In Luc Faucher & Christine Tappolet (eds.), The Modularity of Emotions. University of Calgary Press. pp. 255-272 (2007)
As topics in the philosophy of emotion, pleasure and displeasure get less than their fair share of attention. On the one hand, there is the fact that pleasure and displeasure are given no role at all in many theories of the emotions, and secondary roles in many others.1 On the other, there is the centrality of pleasure and displeasure to being emotional. A woman who tears up because of a blustery wind, while an ill-advised burrito weighs heavily upon her digestive tract, feels an impressive number of the sensations felt by someone who is gut-wrenchingly sad. Yet, unless she feels bad, the way she feels is only a pale echo of the feeling of sadness. If she feels good in spite of the burrito and the wind, then she does not feel at all the way she would if she were sad. Likewise, a man falling asleep can hardly fail to feel his muscles relax, his heart rate fall, and so on, but unless he feels good his state is only a shadow of feeling content. This paper will begin with a sketch of the nature of pleasure and displeasure, and the relation between them and the feelings that are characteristic of emotions. It will then argue that the capacity to feel pleased and displeased is, quite literally, a sense modality: one allowing us to perceive net change in the satisfaction of our intrinsic desires. As with any sense modality, the capacity to feel pleased and displeased displays substantial modularity. The paper concludes by considering the ways in which the modularity of pleasure and displeasure contributes to effects that might reasonably be called “the modularity of the emotions.”
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