Emotion, Perception, and Natural Kinds

Biological Theory 7 (2):153-161 (2013)
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The question addressed in this paper is whether particular emotional experiences or episodes of an emotion (such as two experiences of happiness) belong to a natural kind. The final answer to this question is that although some, even many, single episodes of an emotion may group into a natural kind, belonging to a natural kind is a highly contextual matter. The proposal relies on two premises. First, a conception of natural kind-hood that follows Boyd’s Homeostatic Property Cluster Theory. Second, a view of emotional episodes that fits with the External Theory of Perception: typical emotional episodes are perceptual experiences of emotional affordances. After pointing out what candidates for emotional homeostatic properties could be like and suggesting some examples of emotional homeostatic mechanisms, the authors conclude that there are property clusters of emotional perceptions stabilized by homeostatic mechanisms. In spite of this, what counts as an emotional natural kind depends on many factors, not all of them natural: world properties, bodily and mental states of the agent, learning mechanisms that help us to satisfactorily navigate in the world, cultural differences that determine our perceptual style, as well as different interests which guide the explanation and prediction of emotional episodes.



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