Scarlet & Grey
Ohio State University
School of Music


Paul Griffiths

Notes by Rachel Yie


Music 829
April 17, 2001

Paul E. Griffiths (1997). What Emotions Really Are: The Problem of Psychological Ctegories. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

There has been a debate in dichotomy between feeling theory and propositional attitude (cognitive) theories in the philosophy of emotion for the last thirty years. Other approaches, even though the social constructionism broadened the debate in some ways, like the "affect program" theory have been largely ignored by philosophers. In this book Griffiths describes all majot theories of emotion, brings out the problem of psychological categories and evaluates them.

The propositional attitude theories is the blief that emotional phenomena can be dealt with by a psychology whose main theoretical entitites are the beliefs and desires that feature in everyday explanations of people's actions. Griffiths rejects this approach for several reasons. First, he criticizes on the categories of emotions in this theory. In the case of emotional responses to imagination, he represents that these cases are not emotions, but onl the confusion imagaintion of them with reality. Then, he points out its methodological problems. The theories ignores the physiological dimension of emotion and rely almost on conceptual analysis which cannot determine the real nature or the extension of emotion but merely presupposes a view of the semantics of kind terms.

The affect program approach explains that human expressions of emotion are to a large extent vestiges of responses the served functions are their current function is largely communicative. This evoluionary approach gives a reasonable account of the short-term, salient cases of primary emotions (Darwin/Ekman). Griffiths argues with Darwin's and Ekman's explanation that the pan-cultural facial expressions call for evolutionary theory (monomorphic) and shows the emotional responses are not necessarily innate. Also, he criticizes their overestimation on the evolutionary theory and their lack of work in psychology, no distinction between nature-nurture/biological-cultural and no variation among individual humans.

The evolutionary psychology is the program to extend evolutionary thinking to the psychological states such as envy, guilt, jealousy, and love. According to this theory, emotion is an irruptive pattern of motivation that afects the higher cognitive processes which control long-term, planned action. This program also suggests that any mental differences between inidivudals are responses to the local environment. It expands to the idea that evolutionary theory provides a way of describing the mind at the level of task description. As the result, this brings the propositional attitude traditional into contact with work on ethology and evolutionary theory on deviations from rationality in higher cognition. Griffiths argues with its commitment to the doctrine of the monomorphic mind or "psychic unity of humankind." He points out that it is important to distinguish pancultural traits from universal traits, individual differences in the emotion system may be substantial and important despite the lack of between-group differences.

The social constructionist approach suggests that the categories into which the world must be classifies in order to produce an emotion are "cultural" rather than "natural" categories. This approach to emotion not only gives a good account of a limited range of emotions such as sustained pretenses but also discusses a much large range of emotions variable across cultures. These responses are interpreted by the subject and their society as natural and involuntary when they are in fact produced in conformity to local cultural norms. He states the importance of this theories that they does not ignore the descriptive everyday "folk psychology" since these common beliefs in it are social products rather than the simple results of introspection. Also, the approach is valuable because cultural models of emotion play a major role in the construction of the psychological phenotype. He describes two different models of this theory: the social concept model and the social role model. The social concept model expressed by Solomon based on the propositional attitude theory. "To have an emotion is to make a certain judgement about the world" but "cultural" rather than "natural." It concerns with the construction of categories of eliciting situations for emotion. This suggests that having an emotion is to think of the current situation as one which is culturally appropriate to a particular emotion. The author points out that Solomon's social constructionism is just another way of asserting that emotions are thoughts. In this case, if emotions are social constructions merely because they are thoughts and all concepts are social constructions in the same sense. It is missing the fact that emotions are interpreted as passions rather than actions. The social role model suggested by Averill that "an emotion is a transitory social role (a socially constituted syndrome) that includes an individual's appraisal of the situation, and is interreted as a passion rather than as an action. (1980)" A social role is a characteristic pattern of behavior found in a particular society. Such roles have a function eitehr for the individuals or for the society. According to Averill, emotions are a society's collective pretense that people are subject to certain natural and involuntary "passions." He emphasizes emotion as passions which means emotions are normally thought to just happen, rather than being put on or acted out. There are two versions: the reinforcement version (as individual produces it in order to conform to the model) as opposed to the disclaimed action version that behavior is an action but is acknowledged by neither the individual nor society. Instead, they represent the behavior as a natural and inevitable response to the circumstances. It suggests that having an emotion is manifesting the behavior that constitutes a culture's model of a particular emotion. Griffiths point out the limits of social constructionism's argument that "naturalistic" accounts have no important role in explaining emotion. (Harre(1986), Armon-Jones) - want to classify emotions in terms of ony what causes them. Also, there is the cluster of confusions caused by subscribing to the traditional concept of innateness. It caused them their appraent lack of interest in putting emotions into general categories.

He suggested that this "heterogeneous construction" of emotion, which includes both social constructionist and evolutionary psychologist work on higher cognitive emotions, as an adequate approach to the construction of the psychological development. The heterogeneos construction of emotions is meant to convey the idea that the psychological phenotype is construction of emotions is meant to convey the idea that the psychological phenotype is constructed through the interaction of traditional "biological" factors, traditional "cultural" factors, and factors that are hard to classify in terms of that dichotomy. He supports this with the notion of that human psychology requires both genetic and environmental inputs to its development.



This document is available at http://csml.som.ohio-state.edu/Music829D/Notes/Griffiths.html