Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences

, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 363–374 | Cite as

A critical examination of existential feeling

  • Jussi A. Saarinen


Matthew Ratcliffe (2008, 2015) has argued that existential feelings form a distinct class of bodily and non-conceptual feelings that pre-intentionally structure our intentional experience of others, the world, and ourselves. In this article, I will identify and discuss three interrelated areas of concern for Ratcliffe’s theory of existential feelings. First, the distinct senses in which existential feelings are felt as background bodily feelings and as spaces of possibility calls for further clarification. Second, the nature of the suggested bi-directional relationship between existential feelings and intentional experience remains ambiguous. Third, viewed in light of existential guilt, the categorically non-conceptual nature of existential feelings may not be as definite as presumed. The aim of the article is to draw critical attention to aspects of the theory that would benefit from further development, and therefore, to advance the ongoing discussion about existential feelings.


Existential feeling Bodily feeling Intentional experience Matthew Ratcliffe 



I would like to thank Giovanna Colombetti, Matthew Ratcliffe, Jaakko Vuori, Nina Reiman, two anonymous reviewers, and academic audiences in Jyväskylä, Exeter, and Osaka for their extremely helpful comments on prior versions of this paper. I would also like to thank the Finnish Cultural Foundation for supporting my research financially.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Social Sciences and PhilosophyUniversity of JyväskyläJyväskyläFinland

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