WHAT EMOTION DOES: AFFECT IN EMPATHY, ART, AND BEYOND
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This dissertation puts forth a series of arguments about the role of affect in everyday cognition. I begin in chapter 1 by developing a generalized philosophical and scientific account of what “affective” states—a term encompassing emotions, moods, pleasures/pains, and felt desires—are and how they arise. From there, I address a number of debates in moral psychology, aesthetics, and philosophy of art that revolve around the function of affective states. In chapter two, I weigh in on a long-standing disagreement about the automaticity of empathy; I contend that different so-called “kinds” of empathy are not in fact automatic, and that an explanatorily robust model of empathy must account for the influence of affectively-laden “underlying values.” In chapter three, I focus on the “processing fluency” view of aesthetic pleasure, which equates aesthetic pleasure with ease of perceptual processing. I critique and amend this view by highlighting the ways in which perceptual disfluency and negative affect also contribute positively to aesthetic appreciation. And, in chapter four, I attempt to redress the so-called “paradox of fiction” by claiming that emotions do not require belief-states to be considered real and theoretically rational instances of emotion. To do this, I point to research on affective prospection and mind-wandering to argue that emotions must in principle be distinguished from our beliefs.