Feeling the Unknown: Emotions of Uncertainty and Their Valence

Erkenntnis 89 (4):1275-1294 (2022)
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For creatures like us, entertaining possible future scenarios of how our life might play out is often accompanied or “charged” with emotions like hope and anxiety. What will interest me in this article is whether the epistemic profile of hope and anxiety, and in particular the fact that they are directed at uncertain outcomes, might pose a threat to the stability of their valence. Hope and anxiety are not emotions which relate us to evaluative properties of actual events, they relate us to evaluative properties of relevant possibilities (Gordon, 1969; Kurth, 2018; Benton, 2019). I will present and discuss two philosophical accounts according to which hope and anxiety do not have a proprietary and consistent valence. According to the first account, anxiety is an intrinsically ambivalent emotion, as a result of involving an awareness of conflicting possibilities or ways in which the future might unfold (Miceli and Castelfranchi, 2015). According to the second, hope is not a strictly positive emotion, as certain specific occurrences of hope are negatively valenced (Stockdale, 2019). Finally, I argue that an evaluative theory of valence helps us clearly conceive of hope and anxiety as two polar opposite experiences of uncertainty.



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Author's Profile

Juliette Vazard
University of Toronto, St. George Campus

References found in this work

The Emotions.Nico H. Frijda - 1986 - Cambridge University Press.
The emotions: a philosophical introduction.Julien A. Deonna & Fabrice Teroni - 2012 - New York: Routledge. Edited by Fabrice Teroni.
Emotions, Value, and Agency.Christine Tappolet - 2016 - Oxford: Oxford University Press UK.

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