What Emotions Really Are: The Problem of Psychological Categories

What Emotions Really Are: The Problem of Psychological Categories

What Emotions Really Are: The Problem of Psychological Categories

What Emotions Really Are: The Problem of Psychological Categories

Synopsis

In this provocative contribution to the philosophy of science and mind, Paul E. Griffiths criticizes contemporary philosophy and psychology of emotion for failing to take in an evolutionary perspective and address current work in neurobiology and cognitive science. Reviewing the three current models of emotion, Griffiths points out their deficiencies and constructs a basis for future models that pay equal attention to biological fact and conceptual rigor. "Griffiths has written a work of depth and clarity in an area of murky ambiguity, producing a much-needed standard at the border of science, philosophy, and psychology. . . . As he presents his case, offering a forthright critique of past and present theories, Griffiths touches on such issues as evolution, social construction, natural kinds (categories corresponding with real distinctions in nature), cognition, and moods. While addressing specialists, the book will reward general readers who apply themselves to its remarkably accessible style."--Library Journal "What Emotions Really Are makes a strong claim to be one of the best books to have emerged on the subject of human emotion."--Ray Dolan, Nature

Excerpt

The aim of this book is to bring to the philosophy of emotion the insights of the last thirty years in the philosophy of mind and philosophy of language--insights that have been studiously ignored by specialists in the field. Emotions are postulated kinds of psychological event. The term "emotion" and the names of individual emotions are kind terms that figure in our everyday understanding of ourselves. This everyday understanding is commonly called "folk psychology." This simple fact implies a great deal about the theory of emotion. It implies that questions about the nature of emotions cannot be answered in the armchair alone but must be sought in part by empirical investigation of emotional phenomena. We can no more investigate the nature of emotion without the life sciences than we can investigate the nature of the planets without the physical sciences. But while the relevance of scientific data has been accepted in the rest of the philosophy of mind, emotion theory has remained deep in the armchair and has used science only as a source of anecdote.

The fact that emotions are putative kinds of psychological state also draws attention to what should be a central question for the philosophy of emotion. Does our best current science have any role for these postulated psychological kinds? If it does not, then there is an important sense in which the emotions do not really exist. This does not mean that nothing is going on in people who are said to be experiencing emotion. It means that the emotion category does nothing to illuminate what is going on in those people. The category of superlunary objects, or objects outside the orbit of the moon, had an important role in Aristotelian science. There really are objects outside the orbit of the moon, but the category of the "superlunary" is as arbitrary a way of grouping objects together as it is . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.