Towards a grammar of emotions

New Universities Quarterly 36 (3):230-238 (1982)
My favourite leading question when teaching Philosophy of Mind is ‘Could a goldfish long for its mother?’ This introduces the philosophical technique of ‘conceptual analysis’, essential for the study of mind (Sloman 1978, ch. 4). By analysing what we mean by ‘A longs for B’, and similar descriptions of emotional states we see that they inv olve rich cognitive structures and processes, i.e. computations. Anything which could long for its mother, would have to hav e some sort of representation of its mother, would have to believe that she is not in the vicinity, would have to be able to represent the _possibility _of being close to her, would have to desire that possibility, and would have to be to some extent pre-occupied or obsessed with that desire. That is, it should intrude into and interfere with other activities, like admiring the scenery, catching smaller fish, etc. If the desire were there, but could be calmly put aside, whilst other interests were pursued, then it would not be truly a state of longing. It might be a state of preferring. Thus longing involves computational interrupts. The same seems to be true of all emotions
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