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1. A new account of the emotions

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Thanks to John and the team for letting me take over the Brains Blog for the week. Over the next five days I’m going to summarise some of the key ideas in my new book The Emotional Mind: A control theory of affective states (Cambridge University Press). The book grew out an attempt to give an original account of the emotions. As anyone who has researched this area can tell you, the more you explore the emotions, the more you realise how complex they are. They connect to all sorts of issues about bodily sensations, actions, values, reasoning, character and social interactions. Ultimately, I don’t think a proper account of the emotions is possible without understanding how they are placed within the mind as a whole. This is what my book tries to provide. As a result, I end up with a theory of mental architecture, where the mind is structured around fundamental life-sustaining processes that deploy ever more elaborate forms of cognition to serve their aims. I will say more about this architecture on Friday. Today I want to start with the theory of emotions at the heart of the book. First some brief background: The history of the emotions debate since the time of William James has been dominated by a debate between the traditional cognitivist position- that emotions are a species of evaluative judgement, and the non-cognitive or somaticist position- that emotions are patterns of bodily sensations. As far as I can tell, everyone these days is searching for the ideal middle ground where evaluative judgement and bodily responses are perfectly synthesized. It is not enough to say that emotions combine bodily responses and judgement. The key adaptive innovation of emotions will lie in how exactly these two features are connected. In recent times the perceptual theory of emotions has presented a particularly strong synthesis. As Prinz (2004) articulates it, the feelings of bodily changes themselves represent the intentional contents of emotions. However, there have. . .

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News source: Philosophy of Mind – The Brains Blog

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