Arguments from the Priority of Feeling in Contemporary Emotion Theory and Max Scheler’s Phenomenology

Quaestiones Disputatae 3 (1):215-225 (2012)
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Many so-called “cognitivist” theories of the emotions account for the meaningfulness of emotions in terms of beliefs or judgments that are associated or identified with these emotions. In recent years, a number of analytic philosophers have argued against these theories by pointing out that the objects of emotions are sometimes meaningfully experienced before one can take a reflective stance toward them. Peter Goldie defends this point of view in his book The Emotions: A Philosophical Exploration. Goldie argues that emotions are meaningful in a way that is different from the meaningfulness of beliefs. He describes this meaningfulness in terms of “feeling towards,” which he identifies as a unique type of intentionality characteristic of emotions. The independence of feeling-towards from acts like believing is most clearly brought out by cases in which there is not enough time to form a belief but in which a person experiencing feelings towards an object responds emotionally in a way that is meaningful to them. Employing a similar type of argument, the phenomenologist Max Scheler argues that certain types of acts of feeling are phenomenologically prior to presentative acts of perception, representation, or imagination. Scheler supports his claim about the phenomenological priority of such acts of feeling by referring to cases in which the presented contents of an object are hidden or obscured but where the object of feeling, value, remains adequately given. I endeavor to show how Scheler draws support for his position from these cases and the great significance of his interpretation of these cases for his philosophical outlook as a whole. I close by considering some questions about his interpretation and use of these cases.
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