Emotions & judgments : a critique of Solomon : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Philosophy in Philosophy at Massey University

Thumbnail Image
Open Access Location
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Massey University
The Author
The idea that we are passive victims of our emotions, that they are wild and uncontrollable things which just happen to (or "in") us is very common. Robert Solomon thinks that this idea stems from a faulty philosophical analysis: the analysis that emotions are a kind of "feeling" or physiological happening. On this analysis, "feelings" and occurrences are externally caused; as such they are non-rational and involuntary, the types of things that we cannot be held responsible for. In his seminal article "Emotions and Choice." Solomon opposes this view. He wants to show that we can be held accountable for our emotions, even praised or blamed for having them. To achieve this end, he shows that emotions are rational events, and hence are importantly conceptual events. Taken to its logical conclusion, Solomon proposes that emotions are judgments. That explains, in a way in which the traditional view can't explain, why emotions are subject to rational control and conscious manipulation, and therefore why we can rightly be held accountable for them. In this thesis I agree with Solomon that the intentionality of emotions cannot be accounted for by a "Components" model. What I don't agree with is that emotions are inferior judgments. If emotions really are a species of judgment (and I see no reason why the reverse might not be true, that judgments are a kind of emotion), then Solomon has given no adequate reason for his implicit view that emotions are inferior judgments. When we look more closely at Soloman's view of judgments, we see that he wobbles between a non-componential and a componential analysis. Since it is his thesis that emotions are importantly non-componential, and that emotions are judgments, this wobbliness jeopardises Soloman's entire philosophical project. After examining the second half of "Emotions and Choice", I conclude that Soloman's strongest reason for thinking emotions are inferior judgments really has nothing to do with the nature of judgments at all. It is because he is covertly, and maybe unwittingly, holding a view of emotions as self-deceptions.