Can Emotions Have Abstract Objects? The Example of Awe

Philosophia 46 (3):733-746 (2018)
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Can we feel emotions about abstract objects, assuming that abstract objects exist? I argue that at least some emotions can have abstract objects as their intentional objects and discuss why this conclusion is not just trivially true. Through critical engagement with the work of Dacher Keltner and Jonathan Haidt, I devote special attention to awe, an emotion that is particularly well suited to show that some emotions can be about either concrete or abstract objects. In responding to a possible objection, according to which we can only feel emotions about things that we take to matter to our flourishing, and thus cannot feel emotions about causally inefficacious abstract objects, I explore how abstract objects can be relevant to human flourishing and discuss someemotions other than awe that can be about abstract objects. I finish by explaining somereasons why my conclusion matters, including the fact that it presents a challenge to perceptual theories of emotion and causal theories of intentionality.

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Rachel Fredericks
Independent Scholar


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