The nature and value of emotion.
PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.
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"What is the nature of emotional states"? This thesis attempts to answer that question, by offering a "cognitive" theory of the emotions. That is; it emphasises the cognitive component of emotional states, and therefore argues that theories of emotion which regard them as falling outwith the category of the rational are mistaken. Against some current versions of cognitivism, however, I argue that the cognitive element is not a belief. The alternative account offered here argues that the cognitive element should be thought of as a "seeing-as".
This account of the nature of emotional states leads to two further points. Firstly, it suggests an account of why emotional states are valuable. In elaborating such an account, I defend the claim that emotions offer a distinct kind of cognitive grasp not afforded by mere belief. I then consider an Aristotelian defence of this point in terms of the relationship between emotion and character. This sort of defence, I claim, is, however only partially successful; there remains a class of emotions whose value cannot be assessed in terms of the contribution they make to character. The second main point for which I argue is that psychological explanation generally must allow room for cognitive states other than belief. One result of a failure to do so, is, I claim, an inaccurate conception of the nature of rationality. In addition, a failure to acknowledge the role of other cognitive states leads to a tendency to ignore a range of types of conflict, both between emotional and beliefs and, more generally, between beliefs and other cognitive states. Lastly, I claim that, given the forgoing account of emotional understanding, we can see how the experience of artworks can offer understanding and contribute to the process of emotional education.
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