Emotion and knowing : being attuned to the world


The question "what is an emotion?" has been asked often throughout the history of philosophy, but few have come to an agreement about a definition or even how to study the emotions. In this thesis, I attempt to describe the nature and importance of emotions in terms of the way emotions affect one's experience of the world. I begin by analyzing five different theories of emotion: those of the Stoics, Aristotle, Spinoza, William James, and Sartre, which depict a wide range of theories that view emotion in both a positive and a negative sense. From them, I come to general definition of emotion that utilizes the strengths of the historical theories and goes beyond them. Then, I tum to addressing the way emotions affect the way the world is experienced. Using Heidegger, I claim that emotions attune people to the world, so that they notice different aspects of the world in one emotional state than they would in another emotional state. From here, the relationship between emotions and rationality is addressed. I claim that emotions are not irrational or arational, but are important to reason because they function as salience generators. As salience generators, emotions focus the reasoning process, narrowing down the options so that one can reason more quickly and with personal purpose. Finally, it is explained that emotion, though helpful to reason, is not a perfect way of knowing. Emotions are shown to be subjective, but not in a negative sense. They can be misleading at times, but they can still be trusted through three methods: (1) harmony between ways of knowing, (2) intersubjective corroboration, and (3) personal reflection.


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Thesis Completion





Strauser, Michael


Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)


College of Arts and Humanities

Degree Program



Arts and Humanities -- Dissertations, Academic;Dissertations, Academic -- Arts and Humanities







Access Status

Open Access

Length of Campus-only Access


Document Type

Honors in the Major Thesis

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