Making sense of actions expressing emotions

Dialectica 61 (3):447–466 (2007)
Abstract
Actions expressing emotions pose a notorious challenge to those concerned with the rational explanation of action. The standard view has it that an agent's desires and means‐end beliefs rationally explain his actions, in the sense that his desire‐belief conglomerates are seen as reasons for which he acts. In light of this view, philosophers are divided on the question of whether actions expressing emotions fall short of being rational, or whether the standard model simply needs to be revised to accommodate them as rational. In this paper, I will show that a core class of actions expressing emotions can be explained as rational, yet not within the framework of the standard model. Instead, such actions can be thought of as grounded in reasons provided by the evaluative perspective that an agent has acquired over time, and by which he has come to identify himself. What moves him to act expressively is the fact that he faces rational pressure to revise or re‐affirm his ongoing evaluative perspective in light of changes in his environment that call that very perspective into question. Such expressive actions serve the function of helping the agent re‐adapt to the environment and re‐establish coherence within his evaluative perspective so as to avoid inner division
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