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Saturday, 21 November 2015

Externalism about experience

Being talking to Carol Marin about current debates in philosophy of emotion. We were considering whether it is still aptest to make the distinction between cognitivist and non-cognitivist approaches. Maybe the central issue is really around coordination - those who believe emotions are co-ordinated with the rest of one's psychic lives (like most cognitivists but also Gibbard) on the one hand and the Humeans on the other. Also, the issue is that since Aristotle's De Anima (where he separates the animal sensation from the vegetal development) and mostly after Descartes it is common to believe experience (or sensations, or sense impressions or the deliverances of the senses) in a way that is fully distinguished from emotions (or feelings, or sentiments, or affections). This split in the realm of sense and sensibilia shaped our philosophical panorama for centuries. Hence, emotions are irrelevant for empiricism and sense impressions are not emotions and both for no good reasons.

When Whitehead (among others, I'm thinking of Tom Sparrow and Levinas, for instance) challenges this split and argues for a broader conception of experience (see my recent philpercs post on experience without discrimination) he opens the possibility of considering emotions in line with feelings, sentiments, sensations and sense impressions. The difference, to be sure, is that we are not necessarily aware of what we experience. We can have undiscriminated experience that make a difference in our epistemic state. An epistemolgical continent opens up with the idea that experience doesn't have to be awareness to be (epistemologically) good.

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