view on emotions
to be presented at the 9th conference of the International Society
for Theoretical Psychology (ISTP), June 3-8 2001, Calgary
Cor Baerveldt & Paul
study of human emotions and sentiments belongs to the core business
of cultural psychology. In this paper we seek to develop some of
the outlines of a cultural psychology that is equal to the task
of understanding the social and cultural form of emotions. Our scope
will be that of the 'enactive' cultural psychology we have proposed
elsewhere (Baerveldt & Verheggen, 1999a, 1999b; Baerveldt & van
Grinsven, 2000; Baerveldt, Voestermans & Verheggen, 1999). Such
an enactive cultural psychology is critical with respect to all
theories that try to explain the particular form of human emotions
by resorting to pre-established cultural models, stories, theories
and other 'intentional realities'. After all, intentional realities
are real because of the emotions involved, so it makes little sense
to use those same intentional realities as an explanation of those
emotions. Rather than an explanation, intentional realities - their
force and persuasiveness - are the things to be explained. For this
we need to understand the phenomenon of emotion much better. From
the perspective of an enactive cultural psychology we will discuss
three principles that in our view are vital for such an understanding
of human emotions.
emotions are intentional
The notion of intentionality,
that derives from phenomenological thinking, has undergone an interesting
fate in the history of western thinking. Although the term itself
was adopted by cognitive science, its current use has little to
do with the original intentions of Brentano, Husserl and other phenomenological
thinkers. In an early piece of work Jean Paul Sartre (1939) already
criticized the emotion theories of his days for cutting off the
meaning of emotions from that what is meant. To experience an emotion
is to realize, or to 'enact' a property of the world, not of ourselves.
For a psychologist, to distinguish an emotion in a human being is
therefore to indicate a domain of relational behaviors, which this
person could generate in the particular situation (Maturana, 1995).
As such, emotions can be considered as dynamical dispositions for
action, rather than some inner state of being.
emotions are consensual
Although an enactive approach
to emotions is tributary to phenomenology, it is also critical with
respect to phenomenology's failure to recognize the social dimension
of human emotions. By focusing on what it considered to be the 'essential'
structure of emotions, most phenomenologists failed to recognize
that probably all human action is consensually coordinated. People
are involved in an ongoing flow of mutual adaptations. In human
beings, the particular course of their 'emotioning' therefore becomes
a feature of their consensually coordinated actions with other human
beings. Therefore, emotions play a central role in the establishment
of the co-operative domains of interaction, or consensual domains,
that constitute the unreflected base of culture.
emotions are recursive
As a consequence of the complexity
of human consensual domains, people are not only able to coordinate
their actions with respect to their life world, but also to recursively
coordinate those consensually coordinated actions. This is typically
what happens in language or in other semiotic actions. Therefore,
human emotions belong to a domain of second order consensual coordinations
of actions, or a semiotic domain. One particular feature of second
order consensual coordinations of action concerns the ability of
human experiencers to acknowledge or recognize that there are other
experiencing persons who have their own, unique experience about
'the same' world. This means that human experience is 'co-intentional'
rather than intentional in an isolated fashion. Therefore, human
emotions do not only imply the self, as Robert Zajonc already noted,
but they also imply the other. To be a self within a semiotic domain
is to be able to recognize the experiential autonomy of others.
Crucial in this recursive consensual coordination of actions is
a process of 'authentification': people need other people in order
to make their own experience real, particularly theire emotional
intend to demonstrate that the entwining of emotions and consensually
coordinated human actions may adopt either a conversational or a
ritual form. In our paper we will discuss the particular role of
conversation and ritual in the constitution of intentional worlds
in more detail.
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of cultural patterns. Paper presented at the 1st International
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of culture: Rethinking the epistemological basis of cultural psychology.
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& Verheggen, Th. (1999b). Towards a psychological study of culture:
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Esgalhado, R. Jorna & E. Schraube (Eds.), Challenges to Theoretical
Psychology. pp. 296-303. North York, Canada: Captus.
Voestermans, P., & Verheggen, Th. (1999). Human experience and the
enigma of culture: Towards an enactive account of cultural practice.
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for Theoretical Psychology (ISTP), April 25-28, 2000, Sydney.
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