William James Studies 16 (1):01-25 (2020)

Jake Spinella
University of Illinois, Chicago
I argue, contra traditional interpretations of James's emotion theory like Antonio Damasio and alternative interpretations like Phoebe Ellsworth and Lisa Barrett, that James is best classified as a functionalist regarding emotion categories. In arguing for this point, I will make four textual claims: (1) James was an important precursor to Basic Emotion Theory (BET) and his theory is best identified as a flavor of BET; (2) James's theory individuates emotion categories by their evolutionary, functional roles; (3) The only necessary condition on something being an emotion is that it is a bodily feeling; and, (4) Contrary to Barrett and Ellsworth, James was loath to offer a definitive list of basic emotions not because he loathed taxonomy but rather because he thought psychology was not yet a natural science with well-defined theoretical categories. I close by arguing that a proper understanding of James's emotion theory defangs some critiques of BET and of Neo-Jamesian theory.
Keywords emotion  philosophy of psychology  American Pragmatism  William James
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References found in this work BETA

The Physical Basis of Emotion.William James - 1994 - Psychological Review 101 (2):205-210.
The Feeling of Effort.W. James - 1880 - Mind 5:582.

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