Indeterminacy in Emotion Perception: Disorientation as the Norm

Passion: Journal of the European Philosophical Society for the Study of Emotion 1 (2):185-199 (2023)
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Abstract

Most psychological and philosophical theories assume that we know what we feel. This general view is often accompanied by a range of more specific claims, such as the idea that we experience one emotion at a time, and that it is possible to distinguish between emotions based on their cognition, judgment, behaviour, or physiology. One common approach is to discriminate emotions based on their motivations or ultimate goals. Some argue that empathic distress, for instance, has the potential to motivate empathic concerns; personal distress, on the other hand, is self-oriented and motivates egoistic concerns. In this paper, I argue against this and similarly teleological views of emotions and affect. Through a close study of the emotional breakdown of an American drone operator, I make the case that understanding our emotions entails much more ambiguity than dominant theories assume. In our emotional lives, disorientation and confusion are often the norm.

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Ditte Marie Munch-Jurisic
University of Copenhagen

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