EMOTIONS, COGNITION, AFFECT: ON JERRY NEU’S A TEAR IS AN INTELLECTUAL THING1
ABSTRACT. Jerome Neu has been one of the most prominent voices in the philosophy of emotions for more than twenty years, that is, before the ﬁeld was even a ﬁeld. His Emotions, Thought, and Therapy (1977) was one of its most original and ground-breaking books. Neu is an uncompromising defender of what has been called the “cognitive” theory of emotions (as am I). But the ambiguity, controversy, and confusion sown by the notion of a “cognitive” theory of emotion is what I would like to focus on here. In so doing I will indicate some of the ways in which my own theory has developed.
Jerome Neu has been one of the most prominent voices in the philosophy of emotions for more than twenty years, that is, before the ﬁeld was even a ﬁeld. His Emotions, Thought, and Therapy (1977) was one of its most original and ground-breaking books, displaying the added virtues of being solidly cross-disciplinary, being actually sympathetic to Freud, and bringing in empirical data to support his philosophical analyses – all three venal if not deadly sins at the time in mainstream analytic philosophy. In the title essay of this his new book, “A Tear is an Intellectual Thing”, Neu takes on the whole ﬁeld of “affective” psychology and the very inﬂuential work of Paul Ekman in particular. It is one of the few extensive pieces of substantial (as opposed to methodological) cross-disciplinary criticism before the previous decade. Thankfully such work is now becoming not only respectable but professionally obligatory. Neu is an uncompromising defender of what has been called the “cognitive” theory of emotions (as am I). The label is not his (nor is it mine). It has been imposed on us, transferred from psychology. I long fought it, not because it was wrong-headed but because “cognition” is so variously or ill-deﬁned. In particular, I want to reject (as I am not always sure Jerry does) the overly committed conceptions of “cognition” as knowledge (and thus in some sense veridical) and such overly narrow and passionless conceptions as
Philosophical Studies 108: 133–142, 2002. © 2002 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
between cognition and consciousness. There is also the confusion. since they had pretty much come up with the idea simultaneously. But I thus want to reject his Blake-inspired title. with whom he had worked for several months. and the paper was already scheduled
. which Jerry (as a Freudian) does not make. not actually “stole”. and deliberation. the question is how we are to understand “cognition” and what exactly are the “cognitive elements” that are so crucial (I would say constitutive) of emotion? What continues to exercise me is the ambiguity. and confusion sown by the notion of a “cognitive” theory of emotion. as put here by Michael Stocker and elsewhere by Peter Goldie)2 I argue that an adequate cognitive theory includes rather than excludes affect. But. I am helped and encouraged by the fact that my co-symposiasts and chair have all written about the topic. and what is especially valuable are his analyses of particular emotions. received acclaim from his colleagues. reﬂection. then. In this brief comment. something concrete instead of any general hand-waving about the nature of emotions. had stolen his idea. Cognition does not necessarily involve the “higher” modes of consciousness. But she had. I want to examine one such “cognitive” theory of emotion. now. – self-consciousness. articulation. SOLOMON
involving “information”. Well. “A Tear is an Intellectual Thing”. and affect as such. and that is what I would like to focus on here. In so doing I will indicate some of the ways in which my own theory has developed over the past quarter century. controversy. Neu’s view of emotion as thought. cognition. It has been argued that cognitive theories are pathologically dissociative insofar as they deny or neglect affective feelings (for instance. notably jealousy. presented it ﬁrst.
A CASE OF JEALOUSY
Joshua sits in an agitated state of disbelief in the microbiology symposium as he realizes that this colleague of his. Accordingly. on the grounds that it is not the intellect that is typically engaged in emotion. the subject of his best-known essay to date and one of the topics that has inspired commentary here. let me begin with an example. and face the question whether any such theory excludes affect or feeling. Neu’s book is a gold mine of ideas and insights.134
about his inability to do the complex mathematical analyses needed for some of his intended projects. It raises a number of important and interesting questions about the nature of emotion and about the nature of that green-ey’d emotion in particular. It is Jerry’s contention (and mine too) that no emotion. He wonders how this could have happened. and he is sweating profusely. or more precisely. but in particular jealousy. what we would call “professional jealousy”. why he delayed and dawdled in putting together his own paper and presentation. is conceivable with out them. muttering to a horriﬁed friend as he goes. Other people in the room cool the increasingly heated situation by praising the paper and making some slightly overblown comments on its importance in the ﬁeld. ﬁrst. even then. some downright hostile (even homicidal) towards his colleague. what to say. He is ﬂushed and agitated and his voice betrays his tension but he is still “under control”. He almost yells out. Joshua becomes livid. is the object of jealousy the colleague. He ﬁnds himself thinking more extensively about other missteps in his ﬂedgling career. there is no question of “loss of love”. “I just can’t help myself”. Indeed. COGNITION. He momentarily worries whether his career is effectively over.EMOTIONS. in contrast to the usual romantic paradigm of jealousy. And. about his comparative lack of presentational skills. that the description of the emotion (and I have quite intentionally not tried to produce a ﬁrst-person “phenomenological” description) is ﬁlled with thoughts. unless this term is stretched unmercifully to include collegial respect and career success. Joshua raises a provocative (not to say “rude”) challenge to the paper. “that’s my hypothesis”! but he ﬁnds himself speechless. the thesis. Although he (obviously) agrees with the conclusion of the paper he raises several picky points about its presentation and its handling of the evidence. His face feels as if it is on ﬁre. Notice. After the presentation. Second.
. This is a case of jealousy. AFFECT
for publication! His mind crowds with thoughts. He thinks about an appropriate response. His thoughts now include an unspeakable fantasy about releasing a lethal virus from the lab and destroying everyone in the room. He stomps out of the room. it is evident that the loss is not the loss of affection from the putative object of the emotion (as the loss of affection or attention of the beloved is said to be the object of romantic jealousy).
I said that I want to reject Neu’s Blake-inspired title. one’s other colleagues? Thus jealousy emerges as a complex emotion with a complex “object”. And. I am keenly aware that not all emotions are the same (they do not form a “natural kind”) but nevertheless. I would like to focus on the role of two key but seemingly opposed “ingredients” or “components”. a community in which to be humiliated).136
ROBERT C. fourth. on the one hand. In romantic jealousy this triangular (or quadrangular) structure is pretty straightforward. but I am interested here in some much more general concerns about emotions. and in my own work. including such primitive passions as panic and rage and such cerebral emotions as jealousy and moral indignation. for instance. Regarding jealousy. and feelings (or “affects”). indeed. notice the essential importance of the rival in this situation. on the other. Historically. In the case of professional jealousy it is not. an over-emphasis on one has led to the denigration or neglect of the other. I would like to correct this here. perhaps. Jealousy is a social emotion in that it involves not only one other person but minimally three (thus the classic “triangle” talk) and arguably four or more (there must be an audience. notice how impossible it would be to describe this as an “emotional” situation without frequent allusion to the physiological arousal and agitation that accompanies (or. on the
. There are other questions about jealousy that I will not broach here. In what sense (if any) does the notion of “rights” enter into the case (perhaps something even akin to property rights)? What is the relation between jealousy and envy? Or jealousy and resentment? Jealousy and anger? Jealousy and shame? Thus the complex structure of jealousy is a subject that still invites much more scrutiny. Third. SOLOMON
the presentation. thoughts (as “cognitions”). not a single object (thing or person) at all.
WHAT IS A “COGNITIVE THEORY” OF THE EMOTIONS? NEU’S THOUGHTS
What is a “cognitive” theory of emotions. is an essential part of) the emotion. there is a wide range of phenomena that are generally understood as falling under the heading of “emotion”. “A Tear is an Intellectual Thing”.
What is not clear to me is to what extent Neu’s Spinozistic “thoughts” are indeed “intellectual” and thus share in this “intellectualization” of emotion. Emotions. To be sure. But I
. a sense of injustice. and jealousy. Joshua’s thoughts are surely a primary component and not just a symptom or manifestation of his emotion. but the relationship is intimate. But I have always found the appropriately precise notion of a “thought” to be too episodic and (like “intellect”) too sophisticated for the analysis of most emotions. simply stated. I would point out very quickly. He does not quite equate thought and emotion. are thoughts. and nothing can be jealousy if it does not involve the recognition of a threat and a potential loss (and much else besides). jealousy may well involve (and not just as cause) some more basic neurological and psychological processing. or event). state.EMOTIONS. shaped and constrained by language and culture. although. or deﬁned by thoughts (I am not allowing here the very general Cartesian sense of “cogitationes” that would include virtually any mental process. most obviously in the case of phobias and other irrational fears and irrational emotions more generally. “Intellectually I know that but emotionally . . and it is pretty clear that one cannot have most emotions (especially such emotions as jealousy) without certain types of thoughts. Even in jealousy. or dispositions to have thoughts. but it does not follow that intellect and emotions as such are opposed. it is important for us philosophers to adjust our understanding of even the most sophisticated and culture-bound emotions with an eye to such claims and ﬁndings. by no means is the intellect essentially opposed to emotion and is often very much part of emotions. .3 I would still argue that nothing can be an emotion if it does not involve experience. But. Nevertheless. in particular – it is hard to think of a case in which the intellect does not play an important role. a person with an emotion will have thoughts appropriate to the emotion and the context. nevertheless. AFFECT
grounds that it is not the intellect that is essentially engaged in emotion. In many social and moral emotions – moral indignation.” has a great many legitimate applications. the recognition and the response need never be articulated. as more and more evidence and neuropsychological theories emphasize the subcortical and in some sense subconscious aspects of emotional response. COGNITION. The common phrase.
but thoughts represent one particularly advanced form of cognition and not the basic form. and it must not be tied too tightly to the activity of thinking (although I would argue that it is again important not to
ROBERT C. Thoughts are present in many emotions. Philosophers confuse the matter by taking “the thought” to be the proposition expressed by the thought. I think. But the argument does have merit regarding the thesis that thoughts are essential to (or themselves constitute) emotions. to be sure. as an episodic phenomenon. but I don’t think that they don’t have thoughts about this. My dog Fritz gets jealous when I pet my other dog Lou. although. it cannot merely be a proposition (or a set of propositions). and I think Neu is often a bit too quick with this. When I have recurrent thoughts of violence or recurrent sexual fantasies a plausible hypothesis is that I have the appropriate (or rather. thinking that the cognition involved in emotion is the reﬂective recognition that one has an emotion rather than the recognition constitutive of the emotional response. inappropriate) emotion. Thus the absurdity of Donald Davidson’s much heralded analysis of emotion (following Hume’s example of pride) in terms of a syllogism of propositions in logical sequence. if only the immediate recognition of a situation or a face as threatening or hurtful. immediate emotional responses necessarily involve cognitions. Much less is a proposition (or a set of propositions) ever tantamount to an emotion.4 Philosophers also confuse the matter by conﬂating thoughts and thinking. But insofar as thought is an aspect of emotion (rather than just a symptom or sign). for instance. but the proposition alone (a logical construction) is never tantamount to a thought in the psychological sense. Our immediate emotional responses often seem devoid of thoughts. SOLOMON
do not see any apt analogy with animals or infants (who are. and conscious feeling is only “icing on the cake”. but although both might be involved in emotion (some emotions certainly “get us thinking”) it is having thoughts and having them without necessarily thinking that is most pronounced both as symptom and as constituent of emotion. Joseph le Doux has been particularly instrumental in foisting this confusion on the emotion research community with his argument that immediate emotion response precedes cognition by a signiﬁcant amount of time. capable of jeaousy). There is room for rampant confusion here.
not even this was
. I must recognize it as a memory of something. I am not saying that one cannot have a thought without recognizing it as a thought. of course. In short. In my original theory.EMOTIONS. in describing animal behavior). and I may not be able to identify it. speaking loosely. anchored in the body. that all emotional experience had as its causal substratum various processes in the brain. a memory might spontaneously “pop” into my head.
AFFECT: EMOTIONS. of course. AND THE BODY
What has increasingly concerned me. and then this is phenomenologically sufﬁcient to count as a thought (Peter Goldie interestingly distinguishes between thought and imagination. To be sure. Of course. it was by no means clear that the body had any essential role in emotion. But for me to have such a thought I must in some sense be able to identify (“label”) my memory. Neu distinguishes thoughts in the explanatory sense from thoughts the phenomenological sense. That is surely too strong a demand. COGNITION. but I cannot go into this here). in the twenty-ﬁve years since I ﬁrst argued my own cognitive theory. AFFECT
insist that thinking cannot be an aspect of emotion but rather only an antecedent or consequence of emotion). Nor am I denying that we have thoughts that are not necessarily “put into words”. They are occasionally appropriate in the ﬁrst-person case (and often. (At my age. Thoughts in the explanatory sense are often appropriate in the third-person case (even. But insofar as an emotion is an experience – which he also holds – it is surely the phenomenological sense that is at stake here. but this had little to do with the nature of emotion as such. this is becoming more often the case. I suppose I would have defended a certain perspectivalism.) But a “ﬂashback” is not yet a thought. as experienced. thoughts may be present in many emotions and indispensable in adult human jealousy but thoughts are too articulate and too episodic to be adequate by way of a general account of emotional phenomena. is the role of the body in emotion. But for “thought” to provide an account of emotional experience it is only the phenomenological sense that is ultimately relevant. FEELINGS. but as I described most emotions and their constitutive judgments. in retrospective explanations of one’s own behavior). I presumed.
properly construed does capture that missing ingredient. To be sure. And as for the various physiological disturbances and disruptions that serve such a central purpose in William James’ analysis and in most accounts of emotion as “arousal”.140
ROBERT C. that what I call “judgments” are too cool and deliberative to be candidates for an emotion’s identity. relegating all such phenomena to the causal margins of emotion. as secondary. to be sure. galvanic skin response. again the exact opposite of James. I agree that something has been “left out”. are no more than the signs and symptoms of autonomic and various visceral responses. I had been as adamant about treating those feelings as I had been regarding their physiological causes. but I do not think that “affect” gives us anything very useful about what that might be. By this I do not mean anything having to do with the tricky mind-body relationship linked with Descartes and Cartesianism but rather the concern about the kinds of bodily experience that typify emotion. that the “sensation IS the emotion”. I was as dismissive as could be. Thus Stocker charges that cognitive theories leave out (or sneak in) reference to “affect” and “affective states”. the release of hormones. with all of the oomph that italics and caps can capture. It is certainly aimed at Neu as well. Some feelings. SOLOMON
much in evidence. What has made me increasingly concerned about the role of the body in emotions is my realization that bodily sensations (and not just the “visceral” disturbances suggested by James) have much to do with the nature and role of feelings in emotion. An emotional experience cannot be just cognitive. In Joshua’s jealousy. as merely accompaniments or secondary effects. sweating) have obvious phenomenological manifestations (feeling excited. It is therefore my own fault that I have long had to weather the objection that my cognitive theory is too “intellectual”. who said.
. has to do with the phenomenology of feeling in emotion. and not independent of appreciating the role of the body in emotional experience. But I now appreciate that accounting for the feelings (not just sensations) in emotion is not a secondary concern. This is the crux of Michael Stocker’s objection but it is also the target of a great many less sophisticated (and ultimately less sympathetic) critics. the workings of the autonomic nervous system (quickened pulse. I also believe that “cognition” or “judgment”.
COGNITION. involves taking up a defensive posture. pursing one’s lips) plays an important role as do other forms of bodily emotional expression in the constitution of emotional feeling (I sometimes wonder how having a tail that wags or ears that come to full alert add an interesting aspect of bodily feeling in animals). and these have phenomenological manifestations. in Peter Goldie’s apt phrase. it seems to me. Joshua takes on a great many bodily preparations and postures. and I have come to agree. but I am willing to ease up on that claim now. of course. but Downing also insists that an emotion is essentially an experience. I am even willing to say that. But more important. or what I will call (no doubt to howls of indignation) the judgments of the body. particularly those involved in physical aggression.EMOTIONS. frowning. notably. He writes of “bodily micro-practices” and suggests that emotions are to a very extent constituted by these. For instance. they have “borrowed intentionality” and are thus more than merely associated with the judgments that constitute the jealousy. Most of them are intentional and judgmental in a more direct way. I think that a great deal of what is unhelpfully called “affect” and “affectivity” and is supposedly missing from cognitive accounts can be identiﬁed with the body. Many of the distinctive sensations of getting jealous are the often subtle and not explicitly noticed tensing of the various muscles of the body. The category of “action readiness” defended by Nico Frijda and others seems to me to be particularly signiﬁcant here. But he adds. not in terms of dispositional analysis of emotional behavior but rather as an account of emotional experience. feeling ﬂushed). George Downing has put the matter quite beautifully in some of his recent work. Jealousy. that
. not all or even most of the feelings that seem to be part and parcel of this emotion are of this sort. This could. These are. AFFECT
“tingly”. He also is quite happy to insist that cognitions (judgments) are also an essential part of any emotional experience. I used to say that these were only contingently related to emotion. To put my current thinking in a nutshell. be taken as just another attempt at behavioral reductionism. many of them but not all of them within the realm of the voluntary. to be about the object of emotion in much the same way that inarticulate judgments are. Here the well-catalogued realm of facial expression in emotion (squinting.
Building on the work of Hubert Dreyfus and suggestions in Heidegger and Bourdieu. Neu’s book A Tear is an Intellectual Thing was published by Oxford University Press in 2000.
This essay was ﬁrst delivered as a talk at the American Philososophical Association meeting in San Francisco. 2000). The Cognitive Neuroscience of Emotion (OUP). But what gets left out of Davidson’s reconstruction – as Hume himself clearly recognized – was pride.
The University of Texas at Austin Austin. in this symposium and at length in his Valuing Emotions (Cambridge University Press. combined with a further analysis of the various modes of cognition. Joseph Le Doux. March 2001. Richard Lane and Lynn Nadel. See. Affective Neuroscience (OUP. Michael Stocker. Downing insists that a good deal of emotional experience and even emotional knowledge can be identiﬁed in the development of these bodily micro-practices. much less in any cognitive theory of emotion. 2000). that is. That is still quite cognitive by way of “knowing how” as well as “knowing that”. Whether or not one learns to be jealous (a matter of considerable debate). and Jerry Neu. 4 Donald Davidson. 1977.edu
. USA E-mail: rsolomon@mail. Co-symposiasts were Amelie Rorty. can further clarify the cognitive theory of emotion. Jeffrey Murphy.utexas. one learns (through one’s culture and through experience) to hone and shape one’s jealousy as well as to choose its objects. Davidson’s view was taken very seriously by many philosophers who never showed any interest in emotion. Peter Goldie in his Emotions (Oxford University Press. the emotion. 2 Stocker. for a good summary of much of this material. The Emotional Brain (Simon and Schuster. TX. 1996). 3 Notable controbutions to this literature are Jaap Panksepp. 1999. SOLOMON
a good deal of cognition is radically pre-linguistic (misleadingly called “pre-cognitive”). “Hume’s Cognitive Theory of Pride” Journal of Philosophy. It remains to be seen to what extent such an extended phenomenological analysis.142
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