The Epistemology of Emotional Experience

Dialectica 71 (1):57-84 (2017)
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This article responds to two arguments against ‘Epistemic Perceptualism’, the view that emotional experiences, as involving a perception of value, can constitute reasons for evaluative belief. It first provides a basic account of emotional experience, and then introduces concepts relevant to the epistemology of emotional experience, such as the nature of a reason for belief, non-inferentiality, and prima facie vs. conclusive reasons, which allow for the clarification of Epistemic Perceptualism in terms of the Perceptual Justificatory View. It then challenges two arguments which purport to show that emotional experience is not a source of reasons for evaluative belief. The first argument claims that because normative why-questions are always appropriate in the case of emotions, then emotions can never be conclusive reasons for corresponding evaluative beliefs. The second purports to show that appeal to emotional experience as a source of reasons for evaluative beliefs renders emotions problematically self-justifying, and since emotions cannot be self-justifying, they cannot provide any sort of reason for corresponding evaluative beliefs. This article responds to these arguments, and in doing so shows there is still much to be learned about the epistemology of emotional experience by drawing analogies with perceptual experience.

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Jonathan Mitchell
Cardiff University


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