The cognitive philosophy of emotion

SOME INITIAL QUESTIONS FOR THE ASPIRING EMOTION THEORIST EARLY THEORIES OF EMOTION: THE GREEK

PHILOSOPHERS THE PLATONIC MODEL OF EMOTION THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE FEELING THEORY

OF EMOTIONS: RENÉ DESCARTES THE PSYCHOLOGISING OF FEELING THEORY:

WILLIAM JAMES THE BEHAVIOURIST THEORY OF EMOTIONS THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE COGNITIVE ACCOUNT OF EMOTIONS: ARISTOTLE, AQUINAS, AND SPINOZA TWENTIETH-CENTURY COGNITIVE

ACCOUNTS OF EMOTION SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS

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Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

(George Santayana)

The present chapter is something of an express train ride through the historical and philosophical developments in our understanding of emotion and, to some extent, of cognition. Unlike the slow train, which stops at every station no matter how remote the village or infrequent the passengers, the current journey only pauses at the main towns, concerning itself with the major contributions to our appreciation of cognition and emotion. Inevitably, any definition of what constitutes a major contribution is partly subjective, but we hope that the work reviewed in this chapter represents a consensus of opinion about the central ideas in the literature.

Theories of emotion are almost always sub-texts of much larger theories of mind (Lyons, 1980, 1999). Those who seek to describe and explain the mind as a cognitive system generally subscribe to a cognitive theory of emotions. Similarly, behaviourists advocate a behaviourist theory, dualists a dualist theory, and so on. The majority of the models and theories of emotion outlined in this chapter, and in the two that follow, reflect our belief that the cognitive theory of mind offers the best framework within which to understand emotion phenomena. Consequently, non-cognitive theories of emotion are considered in less detail. This neglect is not meant to imply that these models are the remote villages referred to above, rather they are large towns on altogether different train journeys. Nevertheless, it remains important for a number of reasons to at least outline the principal non-cognitive theories of emotion that have held sway at various times. First, it is useful to point out the problems with such theories and, consequently, to propose reasons why a cognitive approach can overcome these difficulties. Second, it would be very difficult to communicate a sense of how cognitive theories of emotion have developed historically without some discussion of their critics and opponents.

One problem arises immediately for this proposed endeavour, namely that of attempting to present a theory of emotion in isolation from the overarching theory of mind under which it resides. For example, any discussion of Descartes' ideas on the subject of the passions has a slightly hollow ring without at least some appreciation of Cartesian dualism and its implications. Perhaps more importantly, many of the criticisms of certain approaches to emotion are, in essence, criticisms of the philosophy of mind that they represent. While not wishing to avoid this particular nettle, it is not easy to grasp it in the space of a single chapter. What we have tried to do is give something of the flavour of the alternative philosophies of mind in so far as they apply to the emotions. In addition, we have noted those criticisms that are directed at philosophies in their entirety, without going into detail or providing "proofs" of the arguments; instead we refer the reader to more exhaustive alternative sources.

Having stated a priori that we are principally concerned with a cognitive approach to emotions, it seems incumbent on us to offer some a priori definition or conceptualisation of what we mean when we use the terms "cognitive" and "emotion" (see Chapter 1). However, we have elected to resist this temptation in the hope that an understanding of these concepts will emerge through the course of this chapter, and to some extent the next; after all every train journey must have a destination. Similarly, every journey must have a beginning, so it seems reasonable to consider what sort of questions any comprehensive theory of emotions would need to address.

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