotions as social roles, a view developed in the early s by philosophers e. In recent times, Parkinson , , , Parkinson, Fischer, and Manstead , Griffiths , Mesquita and Boiger and Van Kleef have articulated sophisticated social constructionist accounts that add to the social constructionist tradition themes from evolutionary accounts.

There are two main flavors of the Motivational Tradition in contemporary philosophy of emotions. The phenomenological version , articulated by Deonna and Teroni , , assumes that emotions are feelings of action readiness. The non-phenomenological version , articulated by Scarantino , identifies emotions as causes of states of action readiness which may or may not be felt.

Both versions agree that the fundamental aspect of an emotion is the way it motivates the emoter to act. Deonna and Teroni argue that both judgmentalist and perceptual theories of emotion make the mistake of identifying emotions in terms of content rather than in terms of attitude or mode.

For example, believing and desiring are different psychological modes or attitudes, and they each have a content—respectively, what is believed or desired as captured by a proposition. If emotions were special kinds of judgments or perceptions, they would differ from other kinds of judgments or perceptions not in terms of attitude but merely in terms of content— what is judged or perceived when we emote. Furthermore, the emotions themselves would differ from one another only in terms of content rather than attitude, because there would be no attitude specific to, say, anger, shame, guilt and so on, but rather a common attitude—the judging attitude or the perceiving attitude—towards different contents.

Deonna and Teroni think that this approach fails to capture not only what differentiates emotions from one another, but also what makes them special as motivational states. As an alternative, they propose an attitudinal theory of emotions.


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On this view, fear of a tiger is neither the judgment nor the perception that there is something dangerous at hand, but rather the attitude of taking-as-dangerous directed towards the content that there is a tiger. What gives emotional attitudes their content, Deonna and Teroni continue, are their cognitive bases , which are the ways in which the content that there is a tiger is cognized—e. But what sort of attitude is the one that constitutes an emotion rather than, say, a judgment or a perception? Central motive states or behavioral programs are defined by what they do rather than by how they feel.

This selective potentiation can result in feelings, but the phenomenal changes are not necessary to the potentiation itself, which consists of changes in the probabilities of behavioral options. Scarantino , draws a distinction between an emotion and an episode of emotion , with the emotion corresponding to what causes a change in action readiness and the episode of emotion corresponding to the actual change of action readiness.

Control precedence involves interrupting competing processes, preempting access—in memory, inference, perception, etc. The idea that emotions are behavioral programs that bring about prioritized impulses to act can be combined with an origin story about how some of such programs evolved to deal with fundamental life tasks, leading to what Scarantino has labeled the New Basic Emotion Theory. According to it, learning can affect both what activates the evolved program input and what responses the program brings about output through the interplay of the prioritized action tendency and regulation.

Finally, Scarantino endorses a teleosemantic theory of content for emotions to deal with the problem of intentionality, and proposes that different emotions differ from one another and from non-emotional states both in terms of the state of prioritized action tendency they cause the attitude and in terms of what they represent the content. On this view, fear is a prioritizing action control program which represents dangers because it has the function of causing avoidant behaviors in the presence of danger, anger is a prioritizing action control program which represents slights because it has the function of causing aggressive behaviors in the presence of slights, and so on.

A central challenge for motivational theories of emotions of both phenomenological and non-phenomenological varieties is to account for the states of action readiness distinctive of different emotions. First, many emotions do not appear to motivate action at all.

Grief and depression, for example, seem to involve a general depotentiation of the readiness to act. Third, emotions like joy involve the selective potentiation of a fairly open range of behavioral options, so it is unclear what action tendency may be associated with them.

Experts in Emotion 14.1 -- James Gross on Emotion Regulation

Fourth, it seems to be possible for the same action tendency to be associated with different emotions, and for different emotions to be associated with the same action tendency, provided that these tendencies are described at a sufficiently abstract level of analysis for critiques of motivational approaches, see, e. Two enactivist themes in particular are relevant for emotion theory. The second theme is the focus on the embodied , embedded and extended character of cognitive processes the theme of embodiment looms large in affective science as well; see, e.

1. Concerns about human agency, evolution and survival

Whereas traditional cognitive science and neuroscience have focused on the brain in isolation from the rest of the body and from the environment, enactivists argue that we will fail to understand cognition if we neglect the reciprocal causal interactions between brain, body and environment as they dynamically unfold over time. The idea that complex cognitive abilities can rely on the scaffolding provided by the external environment has proven especially popular among emotion theorists.

To which tradition of research do enactivist theories of emotions belong? The focus on experience might appear to nudge enactivism towards the Feeling Tradition see, e. Enactivism is indeed influenced by the notion, central to the phenomenological philosophical tradition, that the body is an experienced structure Husserl []; Merleau-Ponty [] rather than simply a physical structure. Colombetti has made the case that the phenomenological tradition can enrich the affective neuroscience of emotions.

Nevertheless, it is more appropriate to slot the enactivist movement into the phenomenological side of the Motivational Tradition. This is because enactivists also greatly emphasize the role of action in cognition. Cognition is said to be enacted by inherently teleological living systems for the purposes of action.


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There is no unified understanding of the relation between emotions and action among enactivists, but rather a number of distinct proposals. Self-organization is the capacity of a complex system to reach and preserve a state of order through reciprocal causal influences among simpler component parts. When applied to the emotions, the idea is that emotion components self-organize, which helps explain the variability of emotional episodes, because self-organizing systems can end up in multiple end states depending on how their components interact see A.

Clark — At the same time, Colombetti uses the assumption of self-organization of emotional phenomena to oppose the notion that emotional episodes are caused either by affect programs contra the basic emotion tradition or by appraisals contra the appraisal tradition. Incidentally, Colombetti thinks that the very notion of basic emotion is arbitrary and not worth keeping because it discourages research on the neural, behavioral, and bodily features of allegedly non-basic emotions.

Hufendiek makes the complementary case that allegedly non-basic emotions manifest a great many of the characteristics distinctive of basic emotions see also J. Clark Another distinctive feature of enactivism is its anti-representational stance Varela et al. For instance, fear does not represent that there is danger at hand, and anger does not represent that there has been a slight against me or mine.

Specifically, Hutto follows Ramsey in assuming that a mental state counts as a representation only if it is consumed by other systems in light of what it says or indicates, and concludes that emotions fail to play this larger explanatory role in the cognitive economy of the organism and should therefore not be considered representations.

Prinz used to think that emotions represent core relational themes because they have the function of correlating with them, but in his recent work he has changed his mind. Schargel and Prinz have argued that a teleosemantic approach is a threat to the truly embodied character of a theory of emotions in the James-Lange mold, the approach they favor. This is because any non-embodied vehicle—e.

On this view, fear generates possibilities for escape which would not be there in the absence of fear, and which work as dynamic attractors, pulling the agent towards escape. The enactive content of fear, then, is not danger, but the presentation of a certain situation as something to be escaped, jointly with an impulse to move away from it, a content that is essentially embodied since it involves bodily preparation for escape.

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A central challenge for enactivist theories of emotions of the non-representational variety is to account for our normative practices with respect to emotions. In other words, we still treat emotions as appropriate and inappropriate with respect to their circumstances of elicitation, and it is an open question if and how these forms of appropriateness can be made sense of if emotions do not represent core relational themes see Hufendiek , , for further discussion.

Emotions have long been thought to score poorly in terms of both cognitive and strategic rationality. The Stoics famously argued that emotions are false judgments. Failures of the emotions at the strategic level are also deeply ingrained in both theoretical approaches and common sense. Ira brevis furor , said the Romans: anger is a brief bout of madness.

In recent times, the pendulum has swung back, and researchers in both philosophy and affective science have started rehabilitating the emotions in terms of both cognitive and strategic rationality. A proper appreciation of the role of emotions with respect to rationality requires a number of distinctions. Our first distinctions pertain to three varieties of cognitive rationality for emotions: rationality as fittingness , rationality as warrant and rationality as coherence.

The dominant view on emotions is that they are representations of core relational themes or formal objects. We may for instance say that fear is rational in terms of fittingness just in case it is directed towards things that are truly dangerous, because this is what fear represents.

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Being afraid of a shark swimming alongside you is fitting, because the shark is dangerous. For example, amusement at a funny joke may be fitting even if being amused by it is both morally inappropriate due to the sexist content of the joke, and costly in terms of self-interest, because those who witness the amusement may form a bad opinion of the amused agent. Suppose now that fear is elicited by something that is not dangerous. Fear could still manifest rationality as warrant if its particular object manifests relevant evidential cues of dangerousness. For example, being afraid of a realistic replica of a shark moving alongside you in the water would be rational in the warrant sense, even though, unbeknownst to you, the shark replica is being remote-controlled by a group of innocuous marine biologists.