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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Emotion, object and justification Strickling, Bonnelle Lewis


The subject of this thesis is the emotion-object relationship and the problem of the justification of emotions as it bears on the emotion-object relationship. In order to analyse the emotion-object relationship, we must first have a concept of emotion. To develop such a concept, we will examine the possible constituent or constituents of such a concept, asking both whether each could be the only constituent and whether each could be a constituent, of the concept of emotion. The constituents are feeling, behavior, and belief. Feeling cannot be the only constituent of emotions because there are not enough distinct feelings to account for the number of emotions we seem to have. Furthermore, views such as Hume's involve the claim that these feelings are incorrigible, and this is false. We are often confused about our feelings. The Schachter-Singer study indicates that, though feelings are not the means by which we identify emotions, nevertheless we will not claim to have an emotion unless we experience some feeling. Behavior too fails as the sole constituent of the concept of emotion, since there are not enough consistent behavior patterns with which to identify emotions. However, again, we will want to say that sometimes behavior does play a part in emotions. Finally, beliefs cannot be the only constituent of the concept of emotion since, if Schachter and Singer are right, we will not call something an emotion without the presence of feeling. But beliefs can allow us to account for the number of emotions we have, and do seem to be present in i every emotion. These beliefs are evaluative beliefs, beliefs that indicate that we have assessed some situation or person in the light of our standards for the gratification of our various desires for affection, meaningful work, aesthetic excellence and so on. The notion of an object for emotions can emphasize either the fact that emotions are contentful, or that they have causal ties to the world. That is, we can either talk about objects in terms of the beliefs involved in emotions, or we can talk about them' from the standpoint of the responsive hence relational character of emotions. Since we can easily talk about the contentful feature of emotions without utilizing the notion of an object, and since the common sense notion of an object is something in the world, it is this sense of object that will be considered. If we conjoin the notion of an object with each constituent of an emotion, we can see that beliefs are the only constituent of that concept that can take an object. However, many things can go wrong with our beliefs about objects. We make not only isolated mistakes about the features of objects, but also systematic ones, as in the case of prejudices, neuroses and psychoses, and the various areas of anxiety that exist in most of our lives. Thus we must take this into consideration when constructing a picture of the emotion-object relationship, accounting both for cases where the beliefs involved are completely correct, and cases where mistake occurs. We will say that, in cases of mistake, when the most crucial features of the object are present in the belief, such as spatio-temporal location, and other basic physical characteristics, we will say that the emotion has an object, but the emotion is unjustified. If grosser mistakes are present, we will say both that the emotion has no object and is not justified.

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