Goldie On Emotions
January 17, 2014 Leave a comment
1 Five overarching themes → a framework
• There are personal perspectives/points of view
• Rationality is essentially normative
• It is a mistake to over-intellectualise emotions
• Emotions are intentional; understand ‘feelings’ to understand intentionality
• The narrative structure of a life is what makes sense of emotions
2 What are emotions?
• They are states
– Strange argument for this (p. 13): “when we use a verb to speak of a state, this verb is not used in the continuous tenses, we do not say that he was being jealous or that she is being in love”
– Former (1.9m hits) and maybe latter look like false empirical claims to me
– Q: Does Goldie need this? Is ordinary language philosophy productive?
• Phenomenological arguments (from Tolstoy) to show that “an emotion [. . . ] is typically complex, episodic, dynamic and structured” (p. 16)
• Intentionality of emotions
– Crane 98 sense of intentionality viz. “directedness towards an object”
rather than “aboutness or ofness” (p. 16) – distinct?
– Example: one might be proud of one’s house. The intentional object here is “my-house-which-belongs-to-me” (p. 17); not the self (Hume) or indeed merely the house
– Q: Intentionality questions abound: Frege. Non-existent intentional ob- jects. Wittgenstein. Sidestepped by Goldie. Is this OK?
• Moods are distinct from emotions but only by degree, since moods may also have an object to some extent. Q: Motivation?
– Argument for this is that your fear on waking “may have no very specific object” (p. 18); it could be the darkness, the curtains, the strange noise that woke you
– Q: But couldn’t that just be three emotions or three causes of the three instantiations of the same type of emotion or three causes of the same emotion?
• Criticism of literature in which intentionality of emotion is cashed out in terms of belief/desire psychology because this misses out the essential: what it is like
• Goldie introduces key concept of feeling towards in response
• Feeling towards is “thinking of with feeling” (p. 19)
• Each sort of emotion has a “broadly characteristic qualitative nature” (p. 19) but Goldie declines to specify it, giving the Duke Ellington response
• Against over-intellectualisation
Scruton: “having a belief that an object is dangerous is a necessary condition of being afraid” (p.22)
∗ Spiders, Count Dracula
Gordon: some emotions are factive “if you are angry, you must be angry
that p” (p. 22) and p must be true
∗ You can’t be angry that James stole your shoelaces unless he did. (Q: Really? Is Goldie being fair here?)
∗ Goldie: people can be the object of emotions and not propositions. (Q: Is “some” is doing a lot of work for Gordon here?)
3 Educating the emotions
• Q: Is this possible? Or do we just have emotions? Maybe we can modulate them, but is that the same thing as educating them? (Aristotle)
– Goldie wants this in order to produce a recognition/response tie i.e. if you recognise an object as being one of the class of dangerous objects, you ought to respond to the object with fear
– This ought is “both normative and predictive” (p. 31)
– Argument: the “process of teaching a child how to identify things which are dangerous is typically one and the same process as teaching that child when fear is merited [. . . ] ‘Don’t go near that fire, it’ll burn you’ ” (p. 30)
∗ “Typicality” of processes may not be enough
∗ Teaching children may not relate to the genesis of adult emotions.
Indeed it may be a simplification/falsification for pedagogical purposes
∗ James Bond handles dangerous situations quite well not just without
fear, but because of that lack. (Splits normative from predictive.)
– “Recognition and response will feature as part of the narrative structure of the person’s emotional experience” (p. 31)
∗ So this is a major plank of Goldie’s account and it needs more support
∗ To be fair, Ch. 2 is still somewhat introductory
• A practical/emotional syllogism
– Goldie complains further about the overly intellectual nature of seeing the emotions as part of a belief/desire account of action
– Accuses Davidson of espousing ‘propositional emotions’ which does sound odd
– Consider the explanation of why Jane hit Jim based on: Jane believes that Jim insulted her; desires to get her own back on Jim; believes that hitting Jim will satisfy that desire
– Problem here is that “the explanations proffered are perfectly consistent with Jane feeling no emotion at all” (p. 39)
– Q: Epiphenomenalism about qualia of emotions?; cf. Chalmers’s complaint about ignoring the ‘hard problem’
– Leads on to discussion of add-on theories which hold that action done out of emotion is just the feelingless belief/desires/actions with some feeling added-on
– Goldie thinks this is implausible because “when an action is done out of an emotion, the whole action, and the experience of the action, is fundamentally different” (p. 40)
– Q: How would we know whether this was true or not? Doesn’t this beg the question against the add-on theorist? The experience could be funda- mentally different without the underlying action changing.
– This is very important to Goldie’s account; again needs explanation of the ‘feeling towards’ idea
4 Feeling towards
• (More in Ch. 3 but we need it)
• Taylor: “I am afraid of the snake because its bite is poisonous and poison would harm me” (p. 45)
• Goldie rightly says this looks implausible. He doesn’t say that people are afraid also of non-poisonous snakes but this is the case
• He does say that what “really comes first is the emotional response itself – the feeling of fear towards the snake – and not the thought that its bite is poisonous and the thought that poison would harm me” (p. 45)
• Emotions are more ‘primitive’ than thoughts. Q: Seems right, but how are we cashing out primitive?
• Q: Could you get both the emotion and the thought simultaneously?
• Q: Can Taylor construct a response which says that some people are afraid of all snakes because in the evolutionary environment, some snakes were poisonous and it was adaptive to be afraid of all of them? Is the fear today somehow directed on that original snake?
• Q: Is the thought tacit? (if that makes any sense) – stemming from a tacit belief perhaps better
• Goldie: “emotional feeling towards an object (typically towards the object of the emotion) is a feeling towards that thing as being a particular way or of having certain properties” (p. 58)
• Q: Cf. Frege again: sense and reference in emotional intentionality?
• Q: What is it when it is atypical?
• Q: What ways and properties? If I am happy about Santa, does that mean that Santa has a happy-making property? Presumably not, because that then risks being a virtus dormitiva non-explanation. But if not that then what?
• Stocker’s example cited with approval: “before I fell on the ice I recognised its dangers, but then I had ‘only an intellectual appreciation of the very same dangers [. . . ] Then I only saw the dangers, now I also feel them’ ” (p. 59)
• Q: Doesn’t this look precisely like an add-on theory? It’s the ‘very same’ dangers after all
• Finally, note that Goldie declares himself to be a Jane Heal-type simulation theorist (p. 177), so maybe he needs to be careful about rules