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In Pursuit of Reason: An Essay on Rationality and Emotion



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Hughes, Samuel 


Since the publication of Anthony Kenny’s Action, Emotion and Will, there has been a consensus that emotions involve representing their objects as mattering to the subject in a certain way. All major contemporary theories aim to accommodate this characteristic, and those that clearly cannot have generally been abandoned. This essay is an investigation of a related but distinct characteristic of emotion, one that has often been mentioned but that is only beginning to be systematically investigated. This is that emotions are candidates for rationality: it is unreasonable to be angry with someone who is blameless, to envy someone who is wretched, or to be outraged about something that is unproblematic. In this essay, I offer an account of exactly what this rationality consists in, I argue that existing theories of emotion cannot wholly accommodate it, and I develop a theory that can. Chapter One is a critique of the currently ascendant perception theories, and Chapter Two is a critique of the formerly ascendant belief theories. Chapter Three outlines a positive account of emotions, which I characterise as a form of ‘non-doxastic cognitivism’. Chapters Four and Five look at some more specific features of emotion, namely their hedonic character and their potential for sentimentality.





Breitenbach, Angela
Sliwa, Paulina


Reasons, Emotion, Cognitivism, Belief, Sentimentality


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge
AHRC (1652915)