Emotions, moods, and intentionality

Under the general heading of what we might loosely call emotional states, a familiar distinction can be drawn between emotions (strictly so-called) and moods. In order to judge under which of these headings a subject’s emotional episode falls, we advance a question of the form: What is the subject’s emotion of or about? In some cases (for example fear, sadness, and anger) the provision of an answer is straightforward: the subject is afraid of the loose tiger, or sad about England’s poor performance in the World Cup, or angry with her errant child. Although the ways we find natural to talk in such situations can alter (afraid of, sad about, angry with, and so on), in each case the emotion has what Ronald de Sousa, following Wittgenstein, calls a target—“an actual particular to which that emotion relates.” (de Sousa, 1987, p.116).
Keywords Emotion  Intentionality  Mood
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