Sartre, James, and the Transformative Power of Emotion


In Sketch for a Theory of the Emotions, Sartre highlights how emotions can transform our perspective on the world in ways that might make our situations more bearable when we cannot see an easy or happy way out. The point of this chapter is to spell out and discuss Sartre’s theory of emotion as presented in the Sketch with two aims in mind. The first is to show that although emotions have the power to transform our perspectives on the world in ways described by Sartre, Sartre is mistaken to think emotions comprise the cognitive transformations in question. The second aim is to show why on one plausible way of thinking about the relationship holding between emotions and the cognitive transformations they help to bring about, emotions turn out to be the very sort of things that Sartre claims at the outset they are not, namely types of bodily feelings or sensations, a view of emotion that can be credited to William James.



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Demian Whiting
University of Hull

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