How Emotions do not Provide Reasons to Act

Philosophia 46 (3):555-574 (2018)
Mary Carman
University of the Witwatersrand
If emotions provide reasons for action through their intentional content, as is often argued, where does this leave the role of the affective element of an emotion? Can it be more than a motivator and have significant bearing of its own on our emotional actions, as actions done for reasons? One way it can is through reinforcing other reasons that we might have, as Greenspan argues. Central to Greenspan’s account is the claim that the affective discomfort of an emotion, as a fact about the agent’s state of being, provides an additional normative reason to act to alleviate the state. This, I argue, is not correct, nor is it the best way to understand emotions as reason-reinforcers. In this paper, I thus do two things: I provide an examination of how and why the affect of emotion could provide reasons to act to alleviate it and I propose that the real way emotions reinforce reasons is through the way they orient our attention onto things that matter, registering them as salient.
Keywords emotions  practical reasons  affect  affective discomfort  Greenspan
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DOI 10.1007/s11406-017-9896-y
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References found in this work BETA

What We Owe to Each Other.Thomas Scanlon - 2000 - Mind 111 (442):323-354.
What is an Emotion?William James - 1884 - Mind 9 (34):188-205.
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Emotions: An Essay In Aid of Moral Psychology.Robert C. Roberts - 2003 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 7 (5):551-553.

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