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Representationalism and the Intentionality of Moods

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It seems hard to comprehend how, during mood experience, the ‘inner’ meets the ‘outer’. The objective of this paper is to show that a currently popular attempt at providing a neat solution to that problem fails. The attempt comes under the heading of representationalism, according to which the phenomenal aspects of mood are exhausted by its representational content. I examine three accounts of intentionality developed within the representationalist camp, and I show that they incur phenomenological and metaphysical costs.

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  1. 1.

    Cf. Ben-Ze'ev (2000) on the significance of change for emotional life.

  2. 2.

    Searle (1983, 2), Dretske (1995, xv), Deonna and Teroni (2012, 4).

  3. 3.

    De Sousa (1987), Goldie (2000), DeLancey (2006).

  4. 4.

    Hatzimoysis (2003a)

  5. 5.

    On the current debate over the nature and limits of privileged access see Hatzimoysis (2011) and Neta (2011).

  6. 6.

    Rattcliffe (2010) includes a good survey of the relevant empirical and interpretative research.

  7. 7.

    That is, also, one of the considerations that can be adduced in support of perceptual accounts of emotion; cf. Elgin (1996), Roberts (2003), Deonna (2006).

  8. 8.

    Delancey (2006); cf. Solomon (1993, 71), Frijda (1994, 60), Prinz (2004, 182–188), Fish (2005).

  9. 9.

    For approaches that adopt some version of that taxonomy see Griffiths (1997), Lormand (1985), Sizer (2000), Nussbaum (2001), and Price (2006). In my view, that approach is problematic not because the affective landscape is homogeneous, but because it is a taxonomy that locates the differences at the wrong level - sometimes differences between emotions are more pronounced than the difference between an emotion and its consequent mood.

  10. 10.

    Cf. Crane’s subtle argumentation in (Crane 1998) and (Crane 2013).

  11. 11.

    Kenny (1963), Tappolet (2000), Terroni (2007).

  12. 12.

    For a balanced discussion of the representationalist movement see Siewert (1998), (Siewert 2012).

  13. 13.

    The argument from transparency can be found in Harman (1990), developed in Tye (2002), elaborated by Byrne (2001). For the varieties of ontological dependency involved in supervenient claims see Hatzimoysis (2003b).

  14. 14.

    De Sousa (2004), Deonna and Teroni (2012), 68–69).

  15. 15.

    Kind (2014), 130).

  16. 16.

    Kind’s line of argumentation at (2014, 130–131) appears to me to imply as much.

  17. 17.

    For Solomon, moods “are about the whole of our world” (Solomon 1976, 173), while for Lyons moods are “aimed out at the world” (Lyons 1980, 104); cf. Annette Baier (1990, 14).

  18. 18.

    For Solomon, moods are “indiscriminately about anything that comes our way, casting happy glows or somber shadows on every object and incident of our experience” (Solomon 1976, 173); Solomon’s proposal is in tune with theories which highlight the puzzling fact that moods appear to be directed at both nothing and everything; cf. Goldie (2000, 18), De Sousa (2010), and Sizer (2000, 747) and for discussion Kind (2014), 120).

  19. 19.

    Mendelovic (2013) ( 2014).

  20. 20.

    I used the simplest interpretation of the notion of ‘object’ to illustrate the problem, but the criticism applies whatever technical notion the representationalist might invoke. If by ‘object’ she means, for instance, an unqualified substratum, or a qualified substance, or a bearer of qualities, the point remains that something need not fall in those ontological categories to count as intentional object.

  21. 21.

    Mendelovic (2013), ( 2014).

  22. 22.

    I leave aside issues raised by haeccity: even if we were to admit such property in our ontology, it would not be of help to the current representationalist proposal, since it is a property bound, by definition, to some particular object.

  23. 23.

    Mendelovic (2013), ( 2014).


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Hatzimoysis, A. Representationalism and the Intentionality of Moods. Philosophia 45, 1515–1526 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11406-017-9825-0

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  • Mood
  • Emotion
  • Intentionality
  • Representationalism
  • Intentionalism