Those sweet tears…[the role of feeling]

Let us consider a fairly UnKantian view. The emotions have a positive contribution towards the expressing of our emotional (qua mental) states. The emotions are an important aspect of communicating our beliefs and desires and in doing so, excercise an important aspect of our moral character insofar as beliefs and desires are the source of motivation for our actions.

Insofar beliefs and desires are the grounding for our actions, our emotions represent the response to said beliefs and desires. These responses are our moral reactions to certain phenomenon.

Let’s give an example…

To know that Cassandra is leaving forever, I find myself immersed in feeling; I find myself filled with a sense of loss. In this feeling, I then come to terms with a belief that I may not have expressed through a proposition, or a thought (framed as a proposition); namely, I love Cassandra.

I think two points can be made from those kinds of cases I just sketched; firstly, are we in the business, as epistemologists, to address our candidate of analysis (namely, knowledge), to be expressed in propositional term; like S knows that p. Or, do we broaden our analysis, perhaps I should even ask: Can we broad our analysis of knowledge?

To come to tears with the prospect of Cassandra leaving forever, is to come to terms with my beliefs about her and my desires about the way I want the world to be. To capture that feeling that is expressed by being brought to tears; is to express how many propositions? I think perhaps a (possibly) infinite number of propositions, and it seems almost the subject matter of poetry to capture it all…let’s just consider a few:

  1. I regret her loss
  2. I regret not coming to terms with these feelings
  3. I regret my feelings for her to not be transparent even onto myself
  4. She will never see me again
  5. I never appreciated her when she was here
  6. I want her back
  7. I never realised how special she is
  8. I never realised how I feel about her

That’s just an arbitrary selection of things that could be expressed. What perhaps could be said of these Cassandra cases? If we are to give a real instance of a revelation, an emotional revelation; can we really analyse the epistemic component in terms of logical primitives such as propositions? The same feeling has many, many propositions, utterances, and expressions. Some, I grant, are logically equivalent, but not numerically identical; to say ‘I love Cassandra’, and ‘Cassandra means the world to me‘, could be interpreted as utterances towards the same logical primitive, or, two different propositions from the same epistemic platitude. The emotions, and the things we learn from them are very difficult. It is the human nature to understand the way of things; to come to terms with our feelings is the introspective reasoning that borrows of the same epxlorative spirit as say, Newton, as he came to know the three laws of motion, or Kant as he tried to give a deduction of the pure categories that underlie all experience.

How much can be expressed in a tear? Those beautiful tears….

 Michael (and Antisophie)


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