Enjoyment as Enriched Experience: A Theory of Affect and Its Relation to Consciousness

Springer Verlag (2023)
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Abstract

This book has two main tasks: (1) to call attention to the special challenges presented by our experience of affect—all varieties of pleasure and pain—and (2) to show how these challenges can be overcome by an “enrichment approach” that understands affect as the enrichment or deterioration of conscious activity as a whole. This “enrichment approach” draws from Alfred North Whitehead as well as the pragmatists John Dewey and William James, all of whom thought of affect as a fundamental aspect of experience rather than a special class of feelings. It also draws from recent scientific research that suggests that the dynamic repertoire of consciousness can change, effectively expanding and contracting our capacity to feel. Weaving these perspectives together, the book develops a theory that accounts for the peculiar phenomenology of affect and sheds new light on a diverse range of experiences, from everyday pleasures and pains to the special satisfactions of the arts and religious festivity. At the same time, it presents a fresh and distinctively affect-centered perspective on the nature of consciousness.

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Chapters

The Problem of Value in Scientific Explanation

In this chapter, I undertake a brief critical examination of value concepts in scientific explanation with the aim of uncovering their connection to affect. Within the larger scheme of this book, the purpose of this critique is to set the stage for a systematic exposition of the problem of affect by... see more

Adding Pieces to the Puzzle

In this chapter we move outward from the core challenge of affect to take up a wider view that includes perspectives from affective science. The argument runs through a series of topics—six additional pieces of the puzzle—that I believe to be especially important for coming to grips with the systema... see more

The Core Challenge

During the last century and a half, philosophers and psychologists who have undertaken careful examinations of our feelings of pleasure and pain have discovered them to be surprisingly obscure (Sidgwick 1874/1967; Broad 1930; Dunker 1941; Arnold 1960; Alston 1967; Gosling 1969; Feldman 1997; Frijda ... see more

The Affective Continuum

In this chapter and the next, the argument moves from the exposition of the harmonic theory of affect toward its application to various kinds and dimensions of affective experience. When tested against experience, a theory of affect should be judged according to the following criteria. First, the th... see more

Affect and Consciousness

The arguments of this chapter and the next have two overarching objectives. The first is to show how affect is essential to consciousness, such that there can be no conscious feeling without affect and vice versa (there can be no affect zombies and there can be no happy trees). The second objective ... see more

Affect and the Feeling Self

This chapter continues the argument that affect is integral to all aspects of experience, turning from flow and meaning to a consideration of self-awareness and the feeling self—the self at the core of all conscious experience. Evidence of a close connection between affect and our sense of self is e... see more

Enjoyment

In the previous chapter, we explored the affective continuum of conscious experience as represented by a simple space with two axes, strength and diversity of contrast. At best, this model offers a crude many-to-one mapping of affect, such that every conscious feeling should have a location somewher... see more

Conclusion

By way of a summary of the preceding arguments, let us return to the desiderata listed at the close of Part I and consider how each has been met by the theory developed in Part II.

Affect as a Feeling of Harmonic Intensity

The following theoretical approach to affect builds upon the ideas of Alfred North Whitehead, especially his concepts of intensity and contrast (1978; Neville 1989; Grange 1997; Jones 1998). As discussed in the introduction, the main task of this book is to use these concepts to develop the idea of ... see more

Introduction

What is a good feeling? More precisely: How do you know that a feeling is good? If you have never pondered this question before, it may seem pointless at first. Like the blueness of a clear blue sky, the goodness of a good feeling seems impossible to describe in more basic terms. Words like pleasant... see more

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