Philosophia:1-21 (forthcoming)

Giulio Sacco
Perugia University
The philosophy of emotions has long been dominated by the view called «cognitivism». According to it, emotions are characterized not by mere physical impulses but by a cognitive evaluation of their object. However, despite their success, cognitive theories have to deal with various objections and are divided on how to answer to them. In this essay I want to defend the form of cognitivism claimed by Martha Nussbaum from the most common criticisms. After a brief summary of her account, I confront some of the objections that have been raised against it. In Section 2 I deal with the classic problem of emotions in infants and animals, which lack linguistic abilities. Later, I confront the potential problem represented by cases in which one’s emotion and reasoned judgment seem to differ: in paragraph 3 I consider irrational phobias and fears, to show how they can be accounted for in terms of judgments and thoughts, and not only of perceptions; in paragraph 4 I deal with the objection that «judgementalist» theories violate the «principle of charity», for they ascribe an excessive irrationality to people. I argue that experimental evidence suggest that it is not implausible to assume that people have contradictory beliefs under conditions of uncertainty, and that perceptual theories of emotion fail to account for some fundamental aspects of these phenomena. Finally, in paragraph 5, I deal with the objection according to which a cognitive-evaluative theory cannot explain the sense of passivity that we commonly experience in emotions.
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DOI 10.1007/s11406-021-00428-1
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