One difficulty in understanding recent debates is that not only have many terms been used to refer to weakness of will – “akrasia” and “incontinence” have often been used as synonyms of “weakness of will” – but quite different phenomena have been discussed in the literature. This is why the present entry starts with taxonomic considerations. The second section turns to the question of whether it is possible to freely and intentionally act against one’s better judgment.
Ethical thought is articulated around normative concepts. Standard examples of normative concepts are good, reason, right, ought, and obligatory. Theorists often treat the normative as an undifferentiated domain. Even so, it is common to distinguish between two kinds of normative concepts: evaluative or axiological concepts, such as good, and deontic concepts, such as ought. This encyclopedia entry discusses the many differences between the two kinds of concepts.
In reply to Geach's objection against expressivism, some have claimed that there is a plurality of truth predicates. I raise a difficulty for this claim: valid inferences can involve sentences assessable by any truth predicate, corresponding to 'lightweight' truth as well as to 'heavyweight' truth. To account for this, some unique truth predicate must apply to all sentences that can appear in inferences. Mixed inferences remind us of a central platitude about truth: truth is what is preserved in valid inferences. (...) The question is why we should postulate truth predicates that do not satisfy this platitude. (shrink)
Mixed inferences are a problem for those who want to combine truth-assessability and antirealism with respect to allegedly nondescriptive sentences: the classical account of validity has apparently to be given up. J.C. Beall's response is that validity can be defined as the conservation of designated valued (Beall 2000). I argue that since it presupposes a truth predicate that can be applied to all sentences, this suggestion is not helpful. I also consider problems arising from mixed conjunctions and discuss the deeper (...) worry that the distinction between truth which does and truth which does not entail realism is inferentially irrelevant. (shrink)
This paper replies to an argument due to Greenspan (1980) and to Morton (2002) against the view that emotions are perceptions of values. The argument holds that this view cannot make room for ambivalent emotions both of which are appropriate, such as when it is appropriate to feel fear and attraction towards something. This would make for a contradiction, for appropriate emotions are supposed to present things as they are. The problem, I argue, is that this line of thoughts forgets (...) that things can have positive and negative aspects: something can both be dangerous and attractive, for instance. (shrink)
Emotions often misfire. We sometimes fear innocuous things, such as spiders or mice, and we do so even if we firmly believe that they are innocuous. This is true of all of us, and not only of phobics, who can be considered to suffer from extreme manifestations of a common tendency. We also feel too little or even sometimes no fear at all with respect to very fearsome things, and we do so even if we believe that they are fearsome. (...) Indeed, instead of shunning fearsome things, we might be attracted to them. Emotions that seem more thought-involving, such as shame, guilt or jealousy, can also misfire. You can be ashamed of your big ears even though we can agree that there is nothing shameful in having big ears, and even though you judge that having big ears does not warrant shame. And of course, it is also possible to experience too little or even no shame at all with respect to something that is really shameful. Many of these cases involve a conflict between one’s emotion and one’s evaluative judgement. Emotions that are thus conflicting with judgement can be called ‘recalcitrant emotions’. The question I am interested in is whether or not recalcitrant emotions amount to emotional illusions, that is, whether or not these cases are sufficiently similar to perceptual illusions to justify the claim that they fall under the same general heading. The answer to this depends on what emotions are. For instance, the view that emotions are evaluative judgments makes it difficult to make room for the claim that emotional errors are perceptual illusions. Fearing an innocuous spider would simply amount to making the error of judging that the spider is fearsome while it is in fact innocuous. This might involve an illusion of some sort, but it certainly does not amount to anything like a perceptual illusion. In this chapter, I argue that recalcitrant emotions are a kind of perceptual illusion.. (shrink)
We start this overview by discussing the place of emotions within the broader affective domain – how different are emotions from moods, sensations and affective dispositions? Next, we examine the way emotions relate to their objects, emphasizing in the process their intimate relations to values. We move from this inquiry into the nature of emotion to an inquiry into their epistemology. Do they provide reasons for evaluative judgements and, more generally, do they contribute to our knowledge of values? We then (...) address the question of the social dimension of emotions, explaining how the traditional nature vs. nurture contrast applies to the emotions. We finish by exploring the relations between emotions, motivation and action, concluding this overview with a more specific focus on how these relations bear on some central ethical issues. (shrink)
In this introduction, we give a brief overview of the main concepts of modularity that have been offered in recent literature. After this, we turn to a summary of the papers collected in this volume. Our primary aim is to explain how the modularity of emotion question relates to traditional debates in emotion theory.
After discussing de Sousa's view of emotion in akrasia, I suggest that emotions be viewed as nonconceptual perceptions of value (see Tappolet 2000). It follows that they can render intelligible actions which are contrary to one's better judgment. An emotion can make one's action intelligible even when that action is opposed by one's all-things-considered judgment. Moreover, an akratic action prompted by an emotion may be more rational than following one's better judgement, for it may be the judgement and not the (...) perception which is in error. By contrast, "cool" akrasia is genuinely puzzling; it is not clear whether it exists. (shrink)
It is generally accepted that there are two kinds of normative concepts : evaluative concepts, such as good, and deontic concepts, such as ought. The question that is raised by this distinction is how it is possible to claim that evaluative concepts are normative. Given that deontic concepts appear to be at the heart of normativity, the bigger the gap between evaluative and deontic concepts, the less it appears plausible to say that evaluative concepts are normative. After having presented the (...) main differences between evaluative and deontic concepts, and shown that there is more than a superficial difference between the two kinds, the paper turns to the question of the normativity of evaluative concepts. It will become clear that, even if these concepts have different functions, there are a great many ties between evaluative concepts, on the one hand, and the concepts of ought and of reason, on the other. (shrink)
Empirical assessments of Cognitive Behavioral Theory and theoretical considerations raise questions about the fundamental theoretical tenet that psychological disturbances are mediated by consciously accessible cognitive structures. This paper considers this situation in light of emotion theory in philosophy. We argue that the “perceptual theory” of emotions, which underlines the parallels between emotions and sensory perceptions, suggests a conception of cognitive mediation that can accommodate the observed empirical anomalies and one that is consistent with the dual-processing models dominant in cognitive psychology.
ABSTRACT: Neo-sentimentalism is the view that to judge that something has an evaluative property is to judge that some affective or emotional response is appropriate to it, but this view allows for radically different versions. My aim is to spell out what I take to be its most plausible version. Against its normative version, I argue that its descriptive version can best satisfy the normativity requirement that follows from Moore’s Open Question Argument while giving an answer to the Wrong Kind (...) of Reason Objection. Finally, I argue that the circularity that is involved is not vicious: understood epistemically, neo-sentimentalism remains instructive. (shrink)
Philosophers have not been very preoccupied by the link between emotions and attention. The few that did (de Sousa, 1987) never really specified the relation between the two phenomena. Using empirical data from the study of the emotion of fear, we provide a description (and an explanation) of the links between emotion and attention. We also discuss the nature (empirical or conceptual) of these links.
Consider a typical fear episode. You are strolling down a lonely mountain lane when suddenly a huge wolf leaps towards you. A number of different interconnected elements are involved in the fear you experience. First, there is the visual and auditory perception of the wild animal and its movements. In addition, it is likely that given what you see, you may implicitly and inarticulately appraise the situation as acutely threatening. Then, there are a number of physiological changes, involving a variety (...) of systems controlled by the autonomic nervous system. Your heart races, your breathing becomes strained and your start trembling. These changes are accompanied by an expression of fear on your face: your mouth opens and your eyes widen while you stare at the wolf. There is also a kind of experience that you undergo. You are likely to feel a sort of pang, something that might consist in the perception of the physiological changes you are going through. Moreover, a number of thoughts are likely to cross your mind. You might think that the wild beast is about to tear you into pieces and that you’ll never escape from this. In addition to this, your attention focuses on the wolf and its movement, as well as, possibly, ways of escaping or defending yourself. Last, but not least, your fear is likely to come with a motivation, such as an urge to run away or to strike back. Whatever the details of the story, it is clear that a typical emotion episode involves a number of different components. Roughly, these components are a) a sensory perception or more generally an informational component, b) a kind of appraisal, d) physiological changes, c) conscious feelings, d) cognitive and attentional processes, and e) an actiontendency or more generally a motivational component. One central question in the theory of emotion is which, if any, of these components, constitute the emotion.. (shrink)
Akratic actions are often being thought to instantiate a paradigmatic self-control failure. . If we suppose that akrasia is opposed to self-control, the question is how akratic actions could be free and intentional. After all, it would seem that it is only if an action manifests self-control that it can count as free. My plan is to explore the relation between akrasia and self-control. The first section presents what I shall call the standard conception, according to which akrasia and self-control (...) are contraries, and introduces the puzzle that this conception raises. The second section turns to the arguments for and against the possibility of free and intentional akratic actions. The third section questions the claim that akratic actions are necessarily opposed to actions manifesting self-control. (shrink)
What is the relation between virtue and wellbeing? Our claim is that, under certain conditions, virtue necessarily tends to have a positive impact on an individual’s wellbeing. This is so because of the connection between virtue and psychological happiness, on the one hand, and between psychological happiness and wellbeing, on the other hand. In particular we defend three claims: that virtue is constituted by a disposition to experience fitting emotions, that fitting emotions are constituents of fitting happiness, and that fitting (...) happiness is a constituent of wellbeing. What follows is that, under certain conditions, virtue disposes the individual to experience wellbeing-constituting states. We end with a discussion of two objections that may be raised against our proposal. (shrink)
Personal autonomy is often taken to consist in self-government or self-determination. Personal autonomy thus seems to require self-control. However, there is reason to think that autonomy is compatible with the absence of self-control. Akratic action, i.e., action performed against the agent’s better judgement, can be free. And it is also plausible to think that free actions require autonomy. It is only when you determine what you do yourself that you act freely. It follows that akratic actions can be autonomous. At (...) least in some cases, it is the agent herself, and not some alien part of her, who determines her akratic actions. But akratic actions are usually thought to be paradigm cases of self-control failure. Thus, we have reason both to conclude that autonomy requires self-control and that autonomy is compatible with the absence of self-control. My aim is to discuss the main solutions to this paradox. (shrink)
In this paper, we consider the question of whether there exists an essential relation between emotions and wellbeing. We distinguish three ways in which emotions and wellbeing might be essentially related: constitutive, causal, and epistemic. We argue that, while there is some room for holding that emotions are constitutive ingredients of an individual’s wellbeing, all the attempts to characterise the causal and epistemic relations in an essentialist way are vulnerable to some important objections. We conclude that the causal and epistemic (...) relation between emotions and wellbeing is much less strong than is commonly thought. (shrink)
How much can we shape the emotions we experience? Or to put it another way, how plastic are our emotions? It is clear that the exercise of identifying the degree of plasticity of emotion is futile without a prior specification of what can be plastic, so we first propose an analysis of the components of emotions. We will then turn to empirical data that might be used to assess the degree of plasticity of emotions.
Are values objective or subjective? To clarify this question we start with an overview of the main concepts and debates in the philosophy of values. We then discuss the arguments for and against value realism, the thesis that there are objective evaluative facts. By contrast with value anti-realism, which is generally associated with sentimentalism, according to which evaluative judgements are grounded in sentiments, value realism is commonly coupled with rationalism. Against this common view, we argue that value realism can be (...) combined with sentimentalism, and we suggest that a plausible account, which we call ‘sentimental realism’, and according to which evaluative judgements are closely related to emotions, can be developped. (shrink)
Evaluative concepts and emotions appear closely connected. According to a prominent account, this relation can be expressed by propositions of the form ‘something is admirable if and only if feeling admiration is appropriate in response to it’. The first section discusses various interpretations of such ‘Value-Emotion Equivalences’, for example the Fitting Attitude Analysis, and it offers a plausible way to read them. The main virtue of the proposed way to read them is that it is well-supported by a promising account (...) of emotions, namely the Perceptual Theory of Emotions, which emphasises the analogies between emotions and sensory perceptual experiences. The second section considers a worry about whether concepts such as admirable are really evaluative. It is maintained that even though the arguments used to show that thick terms and concepts are not inherently evaluative can be transposed to affective concepts, these arguments can be resisted. So there is no need to abandon the intuitive claim that affective concepts are inherently evaluative. (shrink)
Neo-sentmentalism is the view that to judge that something has an evaluative property is to judge that some affective or emotional response is appropriate with respect to it. The difficulty in assessing neo-sentimentalism is that it allows for radically different versions. My aim is to spell out what I take to be its most plausible version. I distinguish between a normative version, which takes the concepts of appropriateness to be normative, and a descriptive version, which claims that appropriateness in emotions (...) is a matter of correspondence to evaluative facts. I argue that the latter version can satisfy the normativity requirement that follows from Moore's Open Question Argument, that it is superior to the former with respect to the explanatory role of values, and with respect to the Wrong Kind of Reason Objection. Finally, I argue that the circularity that is involved is not vicious: understood epistemically, neo-sentimentalism remains instructive. (shrink)
This introduction to a collection of papers on normativity provides a framework modelled on the division in ethics to approach normative issues. It suggests that is is useful to divide questions about normativity into five groups: normative ontology, normative semantics, normative epistemology, normative psychology, and substantial normative theory.
Sarah Stroud and Christine Tappolet present eleven original essays on weakness of will, a topic straddling the divide between moral philosophy and philosophy of mind, and the subject of much current attention. An international team of established scholars and younger talent provide perspectives on all the key issues in this fascinating debate; the book will be essential reading for anyone working in the area. Issues covered include classical questions, such as the distinction between weakness and compulsion, the connection between evaluative (...) judgment and motivation, the role of emotions in akrasia, rational agency, and the existence of the will. They also include new topics, such as group akrasia, strength of will, the nature of correct choice, the structure of decision theory, the temporality of prudential reasons, and emotional rationality. Because these questions cut across philosophy of mind and ethics, the collection will be essential reading for scholars, postgraduates, and upper-level undergraduates in both these fields. (shrink)
For someone who is inclined towards truth monism and moral realism, reading this book is like journeying through a foreign country: somewhat disconcerting, but nonetheless enjoyable. Michael Lynch’s world is a stoutly naturalistic world, in which representation is conceived in terms of causal or teleological relations. This is a world in which it is hard to fit normative facts. Thus, the reader is told that there are good reasons to think that ‘moral properties, should they exist, would not be the (...) sort of properties with which we enter into causal contact’ (p. 161). But it is also a world in which thought is conceived of as unified, in the sense that propositions of all kinds, whether about middle-sized dry goods, mathematical objects, or morals, are truth-apt and cognitive, so that they can intermingle in reasoning. What we have, then, is the following: no moral facts in any serious sense of that term, but ordinary moral truth nonetheless. This is an interesting, but difficult, position. What it requires is a decidedly original account of truth, which Lynch dubs the functionalist theory of truth, according to which truth is both one and many. (shrink)
What account of evaluative expressions, such as ‘is beautiful’, ‘is generous’ or ‘is good’, should a Fregean adopt? Given Frege’s claim that predicates can have both a sense and a reference in addition to their extension, an interesting range of only partially explored theoretical possibilities opens to Frege and his followers. My intention here is to briefly present these putative possibilities and explore one of them, namely David Wiggins’ claim that evaluative predicates refer to non-natural concepts and have a sense (...) which is sentiment-involving. In order to defend this claim against objections which aim at showing that evaluative concepts do not really exist, I shall suggest that our awareness of evaluative concepts involves affective (or emotive) states. (shrink)
What is the relation between the concept good and more specific or ‘thick’ concepts such as admirable or courageous? I argue that good or more precisely good pro tanto is a general concept, but that the relation between good pro tanto and the more specific concepts is not that of a genus to its species. The relation of an important class of specific evaluative concepts, which I call ‘affective concepts’, to good pro tanto is better understood as one between a (...) determinable and its determinates, whereas concepts such as courageous can be analysed in terms of affective concepts and purely descriptive concepts. (shrink)
Moral Platonism, the claim that moral entities are both objective and prescriptive, is generally thought to be a dead end. In an attempt to defend a moderate form of moral Platonism or more precisely Platonism about values, I first argue that several of the many versions of this doctrine are not committed to ontological extravagances. I then discuss an important objection due to John McDowell and developed by Michael Smith, according to which moral Platonism is incoherent. I argue that objectivism (...) is compatible with the claim that certain ways of being aware of values, namely those involving emotions, are motivating. (shrink)
In his book Appearances of the Good, Sergio Tenenbaum has offered an impressive new defence of a classical account of practical reason, which marks him as heir to a philosophical tradition going back to Aristotle and Kant or, more recently, to Anscombe and Davidson. This account has come under heavy attack in the past twenty years, and it would be no exaggeration to say that it is now a minority view. This is at least so if one counts the number (...) of living philosophers who deny that strict akratic action is possible. Tenenbaum claims that, minimally, his aim is to show that what he calls after Kant “the scholastic view” still merits a place in the philosophical landscape, and in this respect, it is clear that his enterprise is a success. (shrink)
Can emotions be rational or are they necessarily irrational? Are emotions universally shared states? Or are they socio-cultural constructions? Are emotions perceptions of some kind? Since the publication of Jerry Fodor’s The Modularity of Mind (1983), a new question about the philosophy of emotions has emerged: are emotions modular? A positive answer to this question would mean, minimally, that emotions are cognitive capacities that can be explained in terms of mental components that are functionally dissociable from other parts of the (...) mind. But depending on the kind of modules that are considered, be they Chomskyan, Fodorian, Darwinian, or some other kind, the answer to this question might well be different. The twelve new essays in this volume address the question of whether emotions, or at least some of them, are, in some sense of the word, modules, and explore how this could potentially influence our understanding of emotional phenomena. (shrink)
The special concern we have for our future selves is often seen as making for a problem for psychological continuity theories, such as Derek Parfit's. On the basis of an account of the various kinds of procrastination, and of the ways imprudent procrastination involves harm to future selves, the paper argues that procrastinators often impose an uncompensated burden on their future selves, something that is best explained by a lack of concern for their future selves. Given this, the objections to (...) psychological continuity theories based on the idea of a special concern for our future selves are in serious trouble. (shrink)
This paper consists in a critical review of Peter Goldie's book, The Emotion. A Philosophical Exploration (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000). Goldie is right to distinguish between long-term emotions and emotional experiences. And he is also right to reject the view that emotions are reducible to 'feelingless' states plus some extra feelings. However, Goldie's own account in terms of "feeling towards" is problematic. Goldie would have been better advised to claim that emotional experiences are necessarily emotional representations of something as (...) being F (disgusting, attractive, admirable, etc.), that is, that emotional experiences are apprehensions or representations of evaluative features. (shrink)
Cette introduction à une collection d'articles sur la normativité propose d'adopter les divisions trouvées habituellement en éthique pour aborder la normativité. Ainsi, il semble utile de diviser les questions en cinq groupes: l'ontologie normative, la sémantique normative, l'épistémologie normative, la psychologie normative, et finalement, les questions normatives substantielles.