On the Emotions

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Overview

Distinguished philosopher Richard Wollheim's rich and thought-provoking account of the emotions considers what emotions are, how they arise in our lives, and how standard and "moral" emotions differ. Drawing on insights from literature, psychoanalysis, and philosophy, Wollheim argues that emotions form a distinct psychological category, not to be assimilated with either beliefs or desires.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Wollheim (philosophy, Berkeley) here expands upon a series of lectures he delivered several years ago, giving this published version new substance and depth. Positing his exploration of emotions to be an exercise in applied moral philosophy, Wollheim presents and critiques the veracity of several theories about emotions as factic entities. In the first lecture, he considers theories proposed by phenomenology, by Gilbert Ryle, and by William James and Sigmund Freud, concluding that the originating condition of emotion is desire. In the next lecture, he presents the history of an emotion from its origin, addressing Sartrean and Kleinian considerations, to the point of the persistent emotion's manifestation and the problematic association of feeling with emotion. In the final lecture, the "moral" emotions (shame, guilt, remorse, and regret) are presented as additional ways in which the individual orients himself or herself in life. Wollheim concludes that human interaction engendered by emotion and the emotion that interaction engenders, engages, and satisfies are mutually sustaining. Specialists will find this book provocative and engaging.--Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley P.L., CA Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Booknews
Considers what emotions are, how they erupt, and how standard and moral emotions differ. These three lectures were delivered to the philosophy department at Yale in 1991, but are here revised and enlarged. Wollheim writes within the analytic tradition, yet abandons some of its assumptions, developing a psychologization or repsychologization of the mind. Writers discussed include Sartre, William James, Freud, Melanie Klein, Stendhal, Montaigne, and Bertrand Russell. Wollheim is chair of the philosophy department at University of California, Berkeley and author of Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Liam Hudsion
Within the confines of its genre, On the Emotions is an impressive performance.
The Times Literary Supplement
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300079746
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 11/28/1999
  • Series: The Ernst Cassirer Lectures , #1991
  • Pages: 284
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Read an Excerpt




Chapter One

LECTURE ONE

THE ORIGINATING CONDITION


1. What are the emotions?

An emotion is a kind of mental phenomenon, and, in arriving at a just view of any mental phenomenon, or of any kind of mental phenomenon, we can best begin by plotting it on an appropriately scaled map of the human mind. On such a map, the most salient feature will be a broad divide running across it, effecting a division that is exclusive, though not exhaustive. On one side of the divide lie mental states, on the other mental dispositions, and, since this divide is recognized by a number of philosophers who by no means see it the same way, let alone the way that I do, I shall say how I see it.

    Mental states are those transient events which make up the lived part of the life of the mind, or, to use William James's great phrase, `the stream of consciousness'. They occur at a time, though the duration of a mental state seldom admits of precise determination. Different mental states of the same person can be successive, or they can overlap, or they can be simultaneous. Examples of mental states are perceptions, such as hearing the dawn chorus, or seeing a constellation of stars overhead; sensations, such as pains, and itches, and pangs of hunger or thirst; dreams, and daydreams; moments of despair, boredom, or lust; flashes of inspiration; recollections; images seen in the mind's eye, and tunes heard in the head; and thoughts, both thoughts that we think and those uninvited thoughts which drift into the mind.

    Mental dispositions are those more or less persistingmodifications of the mind which underlie this sequence of mental states. They have histories, and these histories can vary greatly in length and in complexity. Some will be coextensive with the life of the person: others will be contained within, sometimes well within, the person's life, starting up some time after birth, or terminating some time before death, or, likeliest of all, both. In the course of its history, a disposition can wax and wane. Examples of mental dispositions are beliefs and desires; knowledge; memories; abilities, powers, and skills; habits; inhibitions, obsessions, and phobias; and virtues and vices.


2. Mental states are different from mental dispositions, but there are two important facts that at once unite them and contribute to their both being mental phenomena.

    The first fact is that mental dispositions and mental states interact in a number of ways that are highly significant. I shall list five of these ways, and illustrate them. There are other ways too.

    (One) a mental state can initiate a mental disposition. Waking up and seeing a frog standing on his chest could establish in a boy a lasting terror of frogs. (Two) a mental state can terminate or extinguish a disposition. A moment's dizziness high up in the big tent could destroy for ever a woman's ability to walk the tight-rope. (Three) a mental state can reinforce, alternatively attenuate, a mental disposition. Seeing a frog some years later by the edge of a pond, half-buried in sedge, could, for some boys at any rate, intensify an existing terror of frogs: for others the sight might dispel the terror. And we can readily imagine that the thought, `Perhaps this will be the last time', suddenly invading the woman's head as she paused high above the crowd, had weakened her confidence some time before her ability deserted her. And (four) a mental disposition can, from time to time, manifest itself in a mental state. A man's desire for revenge might lead him to visualize his rival cringing before him: a woman's memory of a seemingly untroubled childhood might lead her to recall with great vividness the smell of lilac: a child's jealousy of an older brother might erupt in sporadic fits of rage or resentment. We can be, in Hume's phrase, `possest' with the disposition. And these manifestations will occur, sometimes in response to a stimulus, but sometimes, or so it seems, spontaneously. Sometimes the occurrence of a mental state that manifests a disposition can be explained by reference to something that preceded it or is going on at the time, and sometimes it cannot be.

    If we pause to reflect upon these four ways in which mental states and mental dispositions may interact, we observe, in the first three cases, an appropriateness of the mental disposition to the mental state that initiates or terminates it, that reinforces or attenuates it: the mental disposition is of the very kind that, given the content of the mental state, we should expect. In the fourth case, the appropriateness goes the other way round. The mental state is appropriate to the mental disposition that it manifests: the mental state has the content that seems right, given the kind of mental disposition it is. However, in all four cases, for the notion of appropriateness to be altogether clear, we need to grasp another notion, which mediates the connexion: that of the role of the disposition. I shall return to this notion.

    And now to (five) which is, though the list could be extended, the last interaction that I shall consider. When, as commonly happens, an external event causes a mental state, the causal chain that runs from the first to the second passes through a number of relevant dispositions, which filter the external event. If the external event determines the mental state on which the chain terminates, it does so only in conjunction with these dispositions. A woman, falling on the tennis court, might find the pain in her wrist numbed by her eagerness to win the match, or aggravated by her fear that she is getting too old to play. The eagerness and the fear are dispositions, and they mediate the effect of the fall upon the woman. Or a man, who is driving along in his car when the lights change to red, might be made more attentive to this fact by his long-standing terror of the police, or less attentive by his desire to keep an assignation for which he is already late.

    The second fact that unites mental dispositions and mental states is that both possess psychological reality. Much philosophy does scant justice to this fact.

    In the case of mental states, psychological reality is seldom explicitly denied, but what is ordinarily conceded is something that falls considerably short of what the notion requires. This is because the issue is treated as exclusively an epistemic matter, or a matter of our knowledge of mental states, and the superior access that we have to our own mental states. But that this is not all there is to the issue can be seen from the fact that the asymmetry between the way in which we come to know of our mental states and the way in which we come to know of the mental states of others requires an explanation. We need to know how this asymmetry is brought about, and this is bound to take us back to the structure of mental states, or the mysterious sense in which my mental states are mine, essentially mine. The psychological reality of mental states will figure substantively in any such explanation.

    In the case of mental dispositions, psychological reality is more readily, indeed it is frequently, denied them, and the best way of observing this is to consider a view that certainly has such a denial as its consequence. The view that I have in mind is that which equates the ascription of a mental disposition to a person with a general prediction about what that person will do, or would do, in a certain range of circumstances. The disposition itself is taken to be no more than a pattern of such doings. `Do' here is an all-purpose word, which covers thinking, feeling, acting.

    This view, which found classical expression in Gilbert Ryle's The Concept of Mind, confronts two major difficulties. (There are further difficulties in Ryle's own version of the view that come from his restricting dispositions to patterns of action, or of things that we do in a narrow sense of that word, but these difficulties are not currently relevant.)

    The first difficulty is that the view cannot account for the manner in which we can come to experience our own dispositions, indirectly if not directly. So, for instance, we think of our mental dispositions as having strength or weakness. We say that a desire of ours, or, by extension, a desire of another's, is strong, or that a belief is weak. How can this be so, if the desire or the belief is simply a pattern? By further extension, when two or more of a person's dispositions are more or less of equal or comparable strength, we think of them as entering into conflict, or as leading to inner turmoil. The only interpretation that a view like Ryle's can put upon this phenomenon totally distorts it. For it has to hold that, when an observer ascribes to someone a conflict of dispositions, this merely reflects an uncertainty on the part of the observer about which of two or more predictions to make. Ryle, or anyone who thinks like him, finds himself in effect relocating the conflict from the mind of the person to whom it is attributed, which is its natural site, to the mind of another, who is a mere outsider.

    I repeat that the point that I am making does not require that our dispositions are experienced directly, as our mental states clearly can be. But that our dispositions can be experienced indirectly, or through the manifestations that they causally produce, seems to be beyond the power of a view like Ryle's to accommodate.

    The second difficulty with which such a view is encumbered is that it can make no sense of the explanatory value that dispositions are ordinarily thought to have. Ordinarily we look to, say, people's beliefs and desires in order to explain how they act, what they feel, the way they see the world. And we do so because we believe that these things are caused by people's beliefs and desires. Now Ryle does not deny all explanatory value to mental dispositions, but he does deny that their explanatory value comes from their being causes. As mere patterns in what people do, dispositions cannot have causal power. In consequence, when we connect what someone does with a disposition of his, and claim that the latter can explain the former, what we do, according to Ryle, is to subsume one thing that the person does under a series of things that he is in the habit of doing, and this is explanatory only in the limited sense that it takes away the oddity that the single happening might otherwise have. As Ryle himself puts it, saying that a person did what he did because of some mental disposition is just `to say "he would do that"'.

    If Ryle's view amounts to the denial of psychological reality to mental dispositions, what view respects it?

    The view that I espouse is, as I have indicated, the equation of mental dispositions with underlying psychological entities, perhaps ultimately with material entities, and these entities can causally account for what, on a Ryle-like view of the matter, is falsely equated with the dispositions themselves: that is, the manifestations of these dispositions, whether these be thoughts, feelings, sensations, or conduct.

    Insistence upon the reality of mental dispositions will be a strong theme running through these lectures. I shall refer to it as the `psychologization', or the `repsychologization', of mental dispositions: meaning, of course, the repsychologization of dispositional concepts. Of the two terms, `repsychologization' is the more precise, for it is only when our thinking has fallen under the sway of philosophy that we are seduced into abandoning the natural, which is the psychological, understanding of mental dispositions, to which we then need to be recalled.


3. Let us return to the differences between mental states and mental dispositions. For these are not fully before us until we introduce three very general properties that qualify mental phenomena. They are — or these are my words for them — intentionality, Subjectivity, and grades of consciousness.

    Intentionality is the thought-content of a mental phenomenon, and it is intentionality that secures the directedness alike of mental states and mental dispositions. Of mental states: for it is in virtue of its intentionality that, say, a certain perception is a perception of a gathering storm, or that a moment's amusement is amusement at the famous mot de Saint Denis, or that a certain recollection is a recollection of a holiday in Worthing. Similarly for mental dispositions: for it is in virtue of its intentionality that a certain belief is a belief about rain tomorrow, or that a certain desire is a desire for good coffee, or that a fear is a fear of frogs. From these examples it should be clear that the thought-content of a mental phenomenon does not have to be what grammarians call a `complete thought', or logicians a `proposition': it may be limited to a mere concept.

    Subjectivity, unlike intentionality, is a property solely of mental states. (That mental dispositions cannot have subjectivity accounts for the fact, already mentioned, that we cannot experience dispositions directly.) Subjectivity is what older philosophers used to refer to, somewhat metaphorically, as the feel of a mental state, but nowadays it has come to seem illuminating to say that the subjectivity of a mental state is what it is like — like, that is, for the person whose state it is — to be in that state. What it is like to be in pain is different from what it is like to taste something, and what it is like to have a pain in the ankle is different from what it is like to have a pain in the knee, and what it is like to taste raspberries is different from what it is like to taste strawberries, and all these differences, and others like them, are differences in subjectivity. However we must be on our guard against believing, as phenomenalists used to, that we can exhaustively capture, either in words or in thought, the subjectivity of a mental state. We cannot, like copyists in front of a painting, `square up' our mental states, and then record them, square by square. We cannot do this even for our perceptions. A commitment to subjectivity need not extend to a commitment to what philosophers call `qualia'.

    The intentionality and the subjectivity of a given mental state can be related in many complex ways, but what is invariably wrong is to think, as the Empiricist philosophers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries did, that the intentionality of a mental state is wholly constructed out of its subjectivity. The reason why a certain thought is a thought of a horse is not because part of what it is like for the thinker to have such a thought is for him to have the image of a horse.

    Nevertheless there may be connexions of dependency between the intentionality and the subjectivity of mental states: not, of course between the concepts, but between the things themselves. So, in some cases, the subjectivity of the mental state largely secures its intentionality. Perceptions, or pains in particular parts of the body, gain their thought-content mostly because of what they are like. In other cases, the intentionality of the mental state largely secures its subjectivity. Being amused by a joke, or terrifying oneself with the prospect of being jabbed in the eye by a needle, are cases where what the mental state is like mostly derives from its thought-content. And, in yet other cases, intentionality and subjectivity are equal partners.

    Finally, and not infrequently, intentionality and subjectivity fuse so that, though intellectual analysis can continue to distinguish between them, the two cannot be separated experientially: we cannot indicate where one begins and the other ends. When this happens, I call the fusion of intentionality and subjectivity phenomenology. Wittgenstein has shown us that psychological phenomena like the alternating perceptions of a Neckar cube, where at one moment one face of the cube comes towards us, at another moment it recedes from us, or of the duck—rabbit figure, where we see now a duck in the drawing, now a rabbit, cannot be adequately described, let alone explained, solely in terms of changing intentionality or solely in terms of changing subjectivity or even in terms of a mere conjunction of the two. It is only if we recognize the fusion of the two that we get a coherent picture.

    From the fact that subjectivity attaches to mental states but does not attach to mental dispositions, it follows that phenomenology attaches only to mental states.

    One reason why phenomenology deserves our attention is that not infrequently mental states owe their causal efficacy to their phenomenology, as when a state of terror causes a soldier to run, or hearing the squeal of brakes causes a driver to turn his head.

    A residual question is whether there are any mental states that are completely without either subjectivity or intentionality. Some philosophers think so, and typically they press the claims of computations to be mental states without subjectivity, and the claims of pains, or, more plausibly, unlocated pains, to be mental states without intentionality. The issue is not germane to the present discussion.

    By grades of consciousness I mean the three exclusive and exhaustive properties of being conscious (in what I think of as the determinate sense of that term), being preconscious, and being unconscious. These properties attach both to mental states and to mental dispositions. If, of the two, it is more obvious how mental states possess grades of consciousness, it is more fundamental that mental dispositions do so. Preconscious dispositions are best thought of as dispositions that only with difficulty manifest themselves in conscious mental states, and unconscious dispositions are altogether prevented from doing so, except in heavy disguise.

    This map of the mind allows us to plot in a very general way the whereabouts of the emotions. For, if one thing is clear about the emotions, it is that they are mental dispositions. They fit into the general scheme of mental phenomena in just the way that I have proposed for mental dispositions. Emotions are caused by mental states, and emotions can be extinguished by them: mental states can reinforce emotions, and can also attenuate them: emotions will normally manifest themselves in mental states: and, in many circumstances, emotions can be expected to influence which mental states will occur, given the impact of the external world upon the person. Emotions possess intentionality, but, unlike the mental states in which they manifest themselves, they do not possess subjectivity. And emotions can be qualified by all the various grades of consciousness.


4. That emotions are mental dispositions has been anticipated, for, in illustrating how mental dispositions relate to mental states, I could not find convincing examples without using the emotions.

    However that emotions are mental dispositions is something that the vocabulary of emotions can easily obscure. For we use the same words to refer to the emotions themselves and to the mental states in which the emotions manifest themselves. When we say that Hamlet was angry with his mother, or that Macbeth was frightened of Banquo's issue, or that the youth Claudio was ashamed of his sin, we might be talking either about one or another of the underlying dispositions of these characters or about certain episodic states of theirs in which these dispositions erupt or originate. The difference between emotions as mental dispositions and emotions as (derivatively) mental states corresponds to no disjointedness in our psychological vocabulary.

    There is a way in which, when using an emotion term, we can, up to a point, make it clear that we are referring to a mental state, and that is by replacing the verb `to be' by the verb `to feel'. If we say that Hamlet felt angry with his mother, or that Macbeth felt frightened of Banquo's issue, then it is unambiguous that we are referring to what occupied the mind of one as he taunted his mother in her bedroom, or what tormented the other as he heard the witches' prophecy, or was told of Fleance's escape. In such cases the word `feel' does not retain its normal implication: there is no suggestion of one special kind of mental state — that is, a feeling — rather than of another kind — say, a thought, The only implication is that we are referring, not to a mental disposition, but to a mental state. But note that this way of disambiguating emotion as disposition from emotion as mental state does not seem available to us when we get, as we shall in Lecture III, to shame and guilt. To feel shame (or to feel ashamed), to feel guilt (or to feel guilty), are, it seems, fully ambiguous between the dispositional and the episodic instances of these emotions.

    That the same emotion-term can be applied in these two ways is not necessarily objectionable. It need not lead to confusion or misunderstanding: indeed it can be profitably exploited. When Elgar entitled a section of a suite `Sir John in Love', he took advantage of the ambiguity to let the music evoke both the old knight's deluded cast of mind and those transient thoughts and experiences and dreams of his into which, from time to time, his condition was assumed to overflow.

    Some philosophers have drawn large conclusions from the dual appearance of emotion-terms. So it has been asserted that a mental state of a given emotional kind, say feeling angry, cannot occur unless the corresponding emotional disposition, or being angry, is already established, or, an even stronger claim, that the mental state cannot occur except as a manifestation of the corresponding disposition. But to both claims — and these must in turn be distinguished from the more plausible thesis that we cannot understand what `feeling angry' means without first understanding `being angry' — there are obvious exceptions. A man, taken off guard, could be momentarily frightened of a snake without having any dispositional fear of snakes. Or he could have a dispositional fear of snakes, and be frightened of the snake before him, yet his current fright have nothing to do with his underlying fear. For he might have momentarily mastered that fear, and what now frightens him is his knowledge that the snake he confronts is no ordinary snake but has been adjusted by a madman to be the carrier of some synthesized venom.

    More generally, imagination can induce a particular emotional state in someone who does not have the emotional disposition that that state would ordinarily manifest. A woman might experience a transient attraction to a woman whom she imagines her husband to be in love with, even though, lacking the appropriate sexual orientation, her feelings could never blossom. She has no love for the woman, only jealousy of the man, with whom she momentarily identifies.

    Finally, the thesis that emotional states of a given kind are invariably causally dependent upon the corresponding emotional disposition is conclusively refuted by considering how emotional dispositions arise. As we have seen, an emotion can, indeed is likely to, originate in a mental state of the very kind in which the emotion, once established, will characteristically manifest itself. If fright on seeing a frog, which is how fear of frogs is likely to manifest itself, can induce fear of frogs, it follows that fright cannot invariably presuppose fear.

    And there are ways in which we use emotion-terms, some of which are little more than quaintnesses, in order to pick out something that is neither a mental disposition nor a mental state, and in fact is not psychological at all. We say that the prisoner is guilty, and we refer to an exclusively legal fact about him. We say, `I hate to say No', or `I'm afraid that I can't come, though I'd love to', and these are ways of being polite about, or of apologizing for, something into which hate, fear, and love do not enter. Such idioms are not puzzling, nor are they interesting, and the only thing that is interesting is that it should have been thought that they had anything to teach us about the emotions.

    I began this section by referring to those who have been led into error of one kind or another by the tendency of emotion-terms to have two distinct applications. We need to distinguish between such thinkers and those who show no sign of having been misled by language but have, for metaphysical or other reasons, equated emotions exclusively with mental states. Two major thinkers of whom this is true, at least in their more theoretical moments, are William James and Freud, whose views on the nature of emotion have more than a little in common. Other thinkers have arrived at the same conclusion, but more as a matter of philosophical convenience.


5. If emotions are dispositions of a certain kind, what is their kind? How are emotions to be distinguished from other dispositions?

    When we set out to identify a kind of disposition, a natural starting-point is with a notion already briefly mentioned: that of the role of a disposition. The role of a disposition is what the disposition standardly does for, or the contribution it characteristically makes to, the psychology of the person who houses it.

    There is however a distinction within roles, which is important. With some dispositions, their role includes an end that the disposition serves: this is true for beliefs and desires. But there are other dispositions whose role does not include an end. These are the instrumental dispositions, and they include thinking, and imagination, and capacities generally. Emotions are, as we shall shortly see, dispositions of the first kind. Their role is connected with an end.

    For the identification of most kinds of disposition, the appeal to role suffices. For the emotions, not so. A consideration of their role needs to be supplemented by considering their history, or how individual emotions tend to form within the life of the individual. The two methods of identifying dispositions — the appeal to role, the appeal to characteristic history — are interdependent.

    I return to role.


6. What is the role of an emotion? Let us contrast it, first with the role of a belief, then with the role of a desire.

    Both belief and desire are, at least from one point of view, more primitive phenomena than emotion. Accordingly, I shall ask you, in following these contrasts, to envisage, first, a creature which has beliefs, but as yet no desires and no emotions, then a creature which has beliefs and desires, but as yet no emotions, and, only finally, a creature which has beliefs and desires and emotions. But whatever expository value this thought-experiment may turn out to have, this should not blind us to its artificiality. If, as I hold, desire is posterior to belief, it does not follow that there could be a fully functioning creature that had beliefs but as yet no desires. Only something robotic in nature could be like that. Or, if, as I also hold, emotion is posterior to both belief and desire, any creature that had beliefs and desires but no emotions would not only be highly restricted, it would be highly restricted in the beliefs and desires that it could have. Certainly it is only a creature with all three that we can begin to think of as a person.

    The truth is that the chronological, as opposed to the conceptual, dimension to this thought-experiment is negligible, for it is plausible to think that the three kinds of disposition come into existence in rapid succession, and furthermore within the first few hours of human life. The chronological dimension becomes significant — and then not invariably — only when we shift our focus from the origins of belief, desire, and emotion as such to how particular beliefs, particular desires, or particular emotions, come to form.

    So to role, and let us start by asking, What is the role of belief?.

    The role of belief is to provide the creature with a picture of the world it inhabits. Not, of course, any picture of the world, but, subject to one proviso, a picture that depicts the world more or less as it is. And with adequate luck, or if the creature has, not only a functioning sensory apparatus, but a broad enough experience of the world, this is just what it will acquire. The proviso, which cannot be omitted from any overall account of belief, is that there is also pressure within the creature to have some picture of the world rather than none, In many circumstances of life, it needs must prefer error to suspended judgment.

    That belief has this role is confirmed by three powerful features of the psychology of belief. The first is that beliefs initially arise within us in response to, and are then reinforced by, what we take to be evidence for them. Secondly, when we encounter what we take to be evidence against any belief of ours, then, unless we can somehow suppress this evidence, the belief will tend to dissipate. Unfavourable evidence denies belief the air that it needs to breathe. Thirdly, once we recognize that any two of our beliefs are inconsistent, so that not both can fit into the same picture of the world, they will falter, and we are inevitably led to look for further evidence that will determine which, if either of them, deserves to survive. These three mechanisms, which I have cited because their existence confirms the role that I have assigned to belief, also do much to bring it about that belief fills this role.

    Next, desire, and now let us ask, What is the role of desire?

    The role of desire is to provide the creature with objectives, or with things at which to aim. If belief maps the world, desire targets it. And, just as belief presupposes some measure of experience, desire presupposes a certain minimal mobility, or at least the expectation of it.

    Another way of formulating the role of desire is to say that desire furnishes the creature with reasons for doing something: and, not just reasons for doing something rather nothing, but reasons for doing this rather than that. Under the urgings of desire, the creature has reason — reason and cause — to bestir itself. Of course, any creature that has one desire will have more than one desire, and just how the different reasons provided by the different desires, as well as those reasons which come from sources other than desire, weigh one against the other is a complex matter, with no simple formula for its resolution. Some of our desires generate reasons that will never be listened to: their voices are too faint, or too discordant. If Dr Johnson was right to say of himself that he `always felt an inclination to do nothing', it was an inclination to which he seldom turned a listening ear.

    Some further observations, still within a minimal characterization of desire, will help to bridge the transition from the role of desire to that of emotion.

    Standardly desire commences in unpleasure, and, if things go well, ends in pleasure. However there are two conclusions not to be drawn from this broad connection between desire, on the one hand, and pleasure or unpleasure, on the other. We should not conclude that our desires are necessarily for pleasure rather than for something that is expected to bring pleasure in train: desire is, or appears to be, from the beginning of life, object-directed -- a term suitably capacious in scope. Nor should we conclude that desire in itself, or inherently, implies any specific sentiment or attitude, indeed any sentiment or attitude whatsoever, towards what is desired. It cannot be assumed that every desire that we have presupposes some description that we could — perhaps without our being aware of this ability — apply to what we desire, and that would catch why we desire it. The truth is that we might be unable, on any level of consciousness, to give such a `desirability-characterization', as it has been called, of what we desire. Often we come to find characteristics desirable only because they are instantiated by what we desire.

    The point has been made, surely fairly, that desire is not simply a force within us that pushes outwards: it is also a response to something outside us that exercises attraction over us. But this is no objection to the last point. The attraction that a thing has for us need not be, nor is it usually, mediated by some appreciation on our part of what it is about it that attracts us. To bring out what is desirable about what we desire can be a real achievement.

    Now the stage is set for the emotions.

    This is so, because precisely the role of emotion is to provide the creature — or, as we might now get used to saying, the person -- with an orientation, or an attitude to the world. If belief maps the world, and desire targets it, emotion tints or colours it: it enlivens it or darkens it, as the case may be.

    The view, just dismissed, that we desire only those things which instantiate what we regard as desirable acquires such appeal as it has because, often when we reflect upon desire, we think of it with emotion grown up around it. For, envisaged in this way, desire takes on some of the properties of this accompaniment. It gains weight or urgency from the attitude that is essential to emotion. But it remains true that what desire is in itself can be understood without reference to emotion.

    That emotion rides into our lives on the back of desire is a crucial fact about emotion, as well as a crucial fact about us. As we shall see in the next section, and then at greater length in the next lecture, the colour with which emotion tints the world is something to be understood only through the origin of emotion in desire.


7. Emotion, I have said, requires for its comprehension an appeal to history as well as to role: an appeal, that is, to the history of an emotion within the life-history of an individual. So I now set out, as I see it, the characteristic history of an emotion. Not every emotion follows this course, but to recognize it as the characteristic history of an emotion is crucial to understanding what emotion is. So


(one) we have a desire:
(two) this desire is satisfied or it is frustrated, or it is in prospect of being one or the other: alternatively, we merely believe one of these things of it:
(three) we trace the satisfaction or frustration, real or merely believed-in, actual or prospective, to some thing or some fact, which we regard as having precipitated it:
(four) an attitude develops on our part to this precipitating factor:
(five) this attitude will generally be either positive — that is, tinged with pleasure — or negative — that is, tinged with unpleasure — though sometimes it may be neutral. And it will generally be positive if it originates in satisfaction, and negative if it originates in frustration, but this is not exceptionless:
(six) the attitude persists:
(seven) the emotion, as it now is, manifests itself in a number of mental states, and it generates a variety of mental dispositions:
(eight) the emotion tends to find expression in behaviour:
and
(nine) it is highly likely that the mental dispositions that the emotion generates will include desires, and, if this is so, and if we possess the necessary worldly information, the emotion may generate action, but only indirectly. `Indirectly', for what directly generates action, here as elsewhere, is the motivating conjunction of desire and instrumental belief.


    There are many elements in this narrative that need to be explicated. The rest of this lecture, and the whole of the next, will be spent in doing so. But, first, two preliminary remarks.

    In the first place, even so skeletal a history makes it clear that the connexion of an emotion with its past has an intimacy certainly not to be found in the case of belief, and probably not in that of desire. And that is because the attitude, which is the core of emotion, seldom totally casts off the marks of the situation in which it was formed. Emotion is not a mnemic phenomenon, but it is like one in certain respects, and this ensures that no account of emotion is adequate if it does not refer to history as well as to role.

    Secondly, an account of emotion that includes an historical or developmental element is alternative, indeed is rival, to the more customary kind of account, which specifies the criteria of an emotion. Even when the two kinds of account are descriptively equivalent, or when the criteria that one account enumerates correspond to the successive stages that the other account narrates, there are still reasons for finding the historical account superior.

    For (one) the historical account supplies a rationale, even if only implicitly, for what the criterial account proposes on the basis of intuition, or by appeal to conceptual, or sometimes just linguistic, observations.

    (Two) an historical account can make it plausible how, in a given case, some of the criteria of an emotion might be unsatisfied and yet the emotion be present. For the unsatisfied criteria might correspond to stages in the narrative that have, in this particular case, been jumped over but, for reasons of which the narrative can in turn make sense, without detriment to the formation of the emotion. Within a criteria[ account, any such exception must either be fatal to the account, or be arbitrarily condoned.

    And (three) an historical account has the strength of its vulnerability: that is to say, it invites a broad-based form of scrutiny from which it will, if it passes, only emerge the stronger. For, whereas a criterial account offers us a shopping-list of conditions, whose claim upon our credence is simply the brute fact that they hold, an historical account has the same form, or the same developmental cast, as our broad beliefs about human nature, and it stands or falls by its congruence with our general picture of the continuity through time of the single human mind.

    I shall now go over this history, stage by stage. At each stage I shall try to elucidate the concepts and conditions that it deploys.

(Continues...)

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Table of Contents

Preface
Introduction
Lecture 1 The Originating Condition 1
Lecture 2 As the Emotion Forms 69
Lecture 3 On the So - Called Moral Emotions 148
Notes to the Text 225
Index 265
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