Emotions as Pleasure/Pain Responses to Evaluative Judgments: A Modern, Aristotelian View

Dissertation, The Claremont Graduate University (1999)
Abstract
Theories of emotion are typically classified according to which of four elements of emotion the theory considers to be essential: inner feeling or affect; evaluative cognition; bodily changes; and action-tendency. This dissertation argues for a "comprehensive" theory, i.e., a theory that recognizes all four elements to be essential. ;It extends Aristotle's comprehensive theory and his view of the role of emotions in practical thought and in action by arguing that emotions are a certain type of Aristotelian pleasure/pain. If pleasure/pain is a concomitant of unimpeded/impeded activity involving cognition, emotions are impeded/unimpeded activities involving not just sense-perception but evaluative thought, i.e., thought towards pursuing goals. For example, fear is a pain-response to the implicit thought that "something is about to harm me and I don't know if I can prevent it." This thought is an impeded activity, namely the activity of mentally managing the pursuit of one's life-projects. And its concomitant is fear-pain: a feeling and an action-tendency to attend to and stop this activity of being confronted with a threat. ;This view yields the following results: How are mental and bodily factors united in emotions? Brain-based thought processes trigger the physiological pleasure/pain process, which has mental aspects to it. How does thought shape future emotions? Each time a person goes through a thought process leading her to act, she reshapes in at least a small way her future emotions. How does emotion contribute to rational thought? Factoring out the thought errors that emotions may contain, emotions push us to pursue unimpeded life-activities and to avoid impeded ones, in the same way that physical pleasure and pain do, except that emotions give us information not about merely bodily needs, but about the needs of consciousness. What explains psychological conflict? Conflicts are not of reason vs. emotion, rather of thoughts/emotions of a conscious context vs. thoughts/emotions of a repressed context
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