The Possibility of Emotional Appropriateness for Groups Identified with a Temperament

In Jerome Melancon (ed.), Transforming Politics with Merleau-Ponty. Lanham, MD: pp. 13-32 (2021)
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Recent work in the philosophy of emotion focuses on challenging dualistic conceptualizations. Three of the most obvious dualisms are the following: 1. emotion opposes reason; 2. emotion is subjective, while reason is objective; 3. emotion lies internal to the subject, while reason is external. With challenges to these dualisms, one of the more interesting questions that has surfaced is the idea of emotional appropriateness in a particular context. Here, consider a widely held belief in the United States associates racialized groups with specific emotions—most notably African American women with anger. Clearly these emotional attributions are essentialistic--and hence racist. But this response is too easy. The acknowledgement that emotion lies both internally in the subject and externally in the world opens the possibility of attributing an emotional temperament to a population group. Yet if an identity group has an emotional temperament, can they be accountable for emotionally appropriate behavior?

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Emily S. Lee
California State University, Fullerton


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