The Return of William James. Rediscovering the Body in Emotion, Cognition and Rationality
09 / 2010 - 08 / 2011
Over the past ten years, neuroscientific interest in the emotions has virtually exploded. A growing network of researchers now claim that emotions are adaptive neurobiological programs in the mammalian brain, affective responses that are constituted by unique physiological profiles. In an explicit criticism of cognition-based emotion theories, Damasio (1994, 1999, 2003), LeDoux (1998) and others situate their work in the tradition of William James? body-based feeling theory again. This proposal concerns the recent return of James? definition of emotions as feelings-of-bodily-changes, and its relation to a number of hot topics in interdisciplinary emotion research. It argues 1. that a thorough reading of James? (complete) works on emotion can clarify actual disputes concerning the natural kind status of emotion, 2. that a re-examination of James? feeling-theory can make a major contribution to a more integrative conceptual framework for scientific emotion research, which goes beyond the tired dichotomies of affect and cognition, causality and intentionality, primitive and subtle emotions, and 3. that this re-examination shows that cognition-based and body-based approaches of emotion agree on a much larger scale than is commonly portrayed.