Between existentialism and the human sciences: Solomon’s cognitive theory of the emotions

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This paper critically articulates the evolution of Solomon’s claim that we choose our emotions and are responsible for them, which was one of the principal ideas in his thought. Solomon’s early existential account of the emotions held this view in an unqualified manner, and in this way it went beyond even Sartre’s view of the emotions, despite the latter’s notorious commitment to the idea of absolute freedom and responsibility. It is argued that, as with Sartre’s position, Solomon’s early position suffered from an indeterminacy problem. As his thought evolved, Solomon interrogated his earlier position in terms of the work that was being done in biological psychology and anthropology, and the latter in particular prompted him to modify it. Thus, he began to privilege the idea of emotional integrity, which subsumed his freedom and responsibility claim. It is argued that with this move, Solomon adopted a form of social constructivism that was not sufficiently critical in nature. Yet, it is ultimately argued, Solomon’s work is best understood as emphasizing the imperatives of the practical standpoint, which necessarily presupposes both freedom and responsibility, and that his work constitutes a warning to a culture that is in the process of falsifying both.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPassion, Death, and Spirituality
Subtitle of host publicationThe Philosophy of Robert C. Solomon
PublisherSpringer Netherlands
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9789400746503
ISBN (Print)9789400746497
StatePublished - Jan 1 2012


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