Relational Imperativism about Affective Valence

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Affective experiences motivate and rationalize behavior in virtue of feeling good or bad, or their valence. It has become popular to explain such phenomenal character with intentional content. Rejecting evaluativism and extending earlier imperativist accounts of pain, I argue that when experiences feel bad, they both represent things as being in a certain way and tell us to see to it that they will no longer be that way. Such commands have subjective authority by virtue of linking up with a relevant background concern. The imperative content explains but doesn’t constitute world-directed motivation. It also rationalizes action indirectly, by giving rise to an affective seeming that represents the situation as calling for the authoritatively commanded behavior. One experience feels worse than another if its content tells us to bear a higher opportunity cost to comply with the command. Finally, experience-directed motivation is contingent on our being attitudinally (dis)pleased with the character of our experience.
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Archival date: 2020-06-03
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