To Blend or to Compose: a Debate about Emotion Structure

In Paul Wilson (ed.), Dynamicity in Emotion Concepts. Peter Lang (2012)
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An ongoing debate in the philosophy of emotion concerns the relationship between two prima facie aspects of emotional states. The first is affective: felt and/or motivational. The second, which I call object-identifying, represents whatever the emotion is about or directed towards. “Componentialists” – such as R. S. Lazarus, Jesse Prinz, and Antonio Damasio – assume that an emotion’s object-identifying aspect can have the same representational content as a non-emotional state’s, and that it is psychologically separable or dissociable from the emotion’s affective aspect. Some further hold that emotions have no object-identifying aspects of their own, and can properly be said to be about things only in virtue of their associations with other mental states (such as beliefs or perceptions). By contrast, “blenderists” – such as Peter Goldie, York Gunther, and Matthew Ratcliffe – insist that the two aspects are indissociable, because the affective aspect “infuses” the object-identifying aspect, altering the subject’s concept or percept of the object. As a result, an emotion’s object-identifying aspect cannot possibly have the same representational content as any non-emotional state’s. I argue that the strongest blenderist arguments fail to rule out plausible componentialist alternatives, and that the blenderists’ broader motivations are orthogonal to structural issues.

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Larry A. Herzberg
University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh


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