Emotions as Transitions


In order to uncover the inner workings of our capacities, we look to ‘effects’. Most of us have the capacity to distinguish between spoken ‘ba’ and ‘fa’ sounds. One thought is that this is achieved through aural sensitivities that detect changes in vibration picked up by the eardrum. But the McGurk Effect suggests that there is more to the story. Without changing the incoming vibrations, sound experience can be modulated by showing a video of a mouth making a ‘ba’ sound or a ‘fa’ sound with a consistent sound overlaid. We learn that our overall auditory experiences are at least in part determined by visual cues in addition to what’s first picked up by our eardrums. The McGurk Effect gives us a hint into the inner workings of audition and helps us better understand the capacity to discriminate sounds of a certain sort. In the present paper, the focus is on emotional capacities and a well known effect – recalcitrance. Recalcitrant emotions, such as fearing the dog even though one knows that the dog is harmless or being angry with one’s partner even when one realises it was only in a dream that the partner was nasty, have played the role of effect in much theorising about emotions. But in my view, we’ve stayed a bit too close to home, aiming to fit the effect into a paradigm – the representationalist paradigm – that isn’t fit for purpose. I will use this criticism as a launching off point to introduce a different way of thinking about emotions that is better suited to making sense of recalcitrance. I will argue that emotions are transitions between representational states rather than being representational states themselves. The view is better suited to make sense of recalcitrance and, at the end of the paper, I will offer reasons for thinking that main points that speak in favour of a representationalist approach to emotion can be recaptured or explained away by the transitions view.

Author's Profile

Alex Grzankowski
Birkbeck, University of London


Added to PP

38 (#82,919)

6 months
38 (#54,657)

Historical graph of downloads since first upload
This graph includes both downloads from PhilArchive and clicks on external links on PhilPapers.
How can I increase my downloads?