There has recently been something of a resurgence of interest in the
emotions within analytic philosophy, and Peter Goldies collection is a welcome
contribution to this movement. It comprises seven papers arising from a
conference at the University of Londons School of Advanced Studies, as well as
a lengthy introductory article. As the subtitle suggests, these range across a
number of areas in philosophy, primarily epistemology, mind and ethics. There
is no specific issue focused upon; instead, the collection is suggestive of a
philosophical tradition rediscovering a neglected phenomenon. The collection is
to be commended: it raises the profile of the emotions in Anglo-American
analytic philosophy, and succeeds in integrating the emotions into live debates
in mind and ethics.
This book will not be for everyone. Many of the papers will seem rather
dry to those unfamiliar with analytic philosophy and its longstanding neglect
of the emotions. In a similar way, anyone hoping for a systematic account of
the emotions will be disappointed; a number of the contributions spend little
time on the emotions, focusing rather on their relevance to issues within the
analytic tradition. It is not the aim of the book to provide the reader with an
easy way into recent analytic worka better introduction would be Peter
Goldies other recent book, The Emotions:
A Philosophical Exploration (Oxford 2000).
Given the range of issues represented here, it is worthwhile outlining
each of the papers. This should serve to demonstrate that most readers should
find at least something of interest, even if one may not wish to spend time on
all of the papers.
The introduction, by Peter Goldie and Finn Spicer, is helpful, but is
also something of a missed opportunity. It does provide a good account of the
recent history of the emotions within the analytical tradition, and helpfully
outlines the reasons why they have been sidelined. Prominent amongst these is
the thought that the emotions stand in the way of rational deliberationthey
interfere with the workings of reason guided action, as Barry C. Smith puts
it in his contribution (p. 112). Whether this belief is justified is discussed
in a number of the following papers, notably those by Morton and Stocker. The
introduction also provides a summary of some of the recent literature in
philosophy and elsewhere, this constituting a useful background to the various
Nevertheless, one might have hoped for more. The account of the
geography of the area is somewhat brief, and not as much time is spent locating
the various contributions as could have been. One reason for this is that the
introductions authors appear to have an agenda of their own. Rather than just
providing a background for the following papers, they advocate a particular
approach under which we can call the emotion a substance (p. 4). This approach does not feature in any of the
subsequent discussions, and appears as little more than a thumbnail sketch
here. It might have been profitably set aside for detailed discussion
Another problemalbeit an understandable oneconcerns the lack of any
clear account of which mental and behavioral states or dispositions are to
count as emotions. Examples of emotions range from intellectual curiosity to
courage and fear, with little to explain what counts and what does not (for
example, what is merely a sensation, or a behavioral disposition). Michael
Stocker notes that there is disagreement concerning what counts as an emotion,
and calls this an uninteresting matter of classification (p. 68). While there
is some truth to this, in a book focusing on the emotions we might expect a
clearer picture of the subject matter to emerge.
Moving on to the individual contributions, Bill Brewer is concerned with
the connection between the experience of emotion and the behavior typical of
emotional states. This is related to a particular conceptual problem of other
minds: given that ones being in an emotional state is detected and possibly
constituted by ones subjective experiential state, how do we make sense of the
ascription of such emotional states to others?
Part of the answer comes by noting the central role of behavior here.
Brewer draws upon William James account of emotional experience, and attempts
to address a defect that he finds there. James suggested that emotional
experience is simply the experience of the bodily changes typical of the
emotional state. To feel fear, for example, is just to experience a heightened
pulse, muscular contraction caused by the release of adrenaline and
noradrenaline into your bloodstream, and so on. Brewer concurs with this aspect
of James account, but argues that the account is inadequate as it stands, due
to the fact that it fails to explain the fact that emotions can be directed
towards a particular object. One does not just feel afraidone feels afraid of
the stranger approaching in the unlit alley.
Brewers aim, then, is to provide an account of emotional experience
that ascribes a suitable role to behavior, allows for the intensional aspect of
the experience, and avoids the conceptual problem of other minds noted above.
He attempts this by giving an account that ascribes a central role to an
object, and by tying this object to ones behavior:
(F1) to be frightening is to be thus;
(F2) experiences of being afraid are precisely those which present something in
a certain light, as frightening, that is, as being thus,
where the referent of the behavioral demonstrative figuring in (F1) is the
property, roughly speaking, of eliciting certain behavior in the subject (p.
Daniel Huttos paper is, to a large extent, a response to Brewers. He
argues that Brewers account falls foul of the conceptual problem of other
minds, as it remains unhelpfully tied to an individualistic model of concept
learning (p. 40). The worry is that Brewer gives an account of concept
acquisition that fails to unite the experiential and behavioral aspects of emotional
concepts in the way necessary for one to make sense of the idea that another
can be in the same emotional state as oneself.
In response to this,
Hutto provides an alternative account of concept learning based on Donald
Davidsons account of triangulation. His account is centered on the idea that
we must share with others of our species an ability to attend preconceptually
to features of the world and recognize other similar beings as doing the same.
This intersubjective attending can act as the common ground, which enables us
to acquire emotion concepts that can be ascribed to others as well as oneself.
Huttos paper will be of significant value and interest to those
interested in epistemological issues surrounding the acquisition of concepts,
but may be of less interest to those concerned solely with the emotions. There
is surprisingly little mention of these in the paper, and this, along with its
location early in the book, will not help to endear the book to anyone hostile
to (or skeptical of) the analytic tradition. Nevertheless, those in this
situation should persevere, as the remaining papers merit attention.
The next contribution, from Adam Morton, moves to the area of ethics,
and is a dialogue between two characters, Adam and Eve. The former character
(presumably the voice of the author) argues against seeing the emotions as a
source of self-knowledge. Drawing upon Ronald de Sousas work, the paper
suggests that to feel an emotion is to see oneself as occupying a particular
role in a particular kind of story (p. 56). Seeing oneself through the
clouding influence of emotional thinking in this way is potentially
misleading; the emotions are more likely to obscure the facts of ones
situation than to reveal them.
As should be clear,
Morton (or, at least, his character Adam), concurs with the recent historical
trend of seeing the emotions as standing in the way of rational thought (as
mentioned above). When under the influence of an emotion, one is inclined to
see events from a centered perspectivesuch thought and experience lacks an
objectivity or impartiality that is desirable and, in Mortons account, related
to the possession of virtue.
The dialogue form employed here might similarly be thought to stand in
the way of critical engagement. Its value is not obvious, and it serves
primarily to make Mortons arguments rather more opaque than they might
otherwise have been.
contribution takes an opposing line to Mortons. The paper is concerned with a number of interrelated issues
concerning emotions and values. The largest part of the discussion relates to
issues in moral epistemology, and argues for the thought that emotions
constitute a central route by which we come to detect and recognize value. This
thought, familiar within the Aristotelian tradition, stands in direct contrast
to Mortons thesis, as outlined above.
In support of the claim that the emotions play a key role in the
evaluative judgments we make, Stocker cites a wealth of empirical evidence
drawn from psychology and psychoanalysis. In this context, he draws the
readers attention to an interesting range of cases in which, it is suggested,
a subjects emotional state has a debilitating effect on his/her ability to
assess the situation, or to understand him/herself or others.
A woman who because of grandiosity feels responsible for the well-being
of the entire family, to such an extent that she feels guilty for all
unhappiness suffered by her children (p. 71)
Such claims are not, of course, uncontroversial, but Stocker makes a
good case for the general claim.
A further theme is that emotions are not only a central epistemic route
to value, but also can be partly constitutive of value. A lack of emotion can,
in some instances, be a moral fault, as when one fails to feel remorse in an
appropriate situation. Presumably, the converse can also be truefeeling
excessively emotional might be blameworthy, for example when one is required to
be objective or clinical in ones opinions (jury service might provide one
Remaining in the moral arena, Simon Blackburns paper asks How
Emotional is the Virtuous Person? The paper concerns the debate between
rationalists, who hold that to have a reason for something involves the
apprehension of a reason, and expressivists, who hold that it is to have an
attitude or passion akin to desire (p. 82).
Focusing on desire, Blackburn draws upon a passage from Augustine, and
Does the pull of the will and of love get reflected by the belief that
some things need doing? Or does reason require us to believe that some things
and thereby exert
rational control over the direction that the pull and the will of love takes?
Blackburn can be seen as rejecting both positions represented by Morton
and Stocker above. Accounts of the kind endorsed by Morton generally hold that
emotions prevent one apprehending reasons - they prevent the kind of cool,
detached apprehension of the facts traditionally favored by the post-Cartesian
rationalist. Stocker, on the other hand, holds that emotions are ways of
apprehending reasons. Against both of these, Blackburn rejects the rationalist
assumption in favor of the expressivist position. He holds that to have a
reason is not to apprehend that something is the case, but rather to desire
something. To take this line is to give a positive answer to the first question
asked above and a negative answer to the second.
Although Blackburns paper is not focused on the emotions, it does
provide an answer to the titular question. Given that on the expressivist
account, to have a reason to do x is
just to desire that x, the virtuous
person must have desires. In fact, the virtuous person is exactly as emotional
as the rest of us (p. 95). The difference lies in the fact that the desires of
the virtuous are aimed at the correct targets.
Peter Goldies paper marks a return to epistemological territory with a
discussion of our ability to predict and explain the emotional states and
responses of others. He argues that the
imagination can have little role to play in this areaidentifying how someone
will react to an action is not a matter of imaginative identification with that
person. Simulation, while potentially useful as a predictive and explanatory
tool for other unemotional behavior, does not play a central role with respect
to the emotional states of others. This is because individuals emotional
responses vary wildly, and any attempt to put oneself in the shoes of another
is in danger of making an unjust presupposition of identity concerning the
range of emotional responses in the two cases.
Instead, it is argued that one must have a body of information about
how people generally act, as well as information about the subjects particular
character. The more information available here, the more likely that one will
be able to predict the subjects emotional responses. This body of information
is not, it should be noted, a theoryfor
familiar reasons, Goldie rejects the idea that there can be laws of human behavior
as there are scientific laws. Goldie, then, might be expected to reject the
suggestion that he holds a theory-theory of emotional understanding, if (the
first) theory is read in this scientistic way.
Goldie does allow some role for the imagination, though. He argues that
acentral imaginingimagining, that is, from no point of viewcan allow us to
construct predictive narratives about the behavior of others. Such imagining
employs the body of information, and is can be seen as a means of applying this
information on Goldies account.
The concluding paper, by Barry C. Smith, is again epistemological in
focus. He draws our attention to the failure on the part of most contemporary
theories of folk psychology to leave any explanatory space whatsoever for the
emotions. He argues for a place for the emotions in rational psychology, and
justifies this by noting the place that the emotions have in the day-to-day
judging of others. Smith also claims that we cannot treat emotions as a
particular variety of sensation; although certain emotional states (such as
joy) might be predominantly sensational, there are others that appear to have a
more dispositional nature.
The second half of Smiths paper comprises a discussion of the range of
emotional phenomena and a suggestion to the effect that Goldie fails to grant a
sufficient place to ones own emotions in our understanding of the emotional
states of others. The roles played by the emotions in understanding oneself,
others, and the world are many and varied, and if we are to give any systematic
account of these we must distinguish between those emotions which are stable
over time and the emotional outbursts that may well restrict rational
As the preceding will hopefully have suggested, this volume is a
worthwhile contribution to the growing literature on the emotions. The
disparate nature of the papers should serve to demonstrate the richness of the
emotions as a topic of study, and well as to indicate the amount of work still
needing doing within Anglo-American philosophy. I would expect this book to be
of real influence in directing future work within this area.
2003 Chris Lindsay
Lindsay teaches philosophy at the University of Glasgow, Scotland.