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Against Emotional Modularity

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2020

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How many emotions are there? Should we accept as overwhelming the evidence in favour of regarding emotions as emanating from a relatively small number of modules evolved efficiently to serve us in common life situations? Or can emotions, like colour, be organized in a space of two, three, or more dimensions defining a vast number of discriminable emotions, arranged on a continuum, on the model of the colour cone?

There is some evidence that certain emotions are specialized to facilitate certain response sequences, relatively encapsulated in their neurophysiological organization. These are natural facts. But nature, as Katherine Hepburn remarked to Humphrey Bogart, is what we were put in the world to rise above. I shall suggest that we can consider the question not merely from a scientific point of view, but from a political point of view. And so I will try to explain how to reconcile the evidence of emotional modularity - which, as some of the contributions to the present volume illustrate, is not devoid of a certain ambiguity - with a reasonable plea for an attitude of disapproval towards the rigidities of our taxonomy.

1. Modularity and the Rationality of Emotions
Copyright © The Authors 2006

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