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Philosophy of Emotion (Spring 2012)

The Philosophy of Emotion (phil 350) – Spring 2012

Professor: Aaron Smuts

It seems plausible that genuine, rational emotions require a belief in the reality of their objects. And it seems equally plausible that we fear the monsters of horror movies, even though we know that they are mere fictions. Is this irrational? Or is the fear not genuine? Or is it that people believe in Jason, Freddie, Count Dracula, and their kin while watching horror moves?  

This problem is known as the "paradox of fiction".  To solve the paradox we need to get a better handle on the nature of the emotions.  And we need a way to evaluate the rationality of emotion.

This course is divided into three sections. Each addresses a different topic:

Topic I: The Nature of the Emotions

Topic II: Rationality and the Emotions

Topic III: Morality and the Emotions

The course spans issues in the philosophy of mind, practical rationality, moral philosophy, the philosophy or art, and free will. We will address issues such as: What's the difference between an emotion and a mere mood? Do emotions involve judgments or are they non-cognitive? Is it sometimes wrong to have certain emotions? Can we be morally responsible for our emotions?  What if they are involuntary? Are emotions always irrational? Or might they play an important role in decision making? What makes an emotion authentic?

For a brief introduction to the area, see De Sousa's SEP entry.


First Exam

Second Exam

Final Exam