Being emotional about the past: On the nature and role of past-directed emotions

Noûs 41 (4):758-779 (2007)
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Abstract

We sometimes experience emotions which are directed at past events (or situations) which we witnessed at the time when they occurred (or obtained). The present paper explores the role which such "autobiographically past-directed emotions" (or "APD-emotions") play in a subject's mental life. A defender of the "Memory-Claim" holds that an APD-emotion is a memory, namely a memory of the emotion which the subject experienced at the time when the event originally occurred (or the situation obtained) towards which the APD-emotion is directed. On this view, APD-emotions might play an important role in our acquiring knowledge about our own past emotions, which renders the view rather attractive. However, as I show in the present paper, none of the various possible versions of the Memory-Claim are tenable. This leaves us with the "Universal-New-Emotion-Claim", according to which all APD-emotions are new emotional responses to the past events (or situations) towards which the relevant APD-emotions are directed. Further consideration of the "Universal-New-Emotion-Claim" shows that while APD-emotions do not play the epistemological role they could have played had some version of the Memory-Claim turned out to be true, a subject's APD-emotions nevertheless do play a vital role in a subject's mental life: they help the subject to develop a balanced sense of self

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Dorothea Debus
University of York

Citations of this work

Memory.Kourken Michaelian & John Sutton - 2017 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Depression, Guilt and Emotional Depth.Matthew Ratcliffe - 2010 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 53 (6):602-626.
Nostalgia.S. A. Howard - 2012 - Analysis 72 (4):641-650.

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References found in this work

The Principles of Psychology.William James - 1890 - London, England: Dover Publications.
A treatise of human nature.David Hume & D. G. C. Macnabb (eds.) - 1977 - New York: Dutton.
The Emotions: A Philosophical Exploration.Peter Goldie - 2000 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.

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