The affective 'we': Self-regulation and shared emotions

In Thomas Szanto & Dermot Moran (eds.), The Phenomenology of Sociality: Discovering the 'We'. Routledge. pp. 263-277 (2015)
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What does it mean to say that an emotion can be shared? I consider this question, focusing on the relation between the phenomenology of emotion experience and self-regulation. I explore the idea that a numerically single emotion can be given to more than one subject. I term this a “collective emotion”. First, I consider different forms of emotion regulation. I distinguish between embodied forms of self-regulation, which use subject-centered features of our embodiment, and distributed forms of self-regulation, which incorporate resources beyond the subject. Next, I focus on the latter. After discussing the possibility of musically distributed emotion regulation, I consider interpersonally distributed emotion regulation. I then examine Max Scheler’s (1954) phenomenological characterization of the shared grief experienced by the parents of a recently-deceased child. Drawing on the notion of interpersonally distributed emotion regulation, I argue that, with some further clarifications, Scheler’s example gives us a plausible example of a collective emotion. I conclude by briefly indicating why the notion of collective emotions may be of broader interest to debates in both philosophy of mind and emotion science.

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Joel Krueger
University of Exeter


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