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Think of your feelings as waves in the ocean. They come and go, rise and fall. No feeling lasts forever; anger and sadness are necessary, helpful parts of the.
Table of contents

The counterintuitive implication that emotions do not cause their manifestations but rather emerge from them struck many as problematic, because it seemed to undermine the idea that emotions are important to us. How could they be so important, critics like Dewey , asked, if they have no causal import with respect to actions? Arnold Furthermore, the theory lacked an adequate account of the differences between emotions.

This objection was influentially voiced by Walter Cannon According to a common interpretation of the James-Lange theory, what distinguishes emotions from one another is the fact that each involves the perception of a distinctive set of bodily changes. Cannon countered that the visceral reactions characteristic of distinct emotions such as fear and anger are indistinguishable, and so these reactions cannot be what allows us to tell emotions apart.

Subsequent research has not fully settled whether emotions do, in fact, have significantly different bodily profiles, either at the autonomic, expressive or neural level for the latest on bodily signatures, see Clark-Polner et al. Independently of how the empirical debate on bodily signatures is settled, brain or bodily changes and the feelings accompanying these changes can get us only part way towards an adequate taxonomy.

Emotions, however, are capable of being not only explained, but also justified. The first distinction we need to draw is the one between particular objects and formal objects of emotions. As Kenny first emphasized, any X that I can have emotion E about is a particular object of E , whereas the formal object of E is the property which I implicitly ascribe to X by virtue of having E about X. Particular and formal objects constitute the two principal aspects of emotional intentionality: emotions are object-directed insofar as they have particular objects, and they are fitting insofar as their particular objects instantiate the formal objects represented by the emotion see section The second distinction we wish to draw is that between two types of particular objects of emotions: target objects and propositional objects de Sousa The target object of an emotion is the specific entity the emotion is about.

For example, love can be about Mary, or about Bangkok, or about Homer Simpson and so on. These are all possible targets of love, and they may be real or imaginary.

Not every emotion has a target. I may be angry that my life has turned out a certain way, without there being any particular entity—myself or anyone else—at which my anger is directed. Propositional objects capture facts or states of affairs, real or imagined, towards which my emotion is directed. Conversely, not all emotions have a propositional object. For example, if Mary is the target of my love, there may be no proposition, however complex, that captures what it is that I love about Mary Kraut ; Rorty [].

Finally, there also appear to be affective states that lack both types of particular objects: they are neither directed at a particular entity nor are they about a state of affairs captured by a proposition.

Emotion (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

For example, I can be depressed or elated but not depressed or elated about any specific target or fact. These seemingly objectless affective states share many properties with object-directed emotions, especially with respect to their physiological and motivational aspects, so we may consider them to be emotions without objects. On the other hand, some have suggested that such objectless states are better regarded as moods Frijda ; Stephan a. Whether we think of seemingly objectless affective states as emotions or moods, we must decide what kinds of objects they lack.

Here two main options are available. The first is to assert that some affective states have neither particular objects nor formal objects. If we think of moods and objectless emotions that way, it becomes hard to explain how such affective states may have conditions of correctness—formal objects being among other things descriptions of what the world must be like for the affective state to be fitting Teroni If instead we think of such affective states as having formal objects and conditions of correctness, then their objectlessness is only apparent, because they need to have targets or propositional objects of some kind to which they implicitly ascribe the property defined by the formal object.

What are the formal objects of specific emotions?

The Purpose of Emotions

This is a controversial topic, because the ascription of formal objects commits one to the claim that each emotion, on conceptual grounds, ascribes a specific property to its particular object. Once the formal object of an emotion has been clarified, we can use it to justify emotions by citing their conditions of elicitation.

Evaluative theories of emotions, a. A key distinction is that between constitutive and causal evaluative theories.

Emotion Coaching: One of the Most Important Parenting Practices in the History of the Universe

Constitutive theories state that emotions are cognitions or evaluations of particular kinds, whereas causal theories state that emotions are caused by cognitions or evaluations of particular kinds. The constitutive approach tends to be dominant in philosophy, while the causal approach enjoys significant support in psychology. Let us consider these two strands of cognitivism in turn.

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The emergence of the constitutive approach in philosophy in the middle of the twentieth century can be traced to a pair of articles by C. These authors were not the first to emphasize that emotions are object-directed or endowed with intentionality—Brentano [] had already done so with inspiration from various medieval authors King But these mid-twentieth century philosophers were the first to articulate an influential argument to the effect that, in order to account for their intentionality, emotions must be cognitive evaluations of some kind rather than feelings see also Meinong The argument goes roughly like this.

If emotions have intentionality, it follows that there are internal standards of appropriateness according to which an emotion is appropriate just in case its formal object is instantiated Kenny But feelings are not the kinds of things that can enter into conceptual relations with formal objects. What kinds of cognitive evaluations? The most parsimonious type of cognitivist theory follows the Stoics in identifying emotions with judgments. On a common interpretation of their view, my anger at someone is the judgment that I have been wronged by that person.

Dealing With Difficult Emotions

To generalize, the proposal is that an emotion E is a judgment that the formal object of E is instantiated by some particular object X. This interpretation is indeed presupposed by some of the standard critiques of judgmentalism. First, it is argued that judgmentalism does not explain how emotions can motivate, because one can hold a judgment—say the judgment that I have been wronged—without being motivated to act on it. Second, it does not explain the phenomenology of emotions, because holding a judgment lacks the bodily, valence and arousal dimensions that typically characterize the experience of emotion.

Third, it fails to account for the emotions of animals and infants, who arguably lack the capacity of assenting to propositions Deigh Judgmentalists have tried to address these critiques by clarifying what sorts of judgments emotions are and some, like Nussbaum and Neu, have explicitly rejected the label of judgmentalism. Several objections have been launched against this strategy. The trouble with this elastic strategy is not only that it is ad hoc, but also that it creates cross-purpose talk and ultimately amounts to a pyrrhic victory for the evaluative theory, because, on a sufficiently expanded notion of judgment, the identification of emotions with judgments becomes at best trivially true and fails to shed light on what emotions are Scarantino Two more promising strategies have been put in place to defend cognitivism from counterexamples.

The first, which we call the judgmentalist add-on strategy Goldie , consists of explicitly adding on to judgments other components of emotions, rather than embedding them into judgments through the elastic strategy. For instance, the motivational dimension of emotions has been accounted for by suggesting that emotions are not just judgments, but rather combinations of judgments or beliefs and desires Marks ; Green ; Gordon Other authors have added further elements, proposing that emotions are combinations of judgments, desires and feelings, a move intended to account for both motivational and phenomenological dimensions of emotions Lyons Another strategy, which may be called the alternate cognitions strategy , consists of replacing the broad notion of judgment with a variety of other types of cognitive evaluations that can account for the intentionality of emotions while avoiding some of the critiques that have been raised against judgmentalism.

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Since most of the action in contemporary philosophy of emotions focuses on which alternate cognitions are to be preferred, we will devote a whole section to the topic. First, we discuss how the Evaluative Tradition has been developed in affective science. Roughly around the time when the Evaluative Tradition became popular in philosophy, a parallel tradition emerged in affective science through the pioneering work of Magda Arnold and Richard Lazarus.

What powered this development was in part the cognitivist revolution, the intellectual movement that replaced behaviorism in the s and put the cognitive processing of mental representations at the heart of the science of psychology.

Arnold argued that emotion research had neglected to explain how emotions are elicited. To shed light on the matter, she introduced the notion of appraisal , the process through which the significance of a situation for an individual is determined. Appraisal gives rise to attraction or aversion, and emotion is equated for Arnold with this. Several authors prior to Arnold had acknowledged that emotions must be produced by some sort of cognitive evaluation of the eliciting circumstances, either in the form of a judgment, a thought, a perception, or an act of imagination.

After all, it is quite clear that the same stimulus can generate different emotions in different people, or in the same person at different times, which suggests that it is not stimuli as such that elicit emotions, but stimuli as appraised. Arnold was the first to subject the internal structure of the appraisal process to scientific investigation.


Appraisals, she suggested, are made along three primary dimensions: eliciting circumstances can be evaluated as good or bad, present or absent, and easy to attain or avoid. For example, the cognitive evaluation that causes fear can be described as the appraisal of an event as bad, absent but possible in the future, and hard to avoid; whereas the cause of joy can be described as the appraisal of an event as good, present and easy to maintain.

Broadly speaking, appraisal theories of emotions are accounts of the structure of the processes that extract significance from stimuli and differentiate emotions from one another. It is also frequently assumed that appraisal is a dynamic process: appraisals are followed by re-appraisals, which follow changes in the environment and in internal variables, and incrementally shape emotions over time.

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  8. It should be noted that appraisal theories do not properly qualify as theories of what emotions are, even though individual appraisal theorists often articulate such theories as a complement to their theories of the structure of appraisal. More specifically, appraisal theories are in principle compatible with theories of emotions that identify them as evaluations, feelings, or motivations, as long as such theories acknowledge that appraisals play an essential role in differentiating emotions from one another.

    This being said, a great many influential appraisal theorists—including Arnold, Lazarus and Scherer—offer theories of emotions that would best fit into the Motivational Tradition. Scientific theories have significantly developed our understanding of the nature of appraisal, endowing it with even more structure than Arnold originally envisioned e. Lazarus b , for instance, introduced six structural dimensions of assessment, including 1 goal-relevance, 2 goal-congruence or incongruence, 3 type of ego-involvement, 4 blame or credit, 5 coping potential, and 6 future expectancy. For example, guilt is assumed to be caused by the appraisal of an event as goal relevant, goal-incongruent, involving a moral transgression, and one for which the self is to blame coping potential and future expectancy appraisals are left open.

    Scherer et al. Scherer The five organismic subsystems underlie five emotion components which, when engaged in coordinated changes, instantiate emotions: an appraisal, autonomic physiological changes, an action tendency, a motor expression, and a subjective feeling. A variant of appraisal theories has recently attracted some interest in affective computing, an interdisciplinary approach that combines insights from affective science and computer science see Picard For example, suppose you have a belief that your favorite candidate will lose the election and a desire that she win the election Reisenzein a.

    Once new information that she has in fact won the election is acquired, a belief-belief-comparator system produces a belief disconfirmation signal subjectively experienced as surprise, and a belief-desire-comparator system produces a desire fulfillment signal subjectively experienced as pleasure.