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Emotionless animals? Constructionist theories of emotion beyond the human case

Birch, Jonathan ORCID: 0000-0001-7517-4759 (2024) Emotionless animals? Constructionist theories of emotion beyond the human case. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society. ISSN 0066-7374

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Identification Number: 10.1093/arisoc/aoae003


Could emotions be a uniquely human phenomenon? One prominent theory in emotion science, Lisa Feldman Barrett’s Theory of Constructed Emotion (TCE), suggests they might be. The source of the sceptical challenge is that TCE links emotions to abstract concepts tracking socio-normative expectations, and other animals are unlikely to have such concepts. Barrett’s own response to the sceptical challenge is to relativize emotion to the perspective of an interpreter, but this is unpromising. A more promising response may be to amend the theory, dropping the commitment to the abstract nature of emotion concepts and allowing that, like olfactory concepts, they have disjunctive sensory groundings. Even if other animals were emotionless, this would not imply they lack morally significant interests. Unconceptualized valenced experiences are a sufficient basis for morally significant interests, and such experiences may occur even in the absence of discrete, constructed emotions.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2024 The Author(s)
Divisions: Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
S Agriculture > SF Animal culture
Date Deposited: 13 Mar 2024 11:30
Last Modified: 16 May 2024 04:21

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