Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy, Lewis & Clark College

Guelph and Emotions

Added on by jay odenbaugh.

This week I am at the University of Guelph outside Toronto hanging out with my friend and philosopher Stefan Linquist. I am giving a talk at the University entitled, "Emotions as Multimodal Perceptions; or What James Got Right." It should be fun and I get to try out some new ideas. It has been very fruitful preparing the talk because it makes me see my writing from different angles. So, after this, some edits on the first Chapter and then back to Chapter Two on kinds of emotions.

The second chapter excites me because I am having to think hard about the work of Paul Ekman and a recent critic Lisa Feldman Barrett. Her work poses some very interesting challenges to the claim that emotions are natural kinds. Specifically, she argues that facial expressions associated with the so-called "basic emotions" are not universal in any deep sense. Given the consensus around Ekman's work, if she is right, then this is important stuff. I am skeptical and have my reasons, but I need to think carefully through the issues. 

One upshot if she is right is really interesting. If there are basic emotions and there are universal facial expressions associated with them, then cross-cultural communication regarding how we feel might be relatively straightforward. But, if there are no basic emotions or these expressions are not universal, then such communication might be strained at best and really difficult at worst. The debate has important upshots I think.