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37 (2006) 101–121
Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Norms for emotions: biological functions and representational contents
KingÕs College, Cambridge CB2 1ST, UK Received 10 July 2004; received in revised form 2 September 2004
Abstract Normative standards are often applied to emotions. Are there normative standards that apply to emotions in virtue solely of facts about their nature? I will argue that the answer is no. The psychological, behavioural, and neurological evidence suggests that emotions are representational brain states with various kinds of biological functions. Facts about biological functions are not (and do not by themselves entail) normative facts. Hence, there are no normative standards that apply to emotions just in virtue of their having various kinds of biological functions. Moreover, the peculiar features of emotions make the view that representational content is essentially normative very implausible. Hence, the representational properties of emotions cannot be seen as entailing normative standards. The conclusion is that there are no normative standards that apply to emotions solely in virtue of their nature. Ó 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Emotions; Normativity; Biological functions; Representational content; Cognitivism; Noncognitivism
1. Introduction Are there normative standards for emotions? If there are, where do they come from? These are diﬃcult questions. One sub-question is whether there are any norE-mail address: email@example.com (M. Mameli). 1369-8486/$ - see front matter Ó 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.shpsc.2005.07.007
M. Mameli / Stud. Hist. Phil. Biol. & Biomed. Sci. 37 (2006) 101–121
mative standards for emotions entailed solely by facts about the nature of emotions. This sub-question is the topic of the present essay. I argue that there are no normative standards that apply to emotions just in virtue of their nature. This means that either there are no normative standards for emotions or these normative standards have their origin in something other than facts about the nature of emotions. To believe that there are normative standards that apply to emotions just in virtue of their nature is to believe that there are genuine oughts that apply to emotions just in virtue of their nature. An instance of this view is someone who believes that, simply in virtue of the nature of fear, one ought to be in a state of fear only when one is seriously threatened; or that, simply in virtue of the nature of guilt, one ought to feel guilty when one has done something for which punishment is deserved. In order to decide whether there are normative standards that apply to emotions solely in virtue of their nature, we need to have some theory about the nature of emotion. Section 2 contains the outlines of such a theory. According to this theory, emotions are representational brain states with various kinds of biological functions. From this theory, it follows that, if there really are normative standards that apply to emotions in virtue solely of their nature, these normative standards must be due to the representational properties of emotions or to their biological functions. Section 3 explains and rejects the view that there are normative standards that apply to emotions in virtue of their biological functions. Section 4 explains and rejects the view that there are normative standard that apply to emotions in virtue their representational properties. If what argued in these two sections is correct, then there are no normative standards that apply to emotions in virtue solely of their nature.
2. The nature of emotions There are two diﬀerent kinds of theories of emotion: cognitivist and noncognitivist. Cognitivist theories say that the tokening of an emotion necessarily entails the tokening of a judgement or the tokening of something judgement-like, such as a belief, a construal, or a thought.1 In contrast, according to noncognitivist theories, the tokening of an emotion does not necessarily entail the tokening of a judgement, belief, construal, or thought. Let us focus on cognitivist theories ﬁrst. Most cognitivist theories say that an emotion necessarily entails the tokening of an evaluative judgement-like mental state, a mental state that has the structure of a judgement and that is about the relation between something (object, event, organism) and the well being of the emoting
I will assume that all judgements are beliefs but not the other way around. For example, innate beliefs are not judgements. Only those beliefs acquired by means of a very speciﬁc psychological process (judging) can be called judgements.
If emotions occur in organisms that do not possess sophisticated evaluative concepts. 5 James (1890. 1997). 3 Fodor (1998a). emotions have judgement-like states as necessary constituents. Thus. Goldie (2001). 2003). ÔPresidentÕ. one cannot judge that ÔChirac is the President of FranceÕ. De Lancey. one cannot ever be angry. Marks (1982). The distinction between pure and impure cognitivism is interesting but irrelevant with respect to the views presented here. In contrast. Biol. Cognitivism can be pure or impure. then emotions do not entail the tokening of sophisticated evaluative judgements.5 (3) emotions normally cause strong dispositions to behave in certain characteristic ways.3 The tokening of the judgement that ÔChirac is the President of FranceÕ requires the tokening of the concepts ÔChiracÕ. a fear of X often coexists with the judgement that X is not dangerous. Hist. There exist some strong arguments against cognitivism (Prinz. Phil. according to impure cognitivism. emotions involve more than the tokening of judgement-like states. Zajonc (1984.7 (5) genuine (as opposed to pretend) emotions can be triggered 2 Here is a list of authors who hold some kind of cognitivist theory: Nussbaum (1990. (1988). 2003). Solomon (1976. emotions are identical with the tokening of judgement-like states. Mameli / Stud. Scherer (1984). Zajonc et al. 1995. Nonhuman animals and human infants can be angry and yet they do not seem to possess sophisticated evaluative concepts such as ÔblameÕ.6 (4) the ways emotions interact with other emotions and with judgements are diﬀerent from the ways judgements usually interact with other judgements. . Griﬃths. According to pure cognitivism. 1991. Or she might claim that anger entails a judgement (or belief) that one has been wronged and that someone deserves to be blamed or punished for this. only rarely (if at all) a judgement that p coexists with a judgement that not p. 2. a state of anger entails the tokening of a judgement that Ôsomeone has wronged me and deserves to be blamed for itÕ. Stocker & Hegeman (1996). Schatcher & Singer (1962). 1993). 1999). On other versions. 2001). Lazarus (1984. Stocker (1987). BenZeÕev (2000). Sci. whilst judgements cannot. Davidson (1980). 2003). Ortony et al. Thus. whilst judgements cannot. Judgements are meaningful mental particulars constituted by other meaningful mental particulars called concepts. (1989. in contrast. ÔdeserveÕ and ÔblameÕ. ÔFranceÕ and so on. guilt normally causes the disposition to act in a reparatory way. 37 (2006) 101–121 103 organism itself. The causal role of emotions diﬀers in many important respects from the causal role of paradigmatic judgements: (1) emotions can be tokened through subcortical pathways. Nash (1989). 2002. 2004c. 1999). Ekman (1980. 1996). 1994. if one does not possess the concept ÔPresidentÕ. 1894). whilst judgements do not. & Biomed. 6 For example.2 For example. 7 For example. Roberts (1988. Greenspan (1988. Matthen (1998). Here is a summary: 1.M. 1994. 4 LeDoux (1994. emotions have judgement-like states as necessary concomitants. if one does not possess the concepts ÔwrongÕ. On some impure cognitivist theories.4 (2) emotions can be triggered through facial feedback (and other kinds of bodily feedback). Armon-Jones (1989). Robinson (1983). 1994). According to cognitivists. the evaluative judgement that one has done something wrong does not (by itself) cause such a disposition (Damasio. 2003). a cognitivist might claim that fear entails a judgement (or belief) that something is dangerous for the organism.
anger is disposition to shout. De Lancey (2002). 1994). muscular tension. for example. and also changes in the mind/brain. growl. LeDoux (1996). 1984. fear is just a certain kind of irreducible and characteristic feeling. hit. 1894) tried to improve upon the commonsense view and identiﬁed emotions with feelings of bodily changes. Frijda (1986). Panksepp (1998. whilst judgements do not. or thoughts.9 These arguments provide strong reasons to resist the view that emotions necessarily entail judgements. One of the reasons why behaviourism was abandoned was that it could not provide a satisfactory explanation of the internal mechanisms involved in the generation of emotional behaviour. muscles. whilst emotions cannot. and so on. 9 8 . 1999) attempts to combine the Jamesian theory of emotional feelings with De Lancey (2002). respiratory activity. 1996). lungs. The ﬁrst thing to say is that there are many diﬀerent versions of noncognitivism. facial expression. Similar arguments can be levelled against the view that emotions necessarily entail beliefs. 1992. The main problem with the commonsense view is that it does not explain much. De Lancey (2002). emotions were identiﬁed with simple behavioural dispositions. Sci. James (1884. or thoughts). Biol. blood pressure. 10 Here is a list of authors who can be said to hold some kind of aﬀect program theory: Ekman (1980. fear is the feeling of the characteristic changes that occur in oneÕs heart. construals. Leventhal (1984). 2000). 1890. rather. On this view. break things. On this view. When (in the ﬁrst half of the twentieth century) feelings became unfashionable. 37 (2006) 101–121 by works of ﬁction in ways that genuine (as opposed to pretend) judgements cannot. or construals. attentional mode etc. Damasio (1994. Phil. This is the aﬀect program theory. Prinz (2004c). gastrointestinal activity. heartbeat. LeDoux (1994. When behaviourism became unfashionable (in the second half of the twentieth century). 1993. Plutchik (1980.8 (6) judgements can be directly acquired by deliberating to accept a proposition as true. One theory is the commonsense view according to which emotions are feelings. skin conductance. Griﬃths (1997). 3. On this view. emotions are coordinated sets (or syndromes) of bodily changes: changes in skeletal posture. when a fear-triggering situation is present. so did the behaviouristic theory of emotions. for example. and so on. 4. Let us now look at noncognitivism.10 Aﬀect program theories do not usually deal with emotional feelings.104 M. & Biomed. stomach. emotions occur in the somatosensory areas of the brain. Panksepp (1998). 1949). On his view. and so on (Ryle. but they are not everything. hormone production. Hist. Mameli / Stud. Emotion researchers started to investigate these internal mechanisms and another noncognitivist theory soon became fashionable. The evidence collected through neuroimaging techniques indicates that emotions do not occur in areas of the brain where judgement tokening and concept manipulation occur. 2003). Emotions have valence (they can be pleasant or unpleasant) and intensity (they can be strong or mild). These coordinated changes may — but need not — be accompanied by evaluative judgements (beliefs. such as changes in cognitive style. Behavioural dispositions (not necessarily simple ones) are important in a theory of emotions. for example.
37 (2006) 101–121 105 the aﬀect program theory of emotional behaviour. 2004a. Hist. Prinz (2003. such a perception might be an emotional hallucination or an emotional imagining. & Biomed. tactile.11 But this objection is either wrong or formulated in the wrong way. Prinz argues that if emotional perceptions can occur without the corresponding bodily changes. Prinz explains DamasioÕs as-ifbody-loop as follows. . In the same way. He substitutes DamasioÕs term Ôemotional feelingÕ with Ôemotional perceptionÕ. Emotions are triggered by unemotional mental states. that is. Biol. A visual perception of a tree can occur in the absence of causal contact with a tree. emotions do not necessarily involve bodily changes. olfactory. For example. Not all perceptions of bodily changes are emotions. This seems to be the best way to make sense of the cognitivistsÕ complaints against noncognitivism. Emotional perceptions. Greenspan (1988). are not. Prinz also makes another important clariﬁcation. The real issue seems to be that this kind of representational content (where the content is constituted by bodily changes rather than evaluative propositions) is not enough for a good theory of emotions. emotions are coordinated sets of bodily changes and emotional feelings are brain states that register the occurrence of emotions.c) tries to improve upon DamasioÕs theory. auditory. Itches and tickles. Emotional feelings can be conscious or unconscious and they can sometimes occur without the corresponding bodily changes. According to Damasio. Mameli / Stud. his theory is closer to JamesÕ theory than is DamasioÕs. as well as beliefs. The standard objection against noncognitivism can then be rephrased as follows: a theory according to which emotions represent bodily changes (rather than sophisticated evaluative propositions) cannot explain the complex roles that emotions play in our mental lives. this happens in the case of visual hallucinations but also in the case of visual imaginings. according to James and Prinz. Solomon (2003). emotional feelings are brain states that keep track of certain characteristic kinds of bodily changes. He rejects DamasioÕs identiﬁcation of emotions with bodily changes and instead identiﬁes emotions with emotional perceptions. for example. and suppositions. just like visual perceptions. Perceptions of bodily changes caused directly by the environment (like in the case of tickles) or endogenously (like in the case of itches) are not emotions. and gustatory perceptions. can be conscious or unconscious. The standard objection against noncognitivism is that it entails that emotions are not representational and thereby it cannot explain the complex roles that emotions play in our mental lives. they keep track of the occurrence of emotions. such as visual perceptions (including very poorly processed and verbally unreportable visual perceptions). emotions represent bodily changes — and their theories are standardly considered to be noncognitivist. Damasio calls this mechanism the as if body loop. Phil. Emotional perceptions are perceptions of bodily changes.b. In this respect. On this view.M. imaginings. 11 Nussbaum (2001). Sci. the perception of bodily changes can occur in the absence of the corresponding bodily changes.
And it is because the representational format is bodily perceptual rather than judgemental conceptual that emotions occur in the somatosensory areas of the brain and not in the judgement-tokening concept-manipulating areas of the brain. 1995. This distinction is not explicitly mentioned in PrinzÕs writings. the cognitivist is certainly right in insisting that the complex role of emotions can be explained only by a theory that ascribes to emotions an evaluative representational content. But they have only one kind of representational format: the bodily perceptual. Prinz oﬀers an elegant solution. How can we explain the role of anger in our mental processes without appealing to the fact that anger ÔtellsÕ the emoting subject that she has been wronged? But the cognitivist also assumes that only judgement-like mental states can have evaluative contents. Sci. judgements. Mameli / Stud. And the valence and intensity of emotions are not random. beliefs. Price (2001). 1993).12 On this view. imaginings. 1993). Emotions have the function to have a valence that corresponds to the relation they have the function to track. Fear has the function to be tokened in situations when one is in danger. If the relation is beneﬁcial (things are going 12 Papineau (1984. It is because the representational format is bodily-perceptual rather than judgemental-conceptual that there are so many diﬀerences between the causal role of emotions and the causal role of judgement like entities. as said. emotions have the function to track organism/environment relations bearing on well being and for this reason they represent these relations. they have valence and intensity. Dretske (1987. it is for this reason that being angry with Y represents that Y did something wrong and that Y deserves to be punished. It is because the representational format of emotions is bodily-perceptual rather than judgemental-conceptual that it is possible for nonhuman animals and for human infants to have emotions that constitute evaluations about the way something aﬀects oneÕs own well being. Biol. Cognitivists are right about the content of emotions (or at least about one of the contents of emotions) but they are wrong about their format. 37 (2006) 101–121 If this is correct. 2000). the best way to make sense of this idea consists in appealing to a distinction between representational format and representational content. & Biomed. Emotions can represent both bodily changes and organism/environment relations bearing on well being. Hist. They do not have a belief like causal role. but rather by being triggered by unemotional mental states such as standard sensory perceptions. but it seems to capture more or less accurately PrinzÕs own view. it is for this reason that fear of X represents that X is dangerous. Neander (1995). Phil. Emotions have two kinds of representational contents: the bodily-perceptual and the evaluative. 1987. Another important thing about emotions is that. This solution involves an appeal to a teleosemantic theory of content. Anger has the function to be tokened in situations when one has been wronged by someone and this someone deserves to be punished. according to which the content of a mental representation depends on its function. One important thing about emotions is that they have the function to track organism/ environment relations not in direct (non-mediated) ways. Emotions do not have a cognitive format. and suppositions. In my view. There is more to emotions than representational content and non-cognitive format.106 M. Millikan (1984. This assumption is questionable. .
emotions have also other functions beyond those mentioned above. Someone who wants to argue that there are normative standards that apply to emotions just in virtue of their nature may do this by arguing that there are normative standards that apply to emotions solely in virtue of their biological functions. it may lower the desire to avoid confrontation. 13 14 Frijda (1986). a function to be triggered in a certain way. If the relation is detrimental (things are not going well). I have only referred to (rather than presented and explained) the evidence that supports this view.13 In normal cases. And one may want to claim that. and norms According to the account given in the previous section. Mameli / Stud. obviously. Biol. For example. each emotion has the function to bring about a disposition to act or think in some characteristic ways. This disposition may not be able to manifest itself overtly. emotions have the function to be intense in a way that is proportional to the importance for the organism of the relation they have the function to track. one ought to be in a state of intense fear only when confronted with a highly dangerous situation. But there is no room to deal with these other functions here. 37 (2006) 101–121 107 well) then the emotion has the function to be pleasant. anger produces a disposition to behave so as to punish the person we are angry with. then the emotion has the function be unpleasant. is not uncontroversial. The account of emotions given in this section. when it is not possible to punish the person or when we consciously decide (for whatever reason) not to punish the person despite the fact that we are angry. If the relation is very important (something very dangerous is occurring) then the emotion (fear in this case) has the function to be very intense. De Lancey (2002). 3. Arguably. & Biomed. . But even when the disposition does not manifest itself overtly. But these diﬀerences are not important for the purposes of this paper. emotions have many different functions: a function to track relations. That is. If the relation is less important (something less dangerous is occurring). These are all intended to be ascriptions of biological functions. Another important ingredient is the relation between emotions and behavioural dispositions.M. There are some diﬀerences between PrinzÕs account and the account summarized above. Griﬃths (1997). Oatley & Johnson-Laird (1987). It can be argued that the same is true for all other emotions. fear ought to be tokened only when one is in danger. a function to generate certain kinds of dispositions. it manifests itself internally (at least in normal subjects). Hist. one may want to claim that. a function to be valent and intense in a certain way. For example. then the emotion (fear) has the function to be less intense. Sci.14 The disposition causes the emoting subject to think in certain characteristic ways. just in virtue of the fact that fear has the function to track danger. biological functions. for example. Phil. and so on. More detailed arguments for this particular brand of noncognitivism can be found in Prinz (2004c). just in virtue of the fact that emotions have the function to be intense in proportion to the importance of the relation they represent. Moreover. Emotions.
Dretske (2000) argues that such facts are normative (cf. what is rele- What I have said about HumeÕs thesis applies also to G. 1976). 15 . For example. also Millikan. The problem with this argument is that not everyone accepts the premise according to which facts about biological functions are non-normative.16 According to some of these theories. cannot help us determine whether there are normative standards that apply to emotions solely in virtue of their biological functions. the function of a biological item is determined by its evolutionary or developmental history. Hist. the function of a biological item is determined by the intentions of its designer.E. 2000 . Many diﬀerent theories have been proposed: 1. We should try to determine whether there are normative standards that apply to emotions solely in virtue of their biological functions independently of any general (and controversial) claims about the relation between normative and non-normative facts. Griﬃths (1993). The easy way would consist in appealing to HumeÕs famous thesis according to which normative facts are never entailed by non-normative facts alone (Hume. Hence. Biol. Dretske (1987. 2003). Even if it is the case that some non-normative facts entail normative facts. Phil. 1993). & Biomed. most of these theories appeal to selection: a biological item has function F if it has been selected (evolutionarily or developmentally) to do F. Mameli / Stud. Gibbard. All this discussion suggests that. which constitutes a more recent version of HumeÕs thesis (cf. neither HumeÕs thesis nor its negation are of much help. Facts about biological functions are non-normative. 1993. Millikan (1984.b. Price (2001). According to intentional design theories. 37 (2006) 101–121 Are biological functions a genuine source of normativity? One might think that there is an easy way to answer this question negatively. Let us assume that it is correct. 2. The argument would then be this. Kitcher (1993). 2000). Papineau (1987. Neander (1991a. 2002). usually taken to be God or some other divine being. This assumption. 1994). 1996).15 Let us focus therefore on the diﬀerences between the various possible accounts of biological functions. 1995). Sci. Hence. in this context. by itself.I). assuming that Hume is right is not enough to show that there are no normative standards that apply to emotions just in virtue of their having the biological functions they have. MooreÕs Ôopen question argumentÕ (Moore 1903). they do not entail facts about what ought or ought not to be. 16 Wright (1973.I. Godfrey-Smith (1993. III.108 M. for HumeÕs thesis. According to etiological theories. there are no normative standards that apply to emotions just in virtue of their biological functions. it is certainly not the case that all non-normative facts entail normative facts. Hence. We need to know whether facts about biological functions are the kinds of non-normative facts that (by themselves) can entail normative facts. 1993). 1995. HumeÕs thesis is controversial. Let us assume now that HumeÕs thesis is wrong and that there are some nonnormative facts that entail normative facts. Dennett (1995.
Phil. which in turn are seen as a source (or perhaps the source) of normativity. so one ought not to feel sexual desire for members of oneÕs own sex. Given this.21 If malfunctioning is genuinely possible. they are to be rejected because the shape and structure of natural items is best explained by a theory Papineau (1993). including cultural learning. Sci.18 in order to constrain the account. Dretske (1987). If hearts have the function to pump blood. There is wide agreement that intentional design theories are to be rejected. Amundson & Lauder (1994). then the hearts ought to pump blood and a norm is being violated whenever a heart does not pump blood. Biological functions are seen as determined by GodÕs intentions.M. Bigelow & Pargetter (1987). 21 This includes organizational theories.20 Many of the proposed theories are able to account for malfunctioning. Lewens. Cummins (1975. the way these representations have been acquired or modiﬁed by means of learning processes. God designed hearts to pump blood. then a biological item can fail to perform its proper function. 2004). It is very easy to make sense of the view that facts about functions entail normative facts from the point of view of intentional design theories. so penises ought not to be used in homosexual sex. 20 Davies (2001) is an exception. Boorse (1976. Millikan (1993). More importantly. God did not design the emotion of sexual desire to be triggered by members of oneÕs own sex. the function of a biological item is determined by its current causal role. 2002). On this view. God designed guilt to track oneÕs violations of the Ten Commandments. it may be tempting to think that the function / malfunction distinction can be used to give an account of (at least some of) the normative standards that can be applied to biological items. Davies (2001). 19 Lewens (2004). 22 Plantinga (1993) is an exception. 18 17 . then one ought to feel guilty when one has done something morally wrong and a norm is being violated whenever one has done something morally wrong and no guilt is tokened. which these days do not carry much explanatory weight. Walsh & Ariew (1996).22 They are to be rejected because they appeal to divine existences and intentions. malfunctioning is a kind of norm violation. 37 (2006) 101–121 109 vant for determining the function of mental representations is their learning history.19 There is agreement in the literature that every good account of biological functions must allow for the possibility of malfunctioning. some of these theories say that the function of a biological item consists in the systematic contribution of items of that kind to the ﬁtness of organisms. If guilt has the function to track oneÕs own moral wrongdoings. Hist. & Biomed. Walsh (1996). in some way or another. Price (2001). so one ought to feel guilty when one violates the Ten Commandments.17 3. It is the desires of the divine designer that determine what this or that particular natural item ought or ought not to do. 2002). Biol. GodÕs plans determine not only what biological items ought to do but also what they ought not to do. De Sousa (1987). According to organizational theories. God did not design penises to be used in homosexual sex. or at least some of them (cf. Mameli / Stud. so hearts ought to pump blood.
Neander (1991a.26 That is. & Biomed. there seems to be no reason to think that facts about selective histories or causal roles can ground facts about what ought or ought not to be the case.110 M. 2001).25 Facts about intentions are normally taken to ground facts about what ought or ought not to be the case. Phil. 2001. If we agree that biological functions have nothing to do with the intentions of some designer. Jacob (1997. McGinn (1989). especially in the case of human artefacts. then there are no intentions involved in their coming to existence. which is like saying that they cannot determine any normative standards at all. In contrast. are the projection of human intentions or interests. only metaphorical ones. and if no intentions are involved. But since the point I want to make is of a general nature. 2004). can we still say that there are norms that apply to biological items just in virtue of their biological functions? Many of the proponents of naturalistic theories seem to think so. I will remain neutral on the issue about which of the naturalistic theories of function is the right one. Functions. This is certainly one of the things Fodor (1996b) had in mind when he said that DarwinÕs theory of natural selection killed not only God but also Mother Nature. the fact that penises have the biological function to be used in heterosexual sex becomes irrelevant with respect to whether penises ought or ought not to be used in homosexual sex. Dretske (1995.b. Price (1995. Prinz appeals to a naturalistic theory of the etiological kind. 27 See also Hardcastle (2002). Sci.24 But either these authors are using normative language metaphorically or they are wrong. So. according to Searle. only artefact functions. naturalized biological functions cannot determine real norms. 37 (2006) 101–121 (the evolutionary Darwinian theory) that does not appeal to the intentions of a designer — divine or otherwise. there are no norms that apply to biological items in virtue of the fact that they have a function simply because biological items do not have a function — at 23 In explaining in what sense emotions have a representational function. there seems to be no reason to adopt ought-language when talking about selective histories and causal roles. Millikan (2002). 2000). then the standard reason for extending ought language from human artefacts to natural items disappears. Since they do not appeal to divine intentions. despite the eﬀorts of many philosophers. If natural items are not divine artefacts. 24 Millikan (1984. 1995). Biol. And the fact that lust has the biological function to be triggered by members of the opposite sex becomes irrelevant with respect to whether one ought or ought not to feel sexual desire when perceiving or imagining members of oneÕs own sex. etiological and organizational theories can be said to be naturalistic theories of biological functions. Searle (1995) argues that there are no biological functions. 2002).23 Given that the intentional design theory is to be rejected. 25 Cf. remains elusive. but it is standard practice. 1993). Lewens (2004). Post (1998. Natural selection is a designer only metaphorically. Hist. This practice may be right or wrong. 26 Cf. .27 On this view. And it is something that holds independently of a satisfactory characterization of genuine normativity — which. Mameli / Stud.
This is not the view endorsed here. Phil. then there may well be normative standards that apply to emotions just in virtue of the fact that they have certain functions. Davies assumes that functions are sources of genuine normativity if and only if malfunctions exist. The view endorsed here is that. According to De Sousa. The fact that jealousy acquires its tracking function through cultural learning does not mean that this tracking function has some special normativity that other functions do not have. biological functions are not intentionally generated and thereby cannot ground normative facts. One last problem must be considered. innate emotional responses become genuine emotions during development because they acquire the function to track organism/environment relations. What should we think of these accounts? One possible thought is this: if the function of emotions is determined by cultural learning and if culture is a source of normativity. in contrast with artefact functions. They are not emotions because they do not represent organism/environment relations bearing on well being. there are accounts of the biological function of mental states that appeal to the role that learning (including cultural learning) plays in the acquisition and modiﬁcation of these mental states. Does it then follow that someone brought up in our culture ought to feel jealous when confronted with possible indicators of sexual inﬁdelity? It does not. Sci. This author (like many others) believes in the existence of innate emotional responses. & Biomed. despite the fact that both biological functions and biological malfunctions are real. then we have no reason to think that facts about biological functions can ground facts about what ought or ought not to be the case. The theory of emotions presented in the previous section entails a commitment to the existence of biological functions. His discussion suggests that these culturally acquired tracking functions determine normative standards for emotions: they determine the Ôcriterion of successÕ of an emotion. for example. Cultural values may (perhaps) have nor- 28 Cf. In contrast to Searle. these innate responses are not emotions. The view endorsed here is that there really are biological functions but that. Hist. From this he concludes that functions cannot be sources of genuine normativity. 37 (2006) 101–121 111 least not a biological function.M. Is this suggestion correct? Suppose that in our culture some innate emotional responses acquire the function to track sexual inﬁdelity by being culturally associated with scenarios containing paradigmatic instances of behaviours that our culture classiﬁes as indicators of sexual inﬁdelity. De SousaÕs theory (1987). But on his view. And since he thinks that functions cannot possibly be sources of normativity. Biol. Mameli / Stud. Davies (2001) argues that functions really exist but malfunctions do not: malfunctions are just projections of our frustrated causal expectations. he has to deny the existence of malfunctions. also Nussbaum (2001).28 They acquire this function by becoming associated with Ôparadigm scenariosÕ through cultural and language-mediated learning. As said. if the intentional design theory is wrong. But there is no reason to accept DaviesÕs assumption. . Let us consider.
But this does not entail (at least not by itself) that disgust ought not to be displayed by Japanese people in those circumstances. the argument does not rely on any general assumptions about the relation between normative and non-normative facts. but this does not mean that cultural learning by itself confers normative status to anything. Phil. it may be that many Japanese people (all those who watch too many Hollywood ﬁlms) fail to learn to avoid the display of disgust in front of an authority. 37 (2006) 101–121 mative authority.31 Friesen (1972). & Biomed. again.112 M. disgust in Japanese people acquires the function not to be displayed in certain circumstances. In fact. 2003). that Japanese people ought to avoid the display of disgust in front of an authority because of the existence of some socially shared Japanese values that are incompatible with the display of disgust in front of an authority. For example. the fact that Japanese people share a value incompatible with the display of disgust in front of an authority is a fact about Japanese values rather than a fact about Japanese emotions. cultural values can be a source of normativity even if and when they are not very eﬀective in bringing about cultural learning. But even if cultural values are a source of normativity concerning emotions. Suppose. Hist. This view is consistent with what I have said against the thesis that the functions acquired through cultural learning are a source of normativity. In contrast. Another example is given by culturally variable display rules. one view is that this statement is true because Japanese people share values that are incompatible with the display of disgust in front of an authority. The fact that disgust in Japanese people has a culturally acquired function not to be displayed in the presence of an authority is a fact about the nature of disgust in Japanese people. And it may be that they fail to learn to do this even when they acquire the value that is incompatible with the display of disgust in front of an authority. Let me clarify. Biol. Ekman (1972. such as when they are in the presence of someone who is in a position of authority. This latter claim is much more general and much more plausible. That is. 30 29 . Even so. It is undoubtedly true that socially shared cultural values play an important causal role in cultural learning. By means of cultural learning. cultural learning involved in emotional development need not be a source of normativity. 1980. these people fail to learn to do what they ought to do even if (by assumption) what they ought to do is determined by culturally shared values. Sci. There are no norms that apply to emotions just in virtue of the various biological functions they have. See for example Boyd & Richerson (1985).29 Japanese subjects learn not to show disgust in certain circumstances. even in this case. The claim that functions acquired through cultural learning are not a source of genuine normativity must not be confused with the claim that culture and society are not a source of genuine normativity. and this is true independently of whether emotions acquire some of their biological functions through a process of cultural learning. 31 It is important to notice that. Mameli / Stud. The statement ÔJapanese people ought to avoid the display of disgust in front of an authorityÕ may be true and it may be true because of things that have to do with Japanese culture and society. Fridlund (1994).30 And it may or may not be true that cultural values are a source of genuine normativity.
Dummett (1978. McDowell (1994. 37 (2006) 101–121 113 4. In order to justify the distinction properly. Desires are paradigmatic examples of states with a world-to-mind direction of ﬁt. Hurley (1989). Some representations have a content in virtue of which they can be said to ÔaimÕ at being true. Phil. Engel (2000.b). Papineau (1987. 1990. 2002). Dretske (1995). Byrne (2002). According to these authors. Some interesting arguments against this view have been proposed by these authors: Horwich (1998). Price (2001). 34 Cf. Emotions. According to some authors. representations that ÔaimÕ at truth are said to have a mind-to-world direction of ﬁt. Lance & OÕLeary-Hawthorne (1997). Millikan (1984. 1993). Biol. Hattiangadi (2003). Nussbaum (2001). states with a mind to world direction of ﬁt are constitutively states one ought not to have if they are not true. emotions have a mind-to-world direction of ﬁt. representations. On this view. According to many authors. Dretske (2000). Wedgwood (2002). Fodor (1987. 1998a. Lewis (1983).33 There are many diﬀerent versions of the view that mental representation per se entails the existence of norms. Hist. According to some authors. necessarily. Wikforss (2001). Peacocke (1992). 1984). Tanney (1999). 1993. Humberstone (1992).32 From theories of this kind. 1993). Sci.b). and norms We saw in Section 2 that emotions are brain states with a representational content. Brandom (1994. then one ought not to feel happy unless things are going well for 32 Here is a list of some authors that. McGinn (1984. Solomon (2003). for one reason or another. Neander (1995). Wright (1993). For a representation to ÔaimÕ at truth is to ÔaimÕ at ﬁtting the world. So. If the theory of emotions given in Section 2 is correct. One version appeals to the notion of direction of ﬁt. emotions are perceptions of bodily changes and. 1998a. to ÔaimÕ at realization is to ÔaimÕ at changing the world so as to make the world ﬁt the representation. Dennett (1987). . if happiness represents that things are going well for the organism. then one ought not to have M in oneÕs belief box unless Chirac is the president of France. Burge (1979. hold this view: Kripke (1982). Anscombe (1957). 33 Cf. if the mental particular M represents that Chirac is the president of France. Greenspan (1988). Mameli / Stud. Jacob (1997. it follows that there are normative standards that apply to emotions just in virtue of their representational content. 1991. 1989). necessarily. they have the same representational content as evaluative judgements about organism/environment relations bearing on well being. whilst others have a content in virtue of which they can be said to ÔaimÕ at being realized or satisﬁed. 2002). This is only a rough characterization. We can intuitively distinguish between two kinds of representational content.M. Beliefs (including judgements) are paradigmatic examples of states with a mind-to-world direction of ﬁt.34 This means that if a state has a representational content of the mind-to-world variety then there are norms that apply to that state just in virtue of the state having the representational content it has. Gampel (1997). it takes norms. 1986). Humberstone (1992). in the case of emotions. 1996. Boghossian (1989). representations that ÔaimÕ at realization are said to have a world-to-mind direction of ﬁt. & Biomed. Fodor & Lepore (1992. moreover. for this reason. 2000). facts about meaning are normative facts. there are norms that apply to mental representations just in virtue of the fact that they are representational. In contrast. Davidson (1980. we need to explain what it takes for a representation to ÔaimÕ at ﬁtting or at changing the world. And. for this reason. 1999).
He gives an account of them in terms of intentions. but it seems wrong to say that they are sensitive to the norm that one ought not to have an emotion that represents that p if p is not the case. If T does not have this intention about S. and emotions only if the organism is sensitive to the norm (or norm scheme) according to which one ought not to believe. or have an emotion that represents that p. Biol. Bees have perceptual states. McDowell (1994). perceptions. How should we understand the force that these norms exert on us? Some authors claim that these norms should be taken as primitive.114 M. why should it be impossible to give an account of their force? Humberstone (1992) is one of the few authors who think that the content-generated norms can actually be explained. Another problem for this view is that it entails — on a plausible understanding of what a norm is — that an organism can have beliefs. but it seems wrong to say that they are sensitive to the norm that one ought not to perceive that p if p is not the case. That is. Even assuming he is right on this. they 35 36 The considerations I am going to present are adapted from Papineau (1999). perceive that p. happiness is good for you. perceive. perception. Mice have emotional states. That is. T intends not to have S if p is not the case. It is implausible for beliefs and it is even more implausible for perceptions and emotions. no matter what. Hist. & Biomed. one ought not to believe that p. According to him. More generally we can say that. Humberstone may or may not be right in thinking that intentions are sources of genuine normativity. It may well be the case that if one intends to do something then (at least ceteris paribus) one ought to do it. That is. or have an emotion that represents that p if p is not the case. or emotion. And it makes perfect sense to say that one ought to be happy even when the beneﬁcial organism/environment relation that happiness represents does not obtain — because. or emotion that one ought not to have it if it is false.36 But this position is unsatisfactory. It makes perfect sense to say that someone who is terminally ill ought to believe that there are good chances of recovery. Sci. there are normative standards that apply to emotions just in virtue of their representational content.35 One problem is that this view is in tension with the intuition that there are many cases in which one ought to have a false belief. if p is not the case. a mental state S of a thinker T with a mind-to-world direction of ﬁt and a content that p is constitutively (and thereby necessarily) a state that T intends to not be false. then S is not a state with mind to world direction of ﬁt. If these norms exist. But this is implausible. Cf. say. That is. The account entails that organisms unable of tokening intentions cannot have states with a mind-to-world direction of ﬁt. there are norms that apply to happiness just in virtue of the organism/environment relation it represents. There are many problems with the view that it is constitutive of being a belief. . Phil. whilst in fact the chances are slim. 37 (2006) 101–121 the organism. on this view. Mameli / Stud. Yet another problem is that it is not clear what the status of these content generated norms is supposed to be. his account faces a diﬃcult problem. necessarily. perception.
and emotions do not always Cf. Bratman (1987). 1995. Nozick (1993). there are non-normative ways to make sense of direction-of-ﬁt talk. since natural items are not artefacts. The fact that we desire truth is contingent. The problem is that beliefs. the biological function of being true is partly constitutive of being a belief.M. and emotions aim at truth because we desire or intend them to be true we cannot be making a claim about their nature. they have the biological function to track actual states of aﬀairs. Jacob. Beliefs. But when we say that our beliefs. Moreover. When we say that beliefs. we may be speaking literally. perceptions. perceptions. similarly. but I will not analyze them here. those of our mental representations that can be true (our mental representations with a mind-to-world direction of ﬁt) are also aimed at being true. In this case we are saying that our beliefs. Mameli / Stud. Phil. Otherwise we would be in a position similar to HumberstoneÕs. As we saw in the previous section. Biol. perceptions. Price. It is very likely that a desire for truth is something that appears (both in evolutionary and developmental terms) after the appearance of beliefs and judgements. We aim at truth (we want truth) and. at least not all the time. perceptions. when we say that beliefs. and emotions ÔaimÕ at truth. & Biomed. just like the biological function of pumping blood is partly constitutive of being a heart. perceptions. and emotions ÔaimÕ at truth in the same way that hearts ÔaimÕ at pumping blood. as a result of this. perceptions. we may be speaking metaphorically. 2002). perceptions and emotions does not entail that these representational states ought (literally) to be tokened only when they are true. 39 Stich (1990). Neander. Hist. 38 37 . Millikan (1984. And. and emotions ÔaimÕ at truth is just a metaphorical way to say that these states have the biological function to be true. no genuine normativity can come from biological functions. biological functions could not account for it. To say that hearts ÔaimÕ at pumping blood is just a metaphorical way to say that hearts have the biological function to pump blood. Intentions are mental states of a very sophisticated sort. 1989. the biological tracking function of beliefs. First. There are also other problems with HumberstoneÕs account. Sci. But she also argues that an appeal to the function of being true is the way to account for the essential normativity of meaning (cf. 1993) argues that the function of being true is constitutive of beliefs and other states with the same kind of (mind-to-world) content. perception. But the biological function of hearts does not entail that hearts ought (literally) to pump blood. 37 (2006) 101–121 115 cannot have beliefs. also McGinn. and emotions ÔaimÕ at truth we may be saying two diﬀerent things. In the same way.37 Someone may perhaps doubt that beliefs are evolutionary and developmentally prior to intentions. or emotion. our beliefs. perceptions.38 Second. Not every human being aims at truth. to say that beliefs. But there is no essential normativity of meaning. And if there was. Luckily. But there cannot be any reasonable doubt that emotions and perceptions are. And it is beyond any reasonable doubt that a desire for truth is something that appears (both in evolutionary and developmental terms) after the appearance of perceptions and emotions. that is. and emotions. and emotions are developmentally and evolutionarily prior to intentions. perceptions. perceptions and emotions are states that we desire or intend to be true.39 So. 2001.
perceptions. I have discussed the view that representations with a mind to world direction of ﬁt are constitutively items that ought to be true. These organisms desire or intend their beliefs. Greenspan (1988). no normativity comes from biological functions alone. perceptions. if they have the biological function to be true. Sci. The representations with a mind-to-world direction of ﬁt of an organism aim at truth (literally) only if and when the organism desires or intends (for whatever reason. these normative statements are true just in virtue of what fear and anger represent. it is not true that in all circumstances beliefs. perceptions. Mameli / Stud. or for no reason at all) these representations to be true. on this literal interpretation. We can call this the truth-normativity version of the theory that representational content of the mind-to-world variety is essentially normative. If beliefs. We can call this the justiﬁcation-normativity version. Moreover. But even assuming that emotions have the biological function to be justiﬁed (and it is a questionable assumption). it is not clear what is the status of these ought-to-be-justiﬁed norms allegedly entailed by the representational properties of beliefs. then perhaps they also have the biological function to be produced by reliable processes. the beliefs. Just like for truth. That is. infants and nonhuman animals do not aim at truth: they do not have the relevant desires or intentions. Nussbaum (2001). they may also have the biological function to be justiﬁed. Hist. 37 (2006) 101–121 aim at truth in the literal sense. Biol. it is not true that all organisms with beliefs. it does not follow that they ought to be justiﬁed. truth conducive) processes. and emotions of these creatures never literally aim at truth. & Biomed. and emotions have the biological function to be true. So.40 According to the justiﬁcation-normativity view. perceptions. Third. Second. perceptions. and emotions to be justiﬁed. Consider the statement Ôone ought not to be in a state of fear unless one is justiﬁed in having an emotion that represents that one is in dangerÕ or the statement Ôone ought not to be angry unless one is justiﬁed in having an emotion that represents that one has been wrongedÕ. Phil. perceptions and emotions to be true. It is true that some (but only some) of the organisms with representations of the mind-to-world variety aim (at least sometimes) at having justiﬁed representations. Arguably.116 M. First. or emotions are sensitive to these ought-to-be-justiﬁed norms. Another version of this theory is the one according to which representations with a mind-to-world direction of ﬁt are constitutively items that ought to be justiﬁed. Again. and emotions ought to be justiﬁed — not even ceteris paribus. and emotions to be justiﬁed — perhaps as a result of desiring their beliefs. the beliefs. and emotions of an organism can be said to aim at being justiﬁed (literally) only if and when this organism desires its beliefs. perceptions. . perceptions. and emotions. Objections analogous to those levelled against the truth-normativity view can be levelled against the justiﬁcation-normativity view. perceptions. the property of being justiﬁed is the property mental representations have when they are generated by reliable (truth preserving. The theory that there are norms that apply to mental states just in virtue of their having a certain kind of representational content is a much debated theory and it is 40 Cf.
but simply because the display of disgust in front of an authority is incompatible with socially shared Japanese values. I have tried to show that the arguments against this theory are strong and that they become even stronger when we focus on emotions rather than — as it usually happens in the literature — on beliefs or judgements. for example. The conclusion is that there are no norms that apply to emotions just in virtue of their representational properties. 42 41 . and not just to the satisfaction of desires about emotions.. we saw that there are no norms that apply to emotions solely in virtue of their representational properties. In this section. what is the origin of the norms that apply to emotions? Some normative standards for emotions may have their origin in moral and social values — as suggested in Section 3. but simply because sexual desire for children is immoral. then there is a case for saying that the emotion of guilt ought never to be present in this agent. either the theory of emotions given in Section 2 is fundamentally mistaken or there are no norms that apply to emotions just in virtue of facts about their nature. emotions may constitute means to the satisfaction of desires in general. cf. In Section 3. There is a case for saying that one ought not to feel sexual desire for children not because of anything about the nature of the emotion of sexual desire. then there is a case for saying that John ought not to be jealous. It follows that. then there is a case for saying that the agent ought to feel guilty in those circumstances. If feeling guilty in certain circumstances is a means to be accepted by a certain community. which have been at the centre of (both old and recent) debates about the nature of practical reasoning. agents may have desires or intentions about their emotions.42 First of all. See also the interesting discussion about emotions and normative kinds in Griﬃths (Forthcoming). If John wants to be loved by Mary. then there is a case for saying that fear ought to be present in this agent only when the agent is in real danger. Sci. Phil. And if an agent desires or intends never to experience the emotion of guilt (say. And there is a case for saying that a Japanese person ought not to display disgust in front of an authority not because of anything about the nature of disgust. we saw that there are no norms that apply to emotions solely in virtue of their biological functions. Mameli / Stud. there are no norms that apply to emotions solely in virtue of facts about their nature. 5. If an agent desires or intends to be in a state of fear only when there is some real danger. if the theory of emotions outlined in Section 2 is correct. Korsegaard (1996) and Broome (1999. Biol. Secondly. 37 (2006) 101–121 117 not possible to discuss all the diﬀerent aspects of this issue here. Moreover. some normative standards for emotions may have their origin in what organisms desire or intend — as suggested in Section 4.41 If there are no norms that apply to emotions just in virtue of their nature. because she despises guilt). Conclusions In Section 4. and not being jealous is a means to be loved by Mary. These are the so called Ônormativity of desiresÕ and Ônormativity of intentionsÕ. Hist. So. 2001). & Biomed.M. and an agent wants to be accepted by that community.
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