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Nussbaum, Martha, , . Emotions as Judgments of Value and Importance
2004, In Robert C. Solomon (ed.), Thinking About Feeling: Contemporary Philosophers on Emotions. Oxford University Press
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Added by: Andrea Blomqvist, Contributed by:

Abstract: Nussbaum argues for a cognitivist theory of emotions, whereby an emotion is similar to a judgement. An emotion has an intentional object which is being evaluated as e.g. bad for one. On her view, our emotional reactions to different situations are connected to the idea of eudaimonia, and emotions could be seen as a guide to a flourishing life. As such, Nussbaum aims to explain how certain emotions feel like they’re tearing us apart (e.g. grieving a dead family member), since they are literally bad for us. She thus departs from the Jamsian tradition whereby the psychological component of an emotion is emphasised (or emotions are sometimes reduced to physiological responses), and argues instead that the physiological response is not a necessary component of an emotion.

Comment: This paper offers a good introduction into the cognitivist theories of emotions and their basic claims. It would be good to pair with non-cognitivist theories such as William James’s or Jesse Prinz’s.

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