Abstract Details

Emotions: Bodily Feelings or Evaluative Perception?  Steven Gubka (Philosophy, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas )   C19

The evaluative nature of emotion presents well-known difficulties for the view that emotions consist solely in bodily feelings (known as the James-Lange account). For example, one's anger does not seem to merely consist in bodily feelings, but an evaluation of someone's actions as offensive or wrong. Recently, Deonna and Teroni (2017, 2019) have argued that the James-Lange account can overcome these difficulties. They propose that felt action readiness, such as "feeling one's body's readiness to act so as to retaliate" in the case of anger, are bodily feelings that account for the evaluative nature of emotions. In response to this proposal, I argue that felt action readiness cannot explain how emotions provide prima facie justification for actions like retaliation. Thus, acting on the basis of an emotion feels like acting on the basis of an apparent justificatory evaluation, not merely like feeling ready to undertake that action for no apparent reason. To account for the justificatory nature of emotions, I suggest that emotions are sui generis conscious experiences and thereby irreducible to bodily feelings or other types of phenomenology. On such an account, I liken emotions to perceptual experiences as of evaluative reality.