A Kantian Account of Emotions as Feelings1

Mind 129 (514):429-460 (2020)
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The aim of this paper is to extract from Kant's writings an account of the nature of the emotions and their function – and to do so despite the fact that Kant neither uses the term ‘emotion’ nor offers a systematic treatment of it. Kant's position, as I interpret it, challenges the contemporary trends that define emotions in terms of other mental states and defines them instead first and foremost as ‘feelings’. Although Kant's views on the nature of feelings have drawn surprisingly little attention, I argue that the faculty of feeling has the distinct role of making us aware of the way our faculties relate to each other and to the world. As I show, feelings are affective appraisals of our activity, and as such they play an indispensable orientational function in the Kantian mind. After spelling out Kant's distinction between feeling and desire, I turn to the distinction between feeling and cognition and show that while feelings are non-cognitive states, they have a form of derived-intentionality. §4 argues that what feelings are about, in this derived sense, is our relationship to ourselves and the world: they function as affective appraisals of the state of our agency. §5 shows that this function is necessary to the activity of the mind insofar as it is orientational. Finally, §6 discusses the examples of epistemic pleasure and moral contentment and argues that they manifest the conditions of cognitive and moral agency respectively.

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Author's Profile

Alix Cohen
University of Edinburgh

Citations of this work

Emotion.Charlie Kurth - 2022 - New York, NY: Routledge.
Kant on Moral Respect.Anastasia Berg - 2021 - Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 103 (4):730-760.
The Aesthetic Enkratic Principle.Irene Martínez Marín - 2023 - British Journal of Aesthetics 63 (2):251–268.
Kant on Common Sense and Empirical Concepts.Janum Sethi - 2022 - Kantian Review 27 (2):257-277.

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References found in this work

The emotions: a philosophical introduction.Julien A. Deonna & Fabrice Teroni - 2012 - New York: Routledge. Edited by Fabrice Teroni.
The Concept of Mind.Gilbert Ryle - 1949 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 141:125-126.

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