I. emotions and the self



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abstracts for workshop papers

emotions others and the self

international conference

http://www.abo.fi/eos


august 25-27 åbo/turku finland

Emotions, Others and the Self

Workshop abstracts

(updated 29..7.2005)

I. EMOTIONS AND THE SELF

1. G. H. Mead’s Symbolic Interactionism:

On the significance of emotional experience for self-formation

Emma Engdahl

Department of Social and Political Sciences

Örebro University, Sweden


Among the classics in symbolic interactionism we find A. Smith, C. H. Cooley and G. H. Mead. Smith is commonly remembered for his idea of the invisible hand, rather than his ideas on sympathy or moral sentiments; Cooley for his idea of the looking-glass self, in the sense of self-reflection, rather than self-feeling; and Mead for how we through attitude taking become selves with minds, rather than with emotions. In this paper Mead’s thinking on self-formation is perceived from a perspective that focuses on emotion. Especially, Mead’s idea on emotional experience as a felt inhibition of our interchanges with the other is examined. As a result, a systematization of the logic behind Mead’s theory of the evolving self is presented. Three distinct forms of Mead’s most well-known notion – taking the attitude or role of the other - come to the forefront: (1) functional identification (2) self-feeling, and (3) self-reflection. By examining Mead’s symbolic interactionism from a perspective that focuses on emotion I whish to bring the body and the emotions back into the field of symbolic interactionsim. The aim is, also, to present an understanding of body and emotion as social.
3. Seeing the self through the other

Magnus Gustafsson

Department of Industrial Management

Åbo Akademi University, Finland


The traditional theories on trust tend to describe the phenomenon as a conscious feeling or judgment that the other party does not intend harm. This view is based on a general assumption of uncertainty and can be traced back to Descartes and Hobbes and can be summed up in the question: how can we be certain they will fulfill their part of the obligation?

However, closer scrutiny shows that this view is both theoretically and empirically untenable and that the basic question itself, which underlies these theories, can be seen as a philosophicalmisunderstanding. One might as well ask: how can we be uncertain they will fulfill their obligation? As Lagerspetz (2002) points out trust is not so much a judgment as the basis for the judgment and comparable to a world-view. Thus trust is the view held by the one of the other (Gustafsson 2002) - it is based largely on the actions of the other and lies as a basis for how the actions of the other are interpreted. This definition of trust as the view of the other has also shown to be the one conforming best with how international business is conducted.

In this paper it is argued that rather than focusing on the other, as the traditional modernist views hold, the focus should be shifted to the self. By my reflecting on the one hand, on how I am seen by you, and on the other hand my reflecting on the way I see you, a more fruitful understanding of trustworthiness and trusting is achieved. By shifting to a process of regular self-examination, specific to the personal relation, the subject shifts from one of condemnation or admiration to one of reflection.

This approach of achieving and maintaining self-consciousness through the other has been greeted by practitioners and is today used globally to manage supplier-customer relationships and the trust in them. In the paper data and experiences from this process will be elaborated on. By regularly examining the self through the eyes of the other, companies and individuals gain a better understanding of themselves and are able to maintain better relations with the other, improves solving of the problems at hand, decreases litigation and enables the company to identify its weaknesses and improve its processes in order to increase the satisfaction of the other.


4. The Autonomous and Anonymous Self: Body and Emotions in Platonism

Pauliina Remes

Department of Philosophy

University of Helsinki, Finland


The idea of emotions as perturbations of right reason is ancient. Regardless of those ancient philosophical theories which embrace emotions as a part of human life and motivation, the grim picture of Plato’s Phaedo has long dominated the way emotions have been discussed. During antiquity, steps were taken towards externalisation of the body from what became considered as a true self. What is the rationale and philosophical motivation behind a theory that divides human nature so radically in two?

In Plato’s Timaeus, the demiurge creates human souls, but leaves the creation of their bodies to the lesser gods. This move to postulate two different origins to what one might expect to constitute a unified human nature is an influential step. It divides our nature into what is soul (and often also rational) and the bodily. With respect to emotions, the most radical and inhumane view in antiquity comes out of the happy marriage between Stoicism and Platonism. For the Stoics emotions are cognitive but perversions of reason, and thereby something a wise man has merely traces of. For Platonists, emotions are a mix of cognitions, elements of desire, bodily sensations and urges. As such they carry in them an element foreign to reason. When the later Stoics and Platonists combine these two strands of thought, they not merely eradicate emotions but, as it would seem, externalise them from the self.

The paper claims that there are two interesting motivations behind these harsh but influential views, both of which have to do with the philosophy of self. First, externalisation is a means of limiting that which is wholly and ideally actual from passive elements of human nature. By the time of Plotinus, the self had become understood in pure terms of actuality. This is important for the existence and causal efficacy of the self. The self is something that truly exists and that is a cause and principle of actions and cognitions, and therefore its nature must be active. Furthermore, only those actions which are not prompted – or, as Plotinus puts it, enchanted by the world – are expressions of purest selfhood. In his view, the body does not express selfhood in the required manner.

Second, to say that the body does not express our selfhood in its purest form need not strip the function of the body its significance. Maurice Merleau-Ponty has noted that body encloses personal but also anonymous layers. Body is not exclusively something that we could command at will. Without our initiation or conscious involvement, it is directed to and influenced by the world. This intentionality or directedness towards the world is anonymous in the sense of conceptually preceding the personal and lying outside our circle of decision, volition and judgement. It can and does acquire different kinds of expressions through personal acts and habits, but at its foundation there is something pre-personal. To treat the body as “foreign” need thus not be its externalisation from the self but an insight about its proper function in our nature.


5. Self-serving emotions1

Judit Szalai

Department of Philosophy

Central European University, Budapest, Hungary


The emotions individuals experience in any particular instance are shaped by a number of factors, such as (1) upbringing and social milieu, (2) perceived features of the situation, event, or object the emotion is directed at, and (3) the subject’s own emotional economy. Cognitivism, the trend that has formed the contemporary scene in the field of the philosophical theory of emotion, focuses on the second group, on what we may call object-related factors. The cognitivist approach construes emotions as responding to some perceived quality or value. Correspondingly, on the normative side, emotions are inappropriate when we misperceive or misjudge the relevant quality of the object, or when our reaction is disproportionate or wholly inadequate to the situation or the perceived property of the object.

My perspective is complementary rather than antagonistic to cognitivism, engaging subject-related factors that influence the occurrence of emotions. One’s emotional life has certain driving forces and interests of its own. In non-pathological cases, we tend to find ways to avoid excessively negative emotions and seek a kind of emotional ‘well-being’. Keeping up a sufficiently positive valence of emotions—especially of emotions related to our self-image—is part, probably the most important part, of our mental health.

Just as to object-related factors correspond object-related standards of appropriateness, subject-related factors also have their own normativity. An emotion that is seriously destructive to our self-image can be inappropriate from a subject-related point of view; just as an emotion which is incongruent with the perceived quality of the object is inappropriate from an object-related point of view.

In thinking about our own emotions and those of other people, we tend to take the object-related perspective for granted: we assume that emotions respond primarily to the perceived properties of their objects. However, it can happen that, instead, the subject-related perspective prevails: the emotion in question primarily answers the special demands of the subject’s emotional economy. Such emotions I will call self-serving. I define self-servingness in counterfactual terms: although they may warrant the emotion, the object-related features of the situation/object would not have triggered it. Examples are emotions attached to projection, scapegoating, and the martyrdom complex. There are also examples of self-serving positive emotions, like feeling love for a famous person the subject does not personally know in order to suppress a feeling of insignificance and make her life more meaningful.

While self-serving emotions are typically good in some sense for their subjects, we may find them morally impermissible on several grounds. Self-serving emotions may have bad consequences, such as inducing undeserved feelings of guilt and inferiority in persons towards whom the emotion is directed. Moreover, it can be plausibly claimed that we treat others as means to the end of our emotional well-being in the instances of such emotions. But there is also a further aspect that makes self-serving emotions blameworthy or impermissible. With self-serving emotions, their subject violates the rules of emotional cooperation. People operate on the understanding that emotions respond to values and expect others’ emotions to be based in a perception of some value or disvalue of the object. If my emotion is not grounded in such perception or judgment, I go against this fundamental principle to all emotional behavior and at least temporarily opt out of emotional cooperation, which takes the emotional reactions of others as based in value-perception and makes people reciprocate on that assumption.

6. First Encounter with the Other: bodily Expressions and the Origin of personal Selfhood

Joona Taipale

Department of Philosophy

University of Helsinki, Finland


When studying the themes of otherness and emotions, Husserl’s classical phenomenology is often rejected as a formal and solipsistic enterprise which is unable to deal with such problems. Derrida, for instance, writes that for Husserl the transcendental ego is “an absolute subject whose self-presence is pure and does not depend on any external affection, any outside.” In a few of his writings, Husserl indeed treats the transcendental ego as a formal ego-pole which lacks temporality and corporeality – and so it remains problematic how such ego could ever meet with others, to say nothing of having feelings. However, this formal view is not valid throughout Husserl’s work. Moreover, a careful study reveals that Husserl introduces the formal ego-pole through an explicit abstraction. In his later works, Husserl withdraws this abstraction, concretizes his account, and finally views the transcendental ego as an embodied, temporal, and intersubjective person – as a transcendental person.

In my paper, I wish to elucidate some phenomenological structures of personality. I will argue that, from Husserl’s phenomenological perspective, a full constitution of personal selfhood necessitates social relations with others. My presentation will proceed in three steps. First, I will elaborate the main features of Husserl’s concept of the transcendental person. Second, I will reveal those essential structures of the person that enable its first experience of others and the formation of social relations. I will study carefully the embodiment of subjectivity (e.g., bodily expression of emotions), and argue that this embodiment has a remarkable role in the first encounter with the other. Third, I will focus on the effects of this encounter to the self-experience of the subject by comparing the person as it is constituted prior and after the establishment of intersubjectivity. I will conclude that the transcendental ego becomes a full person only through sociality.

My presentation will thus contribute to the conference themes with a careful study of expressivity, selfhood, and otherness from the point of view of phenomenology of the person.

7. I am – but not without you: On reporting emotions in the first person singular

Heli Tissari

Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, Finland

In the course of my linguistic work on words denoting emotions, I have come to pay special attention to phrases attesting a first person singular form. Such phrases often seem to be used at least as much for reasons of politeness (reaching out to another person) or custom (reaching out to another person in a culturally conditioned manner) as out of a wish to give an expression to what one feels. In other words, they are used not only to communicate in relationships but in order to create, mold and uphold relationships.

Baranczak (1990: 12) gives an example of a culturally bound usage of the English word happy: “The question one hears at (stand-up) parties – “Is everybody happy?” – if translated literally into Polish, would seem to come from a metaphysical treatise or a political utopia rather than from social chitcat.” The following is an example of a first person usage of happy in (imaginary) dialogue:

“She’s decided the Empire Road launderette isn’t as good as the old one, in Cambridge Street, though,” he told Mrs Ames. “It mangles up the clothes, she says. Had you noticed that at all?” “No, I’m happy with it.” “Yes.” “They come out very clean.” “So I thought.”

Here, one might say that the phrase I’m happy serves the purpose not only of expressing satisfaction (evaluating something) but also of agreement and bonding (cultivating a relationship), in response to “she says”, “had you noticed”, and in anticipation of “so I thought”.

The example originally comes from a novel Gentleman and ladies by Susan Hill, but I picked it out of the hundred-million-word British National Corpus, an electronic resource for studying written and spoken present-day British English. My plan for this paper is to analyse similar data on a number of phrases beginning with I am/I’m (amazed, angry, anxious, ashamed, delighted, disgusted, glad, happy, proud, sad, surprised, worried) in order to describe to what extent their usage relates to (a) reporting an emotion, (b) reporting facts/news (e.g. “I am proud to tell you”), (c) evaluating something or someone, and (d) cultivating a relationship or relationships.

To begin with, it is interesting if not terribly surprising to notice that phrases attesting positive emotions are much more frequent in the corpus than phrases attesting negative emotions. I’m glad occurs 1,171 times as against I’m worried (174), I’m ashamed (56), and I’m disgusted (24). Besides noticing that it is more acceptable to express positive than negative emotions, one ought not to forget that creating and maintaining a positive atmosphere is a valuable tool for persuasion. Hardly all the interpersonal work which involves these phrases is likely to be “democratically bidirectional”.

8. Was it a smile or not?

Some remarks on the constitutive indeterminacy of facial expressions.

Göran Torrkulla

Department of Philosophy

Åbo Akademi University, Finland

In this paper I want to question some common philosophical assumption about the expressiveness of the human face, especially focusing on misleading attempts to assimilate the plurality of expressions to a general paradigm of patterns in order to come to terms with the unpredictability of spontaneous human behaviour. My aim is to show that difficulties in understanding each other’s moods and attitudes usually are not due to some kind of epistemic defects, but rather consist in a certain lack of attention to the specific embeddedness of our expressions and the different responses they meet, but also in a certain neglect concerning the relations between the persons involved (and/or our own relation to them and the situation). This does not, however, mean that the context - including the conventions of the common background - as such decides how a certain expression is to be taken, but that the very intelligibility of our judgements about the meaning of it, demands that we take into account the variability and irregularity of the ways in which we respond to each other, and at the same time also the very fact that we do not view human behaviour from a neutral stance, i.e. that our judgments internally depend on whether we like the person, trust or know him or her well enough and so on. In cases of disagreement about, say, the sincerity of someone’s words or expressions, the undecidability neither implies a deficiency in skill or knowledge, nor an inadequate command of certain terms. This indeterminacy is not an accidental but a constitutive feature of those judgements, setting them apart from for instance judgements about the size of physical objects, and thus pointing to important similarities to aesthetic and moral judgements. In short, there is no definite answer to what combination of elements is necessary or sufficient for a certain type of facial expressions - smiles may be part of anger, fear and sorrow, and people who are happy need not smile, and in that sense there are no conclusive criteria - no proofs - that can be used to settle disputes of this kind. Instead the variations themselves are part of the very background of understanding expressions of moods and emotions, and are thus constitutive for the meaning of the concepts we apply. To be sure, there are criteria, but they are not themselves beyond dispute, and appealing to them requires the same degree of insight as making the judgements themselves. My main contention is that we should carefully attend to the situated expressive actions and their internal relations between response and responsibility - which ultimately does not confront us with a problem of knowledge but rather a problem of the will, and accordingly with a moral task.


9. Emotion, the Self and the Unity of a Person’s Life

Sunny Yang

University of Durham
What are the conditions under which a girl A at time t and 10 years later, a woman B, are the very same person? To answer this question, I begin with the Hume’s theory of personal identity. Hume’s official view, according to which the self is a bundle of perceptions, cannot explain the unity of a person’s life. Hume addresses personal identity in Book 1 of the Treatise almost exclusively in terms of the relationship of the present self to its past, primarily in terms of causation and memory so that he faces difficulties explaining the unity of a person’s life. But it should be noted that Hume also holds that the self is extended through time and that a person’s life is a projection over time with regard to emotion. In Book 2 of the Treatise Hume attempts to explain why past perceptions, thoughts, and actions affect my present feelings, and therefore why these feelings influence my future. He introduces a further causal relation into the account of the self—the relation between intention and action. He explains why I act from concern for a future that will bear to me, now, the relation I bear to my past. Hence he argues that in thinking of myself in the future I am thinking of actions that follow from my motives, intentions and character.

Although his view in Book 2 fares better than Book 1 in the sense that he tries to unify the diachronic expansion of a person’s life in terms of its influence on emotion, I argue that this view has defects as well. It seems to me that in order for Hume’s view of personal identity in terms of emotion and tense to be plausible, Hume must take notice of the notion of ‘the experiential content of memory’ which is embedded in certain feelings. That experiential memory plays a central role in explaining personal identity has been neglected by many philosophers in the mental connectedness tradition. In order to understand memory as experiential, we need to understand the affective tendency attached to some memory. I argue that memory affects not only my past thought but also my past emotions and those emotions deriving from the past stay on to affect my whole being and my future. Thus for example the shame or regret that I experience when I remember my past wrongdoing represent the whole of me up to now as well as at that time.

If we adopt the notion of experiential memory to identify mental connectedness with personal identity, we bring the person under the influence of his past, such that the past is reconstructed and then influences the future. Hence, a life- the diachronic expansion of a person- is unified. If this is right, I argue, the problem of personal identity can be resolved in terms of personal history understood from a person’s own perspective (e.g. emotion).

10. On Spinoza’s Theory of Desire

Valtteri Viljanen

Department of Philosophy

University of Turku, Finland


According to Spinoza, desire (cupiditas) is one of the three primary emotions – the other two being joy and sadness – and obviously the most basic one, since it is identified with the human essence itself. Thus, the aim of my paper is to provide an account of Spinoza’s theory of desire. My interpretation rests on the contention that Spinoza holds temporal being to be something fundamentally dynamic, i.e., something that should be described first and foremost as relations of power between finite things. The concept of desire has a key role with regard to this kind of dynamism. However, in order to understand the Spinozistic theory of desire I examine first, through a series of intertwined questions, the ontological foundations on which it is built.

I begin by expounding Spinoza’s view of finite things’ essence as striving (conatus) to persevere in being. Next I examine how he thinks about individuals and bring forth that a complex individual’s persistence in being requires maintaining the simpler elements, of which the individual is composed, in a certain fixed relation. Accordingly, each physical individual has a characteristic structure, constituted by innumerable simple bodies in the required interactive configuration; the conatus power must preserve this structure for the individual to stay in existence.

To give an account of the temporal changes taking place in individuals, a distinction should be made between the individual’s constant essential power (i.e. conatus) and continually changing power of acting (agendi potentia). But if the essential power and structure remain the same while the power of acting changes, it must be asked how is this in fact possible. I shall argue that Spinoza answers this question with his theory of constitution of essences in temporality: any individual with an essence is constituted (i.e., realised in temporality) varyingly depending on the concrete circumstances it encounters, and having a clear grasp of this doctrine is crucial for the correct understanding of Spinoza’s theory of desire.

After these considerations it is possible to tackle the issues concerning emotions. I argue that as the individual is constituted varyingly its conatus power must be continuously determined or oriented anew, and Spinoza speaks of this kind of concretely determined conatus as desire. In other words, if the essential striving was not ceaselessly re-oriented, according to prevailing circumstances, the individual would not be able to maintain its structure for too long; an inflexible conatus would be of no use. Also joy and sadness must be understood in connection with our conatus power and its realisation – in which other human beings and society can help us, giving us joy. So, Spinoza’s theory of desire draws attention to the fact that any individual’s essential power is sensitive to the varying requirements of temporal existence. To my mind, this line of thinking provides us an original insight into human existence: we are dynamic beings of desire, never emotionless, and the Spinozistic ethics is all about finding out how to make our desires as rational and active as possible.

II. EMOTIONS AND ETHICS
11. Emotions and the Value of Object-Attachements

Nussbaum and Klein on Emotions and the Human Good

Lene Auestad

Department of Philosophy

Oslo University, Norway
Martha Nussbaum's philosophical contributions have been central to the reassessment of the importance of the role of emotions in ethics and political theory. Her arguments to the effect that emotions are complex responses to what is valuable and important in human lives, and hence that moral psychology should be regarded as being essential to moral and political theory, have established her position as one of the most central ethical theorists of today. Emotions, to Nussbaum, are not merely motivations supporting or subverting one's choice to act according to moral principles, rather they are part and parcel of the system of moral reasoning. Thus, a repudiation of the claim of non-cognitivists, that emotions are phenomena of a kind that are expressive only, and hence that they cannot make claims to truth or validity, is central to her position.

Nussbaum defends the view of the Greek Stoic Chrysippus, that an emotion is itself identical with the full acceptance or recognition of a belief. Hence she excludes the possibility of there being constituent parts of an emotion that are not themselves part of the judgment, i.e. of an emotion containing non-cognitive or bodily elements. That is to say, although it generally feels like something to have an emotion, the fact that emotions are experienced in certain ways should not be part of the definition of emotions. Nor should concrete feeling-states such as trembling or boiling enter the definition of what an emotion is. Hence feelings, to Nussbaum, understood as experiences of having emotions, described either phenomenologically or physiologically, should not be included in definitions of emotions.

I shall argue, to the contrary, that non-cognitive, bodily elements should be regarded as constituent parts of an emotion, and hence that a judgment or belief is not sufficient for the existence of an emotion. The psychoanalytic object-relations theory of Melanie Klein is particularly well suited to make this point. The two theorists overlap in seeing emotions as concerned with attachments to significant others, while Klein's theory gives a better account of some significant phenomenal qualities of emotional states. It is argued that the felt urgency and physical upheaval and exhaustion, the phenomena of emotional conflict and of defence and the fact that emotions colour and shape experience, rather than being simply responsive to situations encountered, are more plausibly accounted for in a theory which recognizes non-cognitive components of emotions. Lastly, I shall sketch very briefly a few implications for ethics, arguing that Nussbaum’s moral argument about self-sufficiency and vulnerability is not as much an issue of choice as she suggests, that some of her definitions of emotions are unduly cognitively heavy and that in her account the foundational nature of attachments to others, along with cases of more spontaneous other-directedness, are overlooked.

12. Emotional Ground of Ressentiment

Dina A. Babushkina

Saint-Petersburg State University, Russia


Aristotle once defined a man as a social being, since then philosophy considers him/her to be included in a wide system of relations with others. It believes that to be a person one should share his/her existence with an other. I have not only to be with another person but, existing, to take into account existence of an other; to limit my freedom by his/her freedom.

For a man there are two ways: either he/she lives a life oriented to the other and makes the other a constitutive element of him/herself; or he/she doesn’t. Human existence thus has two modi: ressentiment-being and will-to-power (Nietzshe). I am going to focus on the first for it presupposes relation to others. The aim of the paper is 1) to ague that being of resentment-person is essentially emotional; 2) to view the role of emotions in his/her life and 3) to identify what a particular emotion means for another person who is related to the ressentiment-person. My main thesis is – a certain emotion is itself an expression of symbolizing work of mind and represents one’s attitude to the action of another person. By the emotion we can understand how a person evaluates this action.

Ressentiment can be widely defined as a re-action. In a situation of ressentiment the following schema takes place: a person acts towards the ressentiment-person, who suffers and experiences a certain emotion; then ressentiment-person re-acts towards the actor who has affected him. The re-action is mediated by emotion, it is not thus immediate. In fact, the ressentiment-person converts the action of another man in his/her mind, creating and idea of it. So the original action gets a new, symbolic meaning. This ideal action, being what it is due to the emotion the original action arouses in the ressentiment-person, causes the re-action. Emotion thus has a converting power. It has a certain mechanism: being an attitude (reply, return) to the action, emotion is essentially a negation. “Ideal” action – is not the action itself. Emotion arises on the ground of action of an other and exists as a reply, but as such it presents another, inner reality of the ressentiment-person, where this action exists as an idea. Re-action is affirmation of a meaning as a negation. Re-acting the ressentiment-person externalizes his inner world, he/she exercises a reply to what in his/her mind means the action of the other, otherwise to a evaluated, symbolic action.

The capacity of emotional mediation of a return action grounds such human capacities as reason, fancy, memory, conscience (Nietzshe). These are the spheres of symbolic. Different types of emotions, that immediately follows the effect and mediate the re-action making it meaningful, play important role in inter-personal relationship. To make the interaction clear and meaningful, these types of emotions are cultivated in a person (by such violent institutions as: school, prison, clinic etc.). He is trained to feel this or that emotion in particular situation, and his is expected to feel it and re-act in a certain way. If he doesn’t, we consider him as an alien or simply strange.


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