A Propositional Attitude Approach to Emotions
Cudney, Paul Brandon
Being an emotional being is having a unique mode of access to certain sorts of evaluative facts, such as that a bear is scary. Fear is a way of accessing that fact. What I mean when I say that emotions are unique modes of access to such facts is that the way that I relate to the object I am afraid of is fundamentally different from the way I would relate to it if struck me in an unemotional way. This difference is analogous to the difference between accessing some fact, such as that Ed is very tall, by using different sensory modalities. If I see Ed in one case and try, with eyes closed, to pat him on the head in another, I become aware of the same fact, but the fact reveals itself to me in a different way.Because emotions are modes of access to facts, and propositions have the structure of facts, e.g. that the cup is on the table, it is natural to think that emotions are mental states with propositional contents. And if anything is an attitude at all, emotions are among them. If I resent how I have been treated, I certainly have an attitude about it. I tend think and act in certain ways regarding my treatment. Thus, a natural view of emotions is that they are propositional attitudes.Despite the initial plausibility of this approach, most who work on emotions do not endorse a propositional attitude view of emotions. However, because there are important strengths of the propositional attitude approach and because the typical arguments against such an approach fail, we should continue to explore the propositional attitude approach. Consequently, I explicate and defend a propositional attitude approach to the emotions by showing how propositional attitude views can avoid the typical worries and explaining how researchers can fill in the details of the propositional approach, allowing theorists to develop their own full-fledged views of emotions.