Thinking about Feeling: Contemporary Philosophers on Emotions

Thinking about Feeling: Contemporary Philosophers on Emotions

Thinking about Feeling: Contemporary Philosophers on Emotions

Thinking about Feeling: Contemporary Philosophers on Emotions

Synopsis

Philosophers since Aristotle have explored emotion, so the new emphasis on emotion in Anglo-American philosophy is the rediscovery of a discipline that is very old and has always been essential to the "love of wisdom." Today, it has become evident to most philosophers that emotions are ripe for philosophical analysis, a view supported by a considerable number of excellent publications. Emotions have now become mainstream. In this volume, I have tried to bring together some of the best Anglo-American philosophers now writing on the philosophy of emotion. I have solicited chapters from those philosophers who have already distinguished themselves in the field of emotion research and have interdisciplinary interests, particularly in the social sciences. It is impossible to study the emotions today without engaging with contemporary psychology and the neurosciences. Philosophy has always been (in its own mind, at least) "the queen of the sciences." Thus the essays included here should appeal to a broad spectrum of emotion researchers as well as philosophers interested or at least curious about their emotions.

Excerpt

In this volume, I have tried to bring together some of the best AngloAmerican philosophers now writing on the philosophy of emotion.

That field, the philosophy of emotion, is by one measure quite recent. In the Anglo-American tradition, the subject of emotion was for a considerable period disreputable, typically dismissed as “mere subjectivity” or, worse, as nothing but physiology plus dumb sensation. An ethical theory known as emotivism took center stage during and just after the Second World War, in which all of ethics was dismissed as nothing but expressions of emotion with no more cognitive content than “Boo!” or “Hooray” (Ayer 1952). It was only with occasional pieces by Princeton philosopher George Pitcher and Edinburgh philosopher Errol Bedford and then a book by Anthony Kenny that the subject started to become noticed at all, although it was several years more before it began to attract an audience and deserve recognition as a “field” (Pitcher 1965, Bedford 1953, Kenny 1963). Today, by contrast, it is evident to most philosophers that emotions are ripe for philosophical analysis, a view supported by a considerable number of excellent publications. Emotions have now become mainstream.

This is not to say, of course, that the philosophy of emotion is something new. Philosophers since Aristotle have explored it with considerable interest, usually motivated by an interest in ethics. The Stoics and Epicureans carried on a lively debate over several centuries on the nature of emotion and the passions' place in ethics and the quest for the good life. Medieval philosophy is filled with concern about the emotions, both as “higher passions” (e.g., love and faith) and as “lower” passions, a.k.a. “sins.” And in this century, “Continental” European philosophy remains keenly aware of the importance of the emotions in human life, thanks in . . .

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