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An encyclopedia of philosophy articles written by professional philosophers.

The most important antecedent of the standard model, the cognitivist theory of emotions that the ancient Greek and Roman Stoics advanced, denied that beasts and babies ever experienced emotions. Because beasts and babies lacked language, the Stoics argued, they were incapable of making evaluative judgments of the kind with which the Stoics identified emotions. But their view, like Descartes' cognate view that only human beings have minds, has long since been reduced to an historical curiosity. Consequently, any theory of emotions must acknowledge that beasts and babies are capable of having emotions, and it must account for these as well as the emotions of mature human beings.

Cognitivist theories that fit the standard model fail in this respect. In view of these objections, recent defenders of cognitivist theories have dropped the standard model in favor of a broader account of the evaluative cognition that is essential to emotions see Nussbaum, ; and Roberts, Such cognition, they argue, need not be an evaluative judgment of the kind that implies grasping and affirming a proposition. It may, instead, be a perception. Indeed, some defenders of cognitivist theories now argue that emotions are primarily forms of perception.

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Since perceiving something does not imply that you make any judgment or form any belief about it, the first objection does not threaten cognitivist theories that fit this model. When you look down from a precipice, knowing you are in no danger of falling, the fear you experience need not consist in or involve a belief or judgment that you are in danger of falling. You perceive danger in falling, but you do not believe or judge that you are in danger of falling. Hence, in feeling fear of falling you do not make contradictory judgments or hold contradictory beliefs. And the same goes for other examples that generate the first objection to the standard model.

Does the perceptual model also escape the second objection? Can it account for the emotions of beasts and babies? Defenders of this model maintain that it can. Because perception is sometimes a more primitive form of cognition than the kind of evaluative judgment that the standard model identifies as essential to emotions, they argue, it is possible on the perceptual model for beasts and babies to have evaluative cognitions of the kind that is essential to emotions.

Specifically, because not all perception requires propositional thought, attributing perceptions to beasts and babies does not presuppose that either has any linguistic capabilities. The dog's perception, so defenders of the perceptual model would argue, is like the perception we have when we look at a straight stick partially submerged in a deep pool of water.

We see it as bent. Our so seeing the stick does not require any propositional thought on our part, and by the same token the dog's seeing the man with the stick as dangerous does not require any propositional thought on the dog's part. This argument for recognizing that the perceptual model is beyond the reach of the second objection would succeed if the point of that objection, when pressed against the standard model, were a point about the mode of cognition that on this standard model characterizes the evaluative judgments the model represents as essential to emotions.

It would succeed, that is, if the reason the standard model fails to account for the emotions of beasts and babies is that the model takes such evaluative judgments to be states or acts of mind in which some proposition is p. Some perceptions, after all, are cognitive states in which the mind neither affirms nor denies a proposition. They are of a different mode of cognition. Hence, the second objection would have no force against the perceptual model since this alternative mode may characterize some of the perceptions the model represents as essential to emotions.

But one could be making a different point in advancing the second objection. One could be making a point about the cognitive content of the evaluative judgments that the standard model represents as essential to emotions. In that case, the argument has not succeeded in showing that the perceptual model is beyond the reach of this objection.

For the cognitive content of a perception of someone, the man with the stick, say, as dangerous is the same as the cognitive content of a judgment that this man is dangerous. In either case, the concept of danger is deployed in a cognitive representation of the situation, and to have and deploy a concept of danger is to be capable of propositional thought. Hence, the perceptual model too runs afoul of the second objection.

Defenders of the perceptual model will of course balk at this result.

Ordinary Language Philosophy | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

They will argue, in response, either that one does not need to have a concept of danger to see something as dangerous or that it is possible to have concepts even if one has no language or has yet to acquire one. Neither response, however, rescues the model from defeat by the second objection.

Words, Definitions, & Logic

Let us consider the second response first. They are, that is, what such words mean when they occur in meaningful sentences. To have concepts independently of one's having a language implies either of two possibilities. On the one hand, it may imply that one's concepts are innate and part of what takes place, when one learns language, is one's matching words to them and constructing sentences that match the combinations of them one has created.

On the other, it may imply that one first acquires concepts through sensory and affective experiences and later learns how they are encoded in language. The first possibility captures a view of language acquisition according to which it follows and results from the emergence and development of rational thought in children. Since animals other than human beings are not rational and never acquire language, the first possibility is not available to defenders of the perceptual model.

The second possibility treats concepts as ideas in the mind that derive from one's sensory and affective experience. On this possibility, the acquisition of such ideas is not exclusive to human p. At the same time, this possibility entails a semantics for natural language according to which the meanings of our words are these ideas in our minds. Defenders of the perceptual must avoid attributing concepts to beasts and babies if they are to save the model from defeat by the second objection.

We are left, then, with the alternative response, that one does not need to a have a concept of danger to see something as dangerous. With regard to this response, the first thing to ask is what seeing something as dangerous amounts to. Specifically, is it like seeing a straight stick as bent when it is partially submerged in a pool of water? Or is it more like seeing an extended hand as an offer of friendship when you first make someone's acquaintance? In the latter case, the perception entails an interpretation that consists in applying a concept, the concept of an offer of friendship, to a gesture.

So if seeing something as dangerous is like this latter case, then the alternative response fails to save the perceptual model. In the former case, the perception, by contrast, arguably need not involve any application of a concept. In describing our perception as one of seeing a straight stick as bent, we describe how the stick appears to us in circumstances in which we know it would appear differently if we looked at it through a uniform medium.

We are thus remarking a sensory property an object appears to have but may not in fact have. It is a property of a kind of which we are directly aware through one or more of our sense modalities.

The question, then, is whether being dangerous is similarly a sensory property of objects, whether it is a property of a kind of which we are directly aware through one of our sense modalities. When one teaches a child words for such properties one assumes prior acquaintance with the properties. That is, one assumes that the child's sense modalities have developed, worked well, and been exercised.

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Refining our Notion of What Text Really Is: The Problem of Overlapping Hierarchies

When one teaches a child color words, for instance, one finds objects that display the colors vividly, presents those objects to the child, and has it apply the different words to them. Other objects that are similar in color are also presented to the p. On the assumption, then, that the child can recognize the objects in each group as similar to each other, it is taught to apply the word to what each member in the group has in common with every other.

Children are not presented with a collection of objects such as pencils with sharp points, rubber balls, plastic bags, matches, and billfolds and invited to group them according as they are dangerous or benign. One does not assume prior acquaintance with the property. Otherwise one would naturally teach them what the word means by teaching them to apply the word to what they already recognize as the property the objects have in common.

Rather children are taught the meaning of the word by being told which things are dangerous and which are not. Teaching them the meaning and teaching them how to recognize the property are therefore one and the same. One assumes, that is, that the child is ignorant of which things have the property and which do not, that it cannot, without instruction, recognize a thing's being or not being dangerous.


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Whether it's strangers or matches or busy streets, a child is taught about the danger each poses, and the teaching typically includes some explanation of the harm that each can cause. Likewise, one teaches a child not to be afraid of things that initially frighten it when they are not dangerous. In so doing, one is not correcting a child's misperception of danger.

Rather, one is teaching the child that not everything scary is dangerous, and this teaching too may include a demonstration that these scary things do not cause harm. If being dangerous were a sensory property, such teaching would be unnecessary for getting children to recognize danger.

Introduction

A method of teaching like that of teaching children the meaning of color words would be sufficient. As it is not, we may conclude that being dangerous is not a sensory property. It is not a property of which we are directly aware through one of our sense modalities. What then should we say about the dog that is afraid of the man threatening him with a stick? It is tempting, of course, to say that the dog sees the man as dangerous.

After all, if a man threatened you with a stick, you would certainly see him as dangerous.