A commentary on Robert Kagan’s What is Emotion? (2007). The commentary praises the author for the range and breadth of his analysis and for his skepticism concerning the common tendency to equate emotions with brain states. At the same time, I raise questions about the terms in which Kagan attempts to separate out the distinct components of the emotional “cascade.” In particular, I suggest that by treating the appraisal or interpretation of the changes in bodily feelings as a distinct phase (...) of the emotional response, Kagan appears to dissociate the relevant brain and bodily feeling states from the contexts or meanings in which they are embedded, and to do so in ways that obscure the relationship between the successive components or phases he has identified. (shrink)
William Connolly is in error when he remarks that I begin my article with a discussion of scientific accounts that reduce the emotions to a few genetically wired categories and that I suggest that the cultural theorists who are interested in affect are driven in the same reductive direction.
The purpose of my article, “The Turn to Affect: A Critique,” was to show that the theorists whose work I analyzed are all committed to the mistaken idea that affective processes are responses of the organism that occur independently of cognition or intention.1 My aim was not to emphasize the differences among the authors under consideration—differences that, as I noted in my article, of course do exist—but rather to demonstrate that those theorists share certain erroneous assumptions about the separation presumed (...) to obtain between the affect system on the one hand and intention, cognition, and meaning on the other and to lay out the unfortunate consequences of their doing so.If Adam Frank and Elizabeth A. Wilson wish for another kind of essay than the one I have written—an essay that would stress the divergences between the ideas of Silvan S. Tomkins and those of the other affect theorists I consider, especially those of Paul Ekman, in order to show what was distinctive about Tomkins's contributions—let them write it. But in such an essay they will have to acknowledge certain facts about the relationship between Tomkins and Ekman that, in their haste to separate Tomkins's theories from Ekman's, they are in danger of neglecting or misrepresenting. (shrink)