More than a Feeling: Affect as Radical Situatedness

Midwest Studies in Philosophy 41 (1):7-26 (2017)
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It can be tempting to think of affect as a matter of the present moment – a reaction, a feeling, an experience or engagement that unfolds right now. This paper will make the case that affect is better thought of as not only temporally extended but as saturated with temporality, especially with the past. In and through affectivity, concrete, ongoing history continues to weigh on present comportment. In order to spell this out, I sketch a Heidegger-inspired perspective. It revolves around two claims. The first is that we should understand what Heidegger calls 'Befindlichkeit' (findingness) as radical situatedness. Affectivity is a matter of 'finding oneself' constellated – thrown – into the world in ways that outrun what an individual or collective might grasp and process. The second claim is that the temporal dimension, as a relatedness to the past, takes precedence in affect's situatedness. Key to affect is the way in which the past continues to hold sway over present comportment, collectively and individually. In order to articulate this perspective, it is important to overcome the idea that affect must be understood mainly in terms of feeling or experiential states of other kinds. Better suited to grasp the idea of findingness is the concept of 'disclosive posture', as proposed by Katherine Withy. I suggest that this notion should be put at the fore of a phenomenological approach to situated affectivity.

Author's Profile

Jan Slaby
Freie Universität Berlin


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