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Explicating Emotions

Scarantino, Andrea (2005) Explicating Emotions. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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In the course of their long intellectual history, emotions have been identified with items as diverse as perceptions of bodily changes (feeling tradition), judgments (cognitivist tradition), behavioral predispositions (behaviorist tradition), biologically based solutions to fundamental life tasks (evolutionary tradition), and culturally specific social artifacts (social constructionist tradition). The first objective of my work is to put some order in the mare magnum of theories of emotions. I taxonomize them into families and explore the historical origin and current credentials of the arguments and intuitions supporting them. I then evaluate the methodology of past and present emotion theory, defending a bleak conclusion: a great many emotion theorists ask "What is an emotion?" without a clear understanding of what counts as getting the answer right. I argue that there are two ways of getting the answer right. One is to capture the conditions of application of the folk term "emotion" in ordinary language (Folk Emotion Project), and the other is to formulate a fruitful explication of it (Explicating Emotion Project). Once we get clear on the desiderata of these two projects, we realize that several long-running debates in emotion theory are motivated by methodological confusions. The constructive part of my work is devoted to formulating a new explication of emotion suitable for the theoretical purposes of scientific psychology. At the heart of the Urgency Management System (UMS) theory of emotions I propose is the idea that an "umotion" is a special type of superordinate system which instantiates and manages an urgent action tendency by coordinating the operation of a cluster of cognitive, perceptual and motoric subsystems. Crucially, such superordinate system has a proper function by virtue of which it acquires a special kind of intentionality I call pragmatic. I argue that "umotion" is sufficiently similar in use to "emotion" to count as explicating it, it has precise rules of application, and it accommodates a number of central and widely shared intuitions about the emotions. My hope is that future emotion research will demonstrate the heuristic fruitfulness of the "umotion" concept for the sciences of mind.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee CoChairGriffiths,
Committee CoChairMachamer, Peterpkmach@pitt.eduPKMACH
Committee MemberBrandom, Bobrbrandom@pitt.eduRBRANDOM
Committee MemberMillikan,
Date: 10 October 2005
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 20 July 2005
Approval Date: 10 October 2005
Submission Date: 19 August 2005
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > History and Philosophy of Science
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: feeling; frijda; millikan; emotion; intentionality
Other ID:, etd-08192005-070358
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 20:00
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:49


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