In Search for the Rationality of Moods

In Laura Candiotto (ed.), The Value of Emotions for Knowledge. Springer Verlag. pp. 281-296 (2019)
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What it is about mood, as a specific type of affect, that makes it not easily amenable to standard models of rationality? It is commonly assumed that the cognitive rationality of an affective state is somehow depended upon how that state is related to what the state is about, its so called intentional object; but, given that moods do not seem to bear an intentional relation to an object, it is hard to see how they can be in the offing for rational assessment. In the first part of the paper I outline three ways of attributing intentionality to moods, raising for each one of them a series of problems, thus casting doubt on the viability of an intentionalist grounding for the rationality of moods. I then move to an examination of the view of moods as background feelings, which are intimately related to how we perceive the world; however, in my view, that approach fails to provide standards of assessment that would permit appraising the mood itself as rational or irrational. Finally, I look at an account of moods as mechanisms whose function is to monitor the balance between environmental demands and one’s physical or psychological resources. That is a promising way to proceed in our exploration of mood states; it faces though some formidable phenomenological challenges. All in all, defending the rationality of moods calls for a rethinking of the assumptions that are prevalent in the current literature over the representational dimension of affective states.



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Anthony Hatzimoysis
National and Kapodistrian University of Athens