Are emotions perceptions of value?

Canadian Journal of Philosophy 43 (2):227-247 (2013)
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A popular idea at present is that emotions are perceptions of values. Most defenders of this idea have interpreted it as the perceptual thesis that emotions present (rather than merely represent) evaluative states of affairs in the way sensory experiences present us with sensible aspects of the world. We argue against the perceptual thesis. We show that the phenomenology of emotions is compatible with the fact that the evaluative aspect of apparent emotional contents has been incorporated from outside. We then deal with the only two views that can make sense of the perceptual thesis. On the response–dependence view, emotional experiences present evaluative responsedependent properties (being fearsome, being disgusting, etc.) in the way visual experiences present response-dependent properties such as colors. On the response–independence view, emotional experiences present evaluative response-independent properties (being dangerous, being indigestible, etc.), conceived as ‘Gestalten’ independent of emotional feelings themselves. We show that neither view can make plausible the idea that emotions present values as such, i.e., in an open and transparent way. If emotions have apparent evaluative contents, this is in fact due to evaluative enrichments of the non-evaluative presentational contents of emotions.



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Stéphane Lemaire
University of Rennes 1

Citations of this work

Emotions as Attitudes.Julien A. Deonna & Fabrice Teroni - 2015 - Dialectica 69 (3):293-311.
Emotion.Ronald de Sousa - 2007 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Epistemic perceptualism and neo-sentimentalist objections.Robert Cowan - 2016 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 46 (1):59-81.

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What We Owe to Each Other.Thomas Scanlon - 1998 - Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Mind and World.John McDowell - 1994 - Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
The Emotions.Nico H. Frijda - 1986 - Cambridge University Press.
What We Owe to Each Other.Thomas Scanlon - 2002 - Mind 111 (442):323-354.

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