Norms for emotions: Biological functions and representational contents

Normative standards are often applied to emotions. Are there normative standards that apply to emotions in virtue solely of facts about their nature? I will argue that the answer is no. The psychological, behavioural, and neurological evidence suggests that emotions are representational brain states with various kinds of biological functions. Facts about biological functions are not (and do not by themselves entail) normative facts. Hence, there are no nor- mative standards that apply to emotions just in virtue of their having various kinds of biolog- ical functions. Moreover, the peculiar features of emotions make the view that representational content is essentially normative very implausible. Hence, the representational properties of emotions cannot be seen as entailing normative standards. The conclusion is that there are no normative standards that apply to emotions solely in virtue of their nature. Ó 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords Biology  Content  Emotion  Function  Norm  Representation  Science
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DOI 10.1016/j.shpsc.2005.07.007
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Tyler Burge (1979). Individualism and the Mental. Midwest Studies in Philosophy 4 (1):73-122.
Robert C. Cummins (1975). Functional Analysis. Journal of Philosophy 72 (November):741-64.
Ralph Wedgwood (2002). The Aim of Belief. Philosophical Perspectives 16 (s16):267-97.

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