Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences

, Volume 16, Issue 3, pp 471–490 | Cite as

Affectivity and moral experience: an extended phenomenological account

Article

Abstract

The aim of this study is to explore the relationship between affectivity and moral experience from a phenomenological perspective. I will start by showing how in a phenomenologically oriented account emotions can be conceived as intentional evaluative feelings which play a role in both moral epistemology and the motivation of moral behaviour. I will then move to discuss a particular kind of affect, “existential feelings” (Ratcliffe in Journal of Consciousness Studies 12(8–10), 43–60, 2005, 2008), which has not been considered so far in the discourse on moral and affective experience. Relying on the notion of pre-intentionality through which Ratcliffe characterizes existential feelings (Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 53(6), 602–626, 2010) and on some insights into the relationship between affectivity and ethics developed by De Monticelli (2003, 2006), I suggest that key to the role played by existential feelings in moral experience is that they determine the kinds of evaluations that it is possible for us to make and the range of our possibilities of action. I then illustrate and further develop this idea through a phenomenological analysis of some forms of psychopathological experience. More specifically, by considering some experiential features of depression and borderline personality disorder, I claim that, by acquiring an existential character, emotions such as guilt, feelings of isolation, anger and shame can radically alter the structure of the individual evaluative perspective, having a deep impact on both moral judgements and behaviours.

Keywords

Emotions Existential feelings Moral experience Depression Borderline personality disorder 

Notes

Acknowledgments

I would like to thank Matthew Ratcliffe for his comments on previous versions of this paper. An earlier version of this study was presented at the conference Moral Emotions and Intuitions in The Hague in 2011, and I am grateful for the feedback I received from the audience on that occasion. Many thanks also to the anonymous reviewers for their comments.

References

  1. Adler, J. M., Chin, E. D., Kolisetty, A. P., & Oltmanns, T. F. (2012). The distinguishing characteristics of narrative identity in adults with features of borderline personality disorder: an empirical investigation. Journal of Personality Disorders, 26(4), 498–512.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. DSM-5 (5th ed.). Arlington (VA): American Psychiatric Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Beck, A. T. (1972). Depression: Causes and treatment. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.Google Scholar
  4. Binswanger, L. (2006 [1960]). Malinconia e mania. Studi Fenomenologici. 2nd edition. (trans: Marzotto, M.). Torino: Bollati Boringhieri.Google Scholar
  5. Colombetti, G. (2007). Enactive appraisal. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 6, 527–546.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Crowe, M. (2004). Never good enough—part. 1: shame or borderline personality disorder? Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, 11(3), 327–334.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Damasio, A. (2000 [1999]). The feeling of what happens. Body, emotion and the making of consciousness. London: Vintage.Google Scholar
  8. De Monticelli, R. (2003). L’Ordine del Cuore. Milano: Garzanti.Google Scholar
  9. De Monticelli, R. (2006). The feeling of values. For a phenomenological theory of affectivity. In S. Bagnara & G. Crampton Smith (Eds.), Theories and practice in interaction design (pp. 57–75). Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  10. De Sousa, R. (2001). Moral emotions. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, 4, 109–126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Deonna, J.A. & Teroni, F. (2012. [2008]). The emotions. A philosophical introduction. Abingdon and New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  12. Fonagy, P., Gergely, G., Jurist, E. L., & Target, M. (2002). Affect regulation, mentalization and the development of the self. New York: Other Press.Google Scholar
  13. Freeman, W. J. (2000). Emotion is essential to all intentional behaviors. In M. D. Lewis & I. Granic (Eds.), Emotion, development, and self-organization: Dynamic systems approaches to emotional development (pp. 209–235). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Frijda, N. H. (1986). The emotions. Cambridge (UK): Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Fuchs, T. (2003). The phenomenology of shame, guilt and the body in body dysmorphic disorder and depression. Journal of Phenomenological Psychology, 33(2), 223–243.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Fuchs, T. (2007). Fragmented selves: temporality and identity in borderline personality disorder. Psychopathology, 40, 379–387.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Fuchs, T. (2013). Depression, intercorporeality and interaffectivity. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 20(7–8), 219–238.Google Scholar
  18. Goldie, P. (2002 [2000]). The emotions: A philosophical exploration. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Gunderson, J. G. (1996). The borderline patient’s intolerance of aloneness: insecure attachments and therapist availability. American Journal of Psychiatry, 153(6), 752–758.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Heidegger, M. (1962 [1927]). Being and time (trans: Macquarrie, J. & Robinson, E.). Oxford and Malden (MA): Basil Blackwell.Google Scholar
  21. Helm, B. W. (2001). Emotional reason: Deliberation, motivation, and the nature of value. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Helm, B. W. (2002). Felt evaluations: a theory of pleasure and pain. American Philosophical Quarterly, 39(1), 13–30.Google Scholar
  23. Kravitz, R., & Jackson, W. (2008). Borderline Personality Disorder. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Kreisman, J. J., & Straus, H. (2010). I hate you—don’t leave me. Understanding the borderline personality. New York: Perigee.Google Scholar
  25. Lewis, H. B. (1971). Shame and guilt in neurosis. New York: International Universities Press.Google Scholar
  26. Lewis, M. (1992). Shame: The exposed self. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  27. Mason, P. T., & Kreger, R. (2010). Stop walking on eggshells. Taking your life back when someone you care about has borderline personality disorder (2nd ed.). Oakland: New Harbinger Publications.Google Scholar
  28. Mulligan, K. (2010). Emotions and values. In P. Goldie (Ed.), The oxford handbook of philosophy of emotion (pp. 475–500). Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Pazzagli, A., & Rossi Monti, M. (2000). Dysphoria and aloneness in borderline personality disorder. Psychopathology, 33(4), 220–226.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Prinz, J. (2004). Embodied emotions. In R. C. Solomon (Ed.), Thinking about feeling: Contemporary philosophers on emotions (pp. 44–58). Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  31. Prinz, J. (2010). The moral emotions. In P. Goldie (Ed.), The oxford handbook of philosophy of emotion (pp. 519–538). Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Ratcliffe, M. (2005). The feeling of being. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 12(8–10), 43–60.Google Scholar
  33. Ratcliffe, M. (2008). Feelings of being. Phenomenology, psychiatry and the sense of reality. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Ratcliffe, M. (2010). Depression, guilt and emotional depth. Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy, 53(6), 602–626.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Roberts, R. C. (2003). Emotions. An essay in aid of moral psychology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Rowe, D. (1996 [1978]). Choosing not losing. The experience of depression. London: Harper Collins.Google Scholar
  37. Sartre, J.P. (1958 [1943]). Being and nothingness (trans: Barnes, H.E.). London: Methuen.Google Scholar
  38. Scheler, M. (1973 [1916]). Formalism in ethics and non-formal ethics of values (trans: Frings, M.S. & Funk, R.L.). Evanston: Northwestern University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Seligman, M. E. P. (2006). Learned optimism. How to change your mind and your life. New York: Vintage Books.Google Scholar
  40. Slaby, J. (2008). Affective intentionality and the feeling body. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 7(4), 429–444.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Solomon, A. (2002 [2001]). The noonday demon. An anatomy of depression. London: Vintage.Google Scholar
  42. Solomon, R. (1973). Emotions and choice. The Review of Metaphysics, 27(1), 20–41.Google Scholar
  43. Strasser, S. (1977 [1956]). Phenomenology of feeling. An essay on the phenomena of the heart (trans: Wood, R.E.). Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press.Google Scholar
  44. Tangney, J. P., Wagner, P., Fletcher, C., & Gramzow, R. (1992). Shamed into anger? The relation of shame and guilt to anger and self-reported aggression. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 62(4), 669–675.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Tangney, J. P., Stuewig, J., & Mashek, D. J. (2007). Moral emotions and moral behavior. Annual Review of Psychology, 58, 345–372.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Tappolet, C. (2000). Emotions et Valeurs. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Taylor, G. (1985). Pride, shame, and guilt. Emotions of self-assessment. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  48. Teroni, F., & Deonna, J. A. (2008). Differentiating shame from guilt. Consciousness and Cognition, 17(3), 725–740.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyDurham UniversityDurhamUK

Personalised recommendations