Photo: H.L. Maibom:  Luminosity,  Cincinnati 2018.

Photo: H.L. Maibom: Luminosity, Cincinnati 2018.

Philosophy of Emotions

Emotions were long neglected in philosophy, perhaps because they were assumed to be inherently irrational. Luckily, things have changed, and philosophers now regard emotions as psychological states of special interest. We ask and attempt to answer such questions as: What is an emotion? Is a feeling? A bodily reaction? Are we sad because we cry, and afraid because we run? Perhaps so, but emotions also seem to contain a cognitive element. What we feel is closely connected to what we think. Some think that emotions are rational ways of reacting to our predicament.

What do emotions do? What role do they play in relationships, in morality, and in politics? Some say that experiencing of emotions is a way of assigning value to things. We think an action is bad because we disapprove of it, for instance. In this course, we read recent work in contemporary philosophy and psychology of the emotions, as well as some more historical accounts. We also look at so-called therapies of emotions; theories of how to regulate and better live with our emotions.

I usually cover:

  1. Ancient views of the emotions (Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics)

  2. Jamesian views of emotion (James, Robinson)

  3. Cognitive theories of emotions (Solomon, De Sousa)

  4. Evolution of emotions (Darwin, Panksepp)

  5. Therapies of emotion (Stoicism, Buddhism)

  6. Emotions and ethics (sentimentalism)

  7. Individual emotions, such as shame, guilt, or anger