In the last 10 years, several authors including Griffiths and Matthen have employed classificatory principles from biology to argue for a radical revision in the way that we individuate psychological traits. Arguing that the fundamental basis for classification of traits in biology is that of ‘homology’ (similarity due to common descent) rather than ‘analogy’, or ‘shared function’, and that psychological traits are a special case of biological traits, they maintain that psychological categories should be individuated primarily by relations of homology (...) rather than in terms of shared function. This poses a direct challenge to the dominant philosophical view of how to define psychological categories, viz., ‘functionalism’. Although the implications of this position extend to all psychological traits, the debate has centered around ‘emotion’ as an example of a psychological category ripe for reinterpretation within this new framework of classification. I address arguments by Griffiths that emotions should be divided into at least two distinct classes, basic emotions and higher cognitive emotions, and that these two classes require radically different theories to explain them. Griffiths argues that while basic emotions in humans are homologous to the corresponding states in other animals, higher cognitive emotions are dependent on mental capacities unique to humans, and are therefore not homologous to basic emotions. Using the example of shame, I argue that (a) many emotions that are commonly classified as being higher cognitive emotions actually correspond to certain basic emotions, and that (b) the “higher cognitive forms” of these emotions are best seen as being homologous to their basic forms. (shrink)
Recently, many critics have argued that disgust is a morally harmful emotion, and that it should play no role in our moral and legal reasoning. Here we defend disgust as a morally beneficial moral capacity. We believe that a variety of liberal norms have been inappropriately imported into both moral psychology and ethical studies of disgust: disgust has been associated with conservative authors, values, value systems, and modes of moral reasoning that are seen as inferior to the values and moral (...) emotions that are endorsed by liberal critics. Here we argue that the meta-ethical assumptions employed by the critics of disgust are highly contentious and in some cases culture bound. Given this, we should avoid adopting simplified meta-ethical positions in experimental moral psychology, as these can skew the design and interpretation of experiments, and blind us to the potential value of moral disgust harnessed in the service of liberal ends. (shrink)
Tracy, Shariff, and Cheng (2010) propose that human pride has two facets (hubristic pride [HP] and authentic pride [AP]) which, despite their similarities, diverge in important ways, including their evolutionary histories and functions. Put simplistically, AP emerged from HP. While AP and HP are thus homologous, HP continues to exist in humans, alongside AP. This is problematic on the most common interpretation of homology, in which an ancestral trait transforms into a derived trait, but does not remain present independently. I (...) suggest that construing HP and AP as serial homologues (duplicated but varying traits within single organisms) solves this problem, and also resolves some of the other tensions in their account of pride as a “single” emotion with “two” facets. (shrink)
Strohminger criticizes McGinn for his lack of attention to recent scientific findings, and for ignoring common sense. This commentary deepens both of these criticisms via an exploration of McGinn’s account of the evolution of disgust.