Handbook of Cognition and Emotion

By Tim Dalgleish; Mick J. Power | Go to book overview

Preface

Any historical analysis of the evolution of ideas about emotions, both in philosophy and more recently in psychology, shows us that the publication of a Handbook of Cognition and Emotion, implying as it does a productive marriage between the two research areas in its title, is something of an achievement. Cognition and emotion have by no means always been such comfortable bedfellows. The Platonic notion, as outlined in the Republic, that feelings were the enemy of reason and that true “citizens” would do all they could to banish emotion from their day-to-day “cognitive” decisions, has had far-reaching implications for the way Western society has dealt with the subtleties and vagaries of emotional life, and has dominated psychological and philosophical thinking until relatively recently.

Perhaps outside of the discussion and exchange of ideas in the academic and clinical traditions, this Platonic view of emotions prevails. There is clearly a degree of folk psychological suspicion of emotions and what they can do, with relatively little emphasis on how useful or functional they might be. However, within psychology and philosophy, there has been a sea change in our approach to emotions over the last 50 years. The Aristotelian view that cognition is an integral part of emotion, an approach that has faired so badly for two millennia, is now probably the dominant paradigm. Furthermore, the perhaps more radical suggestion that emotions are integral to adaptive cognitive processing, as evidenced by recent work in neuropsychology, is enticing many cognitive psychologists to take a closer look at the issue of cognition–emotion interactions. Many of these changes have of course gone hand-in-hand with the subtle shaping and extension of what we mean when we use terms like “cognition” or “emotion”; for example, few now think of cognition solely in terms of conscious, rational information handling. However, debates concerning such semantic controversies have evolved into highly productive discussions about the nature of cognitionemotion interactions, regardless of whether we can all agree on what to label them.

-xix-

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