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Emotional Feelings and the Sense of Self

English title Emotional Feelings and the Sense of Self
Applicant Soldati Gianfranco
Number 126746
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Département de Philosophie Faculté des Lettres Université de Fribourg
Institution of higher education University of Fribourg - FR
Main discipline Philosophy
Start/End 01.01.2010 - 31.01.2013
Approved amount 160'754.00
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All Disciplines (3)

Discipline
Philosophy
Psychology
Neurophysiology and Brain Research

Keywords (7)

Emotion; Feeling; Self; Embodiment; Imagination; Metaphor;

Lay Summary (English)

Lead
Lay summary
IntroductionOne of the main issues in emotion research concerns the question of just what an emotion is. The most natural way of answering this question would be to say that emotions concern the way a person feels about herself in relation to other people, the world and life in general. Even though this ordinary sentiment already encapsulates perfectly the idea that an emotion has the person, or the self, at its centre, this basic point has not garnered much attention in emotion research. BackgroundRecent research investigating the 'feeling' character of emotions has failed to carry out a systematic description and categorisation of the typical experiential (i.e. phenomenal) content of emotional feelings. As a result, important features of emotional feelings have been neglected which can help answer traditional questions surrounding the relation between emotional feelings and cognition, on the one hand, and the body and the self, on the other, and also illuminate the representational status of emotional feelings. The StudyIn contrast to existing proposals, a systematic phenomenological analysis reveals that emotional feelings present to conscious experience, most of all, a sense of self. However, conscious localisable bodily sensations play only a peripheral role in this context, and the sense of self emerging in emotional feelings is crucially independent of, if intricately related, to the experience of a body image and body schema. Not infrequently, this particular sense of self will also involve basic felt representations of the object of emotion, which depend for their typical content on imagination, namely, the simulation of the spatial, temporal and causal features both of the object of emotion and possible reactions. Finally, the sense of self emerging in emotional feelings might be fruitfully traced back to the formation of certain perceptual capacities in evolutionary history. SignificanceThe study re-connects emotion research with classical philosophical discussions surrounding the problem of the self and helps re-orientating scientific emotion research towards an investigation of the sense of self. In providing support for the idea that motivation does not merely arise from a disjunctive set of mental and/or physical pulls and pushes but from an integrated sense of self in emotions, the study furthermore clarifies the phenomenal basis underlying theories of motivation. Finally, the current research provides a philosophically principled yet scientifically compatible theory of phenomenal consciousness in emotional feelings with particular reference to appraisal theories of emotion.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
Research Weekend 22.03.2013 Ovronnaz


Knowledge transfer events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Date Place Persons involved
Summer School Budapest 28.06.2012 Budapest


Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
Media relations: print media, online media Interview Universitas Universitas Western Switzerland 10.10.2012

Abstract

Emotional Feelings and the Sense of Self1. SummaryState of ResearchRecent research investigating the ‘feeling’ character of emotions (especially Goldie 2000, 2004, 2009; Prinz 2004; Scherer 2009 & 2008) has failed to carry out a systematic description and categorisation of the typical experiential (i.e. phenomenal) content of emotional feelings. As a result, important features of emotional feelings have been neglected which can help explain not only traditional questions surrounding the relation between emotional feelings and cognition, the body and the self but also illuminate the discussion about the representational status of emotional feelings.Current ProposalThe proposed interdisciplinary study asserts that a systematic phenomenological analysis will show that emotional feelings present to conscious experience, most of all, a sense of self, namely the sense of being a ‘situated, embodied and motivated agent’. Secondarily and strongly related to this particular sense of self, emotional feelings also involve felt basic representations of spatial, temporal and causal features of the particular objects of emotions (incl. objects, events and states of affairs). By comparison, it is suggested that localised bodily sensations form only a minor component in emotional feelings. Furthermore, the current research proposes that emotional feelings depend for their typical content crucially also on imagination (for imagination, see, e.g., P L Harris 1989 & 2000), namely inter alia the simulation (e.g., Gordon 1986; Goldman 1993; Nichols & Stich 2003) of spatial, temporal and causal probabilities, as regards the particular object of an emotion, and spatial, temporal and causal possibilities, as concerns available ways of acting. Along with existing interdisciplinary research, it will be claimed that imagination and simulation are closely connected to the availability of a body schema and a body image (Shaun Gallagher, 2005). Finally, the current study will describe in outline how the sense of self in emotional feelings can be traced back to the stepwise formation of different perceptual capacities at successive stages in evolutionary history.Interdisciplinary OutlookThe outlook of the proposed research is decidedly interdisciplinary both in its theoretical and practical orientation: in theoretical terms, the study will combine the special expertise in phenomenological research at Fribourg University (Gianfranco Soldati, Martine Nida-Rümelin) with up-to-date scientific findings produced at the Swiss Centre for Affective Sciences, Geneva, the worldwide leading research institute on appraisal theory of emotion, under the leadership of Klaus Scherer; in practical terms, successive parts of the project will be presented regularly both at Fribourg University research seminars and conferences and at NCCR seminars and ‘iClub’ meetings at the Swiss Centre for Affective Sciences, Geneva. More generally, the study is part of an attempt at strengthening the interdisciplinary collaboration between the Fribourg philosophy department and the Swiss Centre for Affective Sciences, , Geneva, drawing in as well the Lausanne University philosophy of science research group, under the leadership of Michael Esfeld. In addition, planning is currently at an early stage (please see enclosed message board announcement) regarding the establishing of a Fribourg-based regional ‘society for the philosophy of psychology and neuroscience’ which will cover two streams: (a) the methodology and metaphysics of psychology / neuroscience; and (b) collaborative interdisciplinary work, initially on emotions (the phenomenology of emotions; bodily representations in emotions; appraisal in emotions).Key words: emotional feelings, perception, body schema and body image, imagination, simulation; motivation, agency; a sense of self, self-knowledge, the use of ‘I’; metaphorKey disciplines: philosophy of mind (& language), psychology, neuroscience, linguisticsKey theories: emotion theories (componential appraisal theory, cognitive theory, dimensional theory, bodily appraisal, feeling ‘towards’, affective perception), phenomenology & neurophenomenology, theories of the embodied self, evolutionary theory of emotions
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