Susanna Melkonian

As is the Intentional Object of Emotion so must be its Phenomenology? ?Brentano?s Most Striking Thesis? as Explanans.

One of the most recent debates on Brentano (1874) concerns his self-representational theory of consciousness – according to which ‘[[e]very conscious act] includes within it a consciousness of itself. Therefore, every [conscious] act, no matter how simple, has a double object, a primary and a secondary object. The simplest act, for example the act of hearing, has as its primary object the sound, and for its secondary object, itself, the mental phenomenon in which the sound is heard.’ (ibid: 153f., cited from Kriegel forthcoming in D. Fisette and G. Fréchette, emphasis added). When Montague (2009) refers to Brentano’s idea of a primary and a secondary object in her ‘sui-generis’ account of emotion, she emphasizes that she uses these terms in a quite different sense. Although ‘sui generis’ normally means that the emotion’s intentionality is in its essence phenomenal, Montague assumes that the secondary object of an experience is not the experience itself but “part of the experience, and more particularly, part of its phenomenological character.” (ibid: 184, footnote 28). However, in regard to genuinely phenomenal experiences like emotions it is a little confusing to say that the “thick content of an experience […] includes phenomenological content as well as thin content” (ibid: 174, emphasis added). As Montague first treats phenomenological content as, so to say, a “counterpart” to thin content, she further explains that it “is in virtue of the subject being aware of the affective phenomenology of being sad about the cat’s death that it [the affective phenomenology] contributes to that experience’s being sad about the sadness of the cat’s death […] (ibid: 184, emphasis added).” In more simple words Montague says that “feeling sad about the cat’s death experientially represents the disvalue of the cat’s death (ibid: 187, emphasis added).” Thus, emotions seem not only to represent thin contents like cats’ deaths but emotions are rather (evaluative) experiences of an external object as ‘the sad’, ‘the joyful’, etc. So after all, Montague seems to argue for a phenomenal intentional view of the emotion’s intentionality. In the end, she holds that the “affective phenomenology of an emotional experience − […] the secondary object of the experience - contributes essentially to that experience’s having the primary object it has” (ibid: 184, emphasis added). Indeed, we seem to do more justice to the emotion’s intentionality when we suppose clearly that an emotion has its primary object it has because the primary object in question is embedded in the affective phenomenology, that is, in the very mental phenomenon in question. Furthermore, Montague’s claim that the ‘evaluative content’ of emotions is determined by their affective phenomenology can also be understood as a claim about emotions’ self-representational character. Mendelovici’s (forthcoming) identity version of intentionalism seems to capture well Brentano’s idea of a secondary object. On Mendelovici’s view emotions represent their intentional objects as having ‘affective properties’. Affective properties happen to be un-instantiated - ‘Edenic’ (see Chalmers 2006) − properties. This sui generis view of emotion seems to better capture the self-representational character of emotion as it supposes that emotionally evaluating an external object ‘as sad’ (due to identity) simply is affectively representing the very object. On the other hand, like Montague, Mendelovici does not sufficiently pay attention to the primary object itself. The external object of an experience seems to be an essential component of Brentano’s most striking thesis. As quoted above, Brentano emphasizes:

The simplest act, for example, the act of hearing, has as its primary object the sound, and for its secondary object, itself, the mental phenomenon in which the sound is heard.” (ibid: 153f., emphasis added). One reading of this quote suggests that, as the act of hearing is directed towards something that can only be experienced when it is heard; the act of hearing thus represents also itself. As Kriegel further explains, “a mental state is conscious when, and only when, it represents itself in the right way” (ibid: x, emphasis added). Emotion theorists commonly agree that we − besides basic emotions that involve affective, thus physiological and expressive, reactions towards physical stimuli − also have cognitive emotions (see Zinck & Newen 2008). An essential component of cognitive emotions is their ‘cognitive content’. Being for instance joyous about a clear composition of a Beethoven symphony involves the belief that clear compositions are something special (cf. ibid). If we accept that such emotional experiences essentially involve cognitive evaluations, then affective phenomenology should also be able to account for them. But the experience of a clear Beethoven composition as ‘joyful’ seems to rather be characterized by the fact that we experience the clear Beethoven composition as a clear composition. Accordingly, we deploy concepts like CLEAR COMPOSITION. More generally, in order to consider an emotional experience as the experience of a social object, the external object in question must be embedded in the kind of emotion in which social kinds can be adequately represented. It seems therefore that the conscious experience of such objects as clear compositions necessarily requires the deployment of corresponding concepts. In that sense, a cognitive emotion can hardly represent itself in ‘the right way’ when it does not represent the social kind in the very way in which that kind is to be experienced. The emotional evaluation of a social object must differ from emotionally evaluating a physical object. Therefore, the cognitive emotion’s self-representational character must be beyond affective phenomenology. Then affect and evaluation (thus including think content) must indeed be considered as being counterparts within an emotion’s thick content. A cognitive emotion might include affect − but affect is then neither identical to nor a constitutive element of cognitive evaluation. It must rather be the cognitive evaluation itself that “characterizes” the distinctive phenomenology of the cognitive kind of emotion. The ‘the right way’ must be a kind of ‘cognitive phenomenology’ in which the cognitive emotion represents its primary object as having not affective sui generis, but rather such clearly ‘evaluative properties’.

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