Emotion and the Arts

By Mette Hjort; Sue Laver | Go to book overview
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15 The Anaesthetics of Emotion


Some things seem so obvious that few people ever question them. Except when I am doing philosophy or being silly, I do not doubt, even for one moment, that the people I speak to are conscious human beings capable of having thoughts and emotions. Nor do I doubt that at least some of the things that I say and write will be understood by them, and that the overwhelming majority of my utterances are meaningful. With almost as much certainty, I believe that it is wrong to torture kittens or puppy dogs, to beat defenseless people, to exploit the innocent, to make love in public, or to betray your spouse of many years. These beliefs and values cannot easily be abandoned-not primarily because of their content but because of the role that they play in my life. They are the beliefs in terms of which I organize my existence and shape my world, and it is precisely because they impart sense and order to my life that I have considerable difficulty with the idea that they are either misleading or false. This is not to say that I cannot ever acknowledge their inadequacy; only that it will cost much to do so. For any challenge to such beliefs tends to undermine the foundations of my world, threatens its stability, and with it my own security and sense of place.

For all of these reasons, any challenge to one's deep convictions is likely to be met with an emotional response. One may be upset, outraged, bewildered, shocked, and sometimes, when it is all too much, one may be irritated beyond words or else reduced to helpless laughter. If a large part of your life is orga


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Emotion and the Arts


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