An anti‐essentialist view of the emotions

Philosophical Psychology 8 (4):341-351 (1995)
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Abstract

Emotions normally include elements of feeling, motivation, and also intentionality; but the argument of this essay is that there can be emotion without feeling, emotion without corresponding motivation, and emotion without an intentional relation to an object such that the emotion is (among other things) a belief about or construal of it. Many recent writers have claimed that some form of intentionality is essential to emotion, and then have created lines of defence for this thesis. Thus, what look like troublesome cases of emotions can be regarded as having a global intentionality or as being “mood-like”. Alternatively surges of non-intentional joy or ecstasy can be regarded as merely feelings rather than as emotions, and what people experience in response to absolute music can be treated similarly. A clear view of how we normally talk about moods, emotions, and feelings however undermines these defences; and in particular we can understand the role of emotions in relation to absolute music once we become clear about the way in which musical content stands in for intentional objects.

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