Emotions as a mode of understanding : An essay in philosophical aesthetics

Abstract: The aim of this investigation is to discuss emotions as a mode of understanding and in what ways emotions can be connected to narrative art. An emotion is a sign that a person has understood a situation in a certain way, an understanding which will also be valid in interacting with different kinds of narrative art. Narrative art, on the other hand, is an unfailing source for depictions of human situations where all kinds of emotions appear. Thus, we understand narratives partly through our emotions, but we also learn to understand emotions through narratives. In this circumstance lies the reason for my claim of an interdependent intertwining of art and human life. Part I begins with a discussion of terminological issues, and stipulates a number of concepts and in what sense they will be used. The main problem in this part is to consider emotions as a kind of evaluative judgement which we make at a pre-reflective level. We find the term "pre-reflective" in Sartre's outline for a theory of emotions, which will also be discussed at some length. Although I focus on judgement, evaluation and the object of the emotion in this section, I will emphasise a contextual understanding of emotions in the investigation as a whole. Part II establishes the connection between situation-emotion-narrative, a connection which shows that emotions can only be understood through the context in which they occur. The fact that language and culture are significant for emotions is another issue which will be investigated in this part. In part III the main focus is the process of understanding which intertwines emotions, imagination and memory. In sympathy we find an understanding of other human beings based on imagination and concern. This is a kind of understanding, considered in terms of knowing-what-it-is-like, which is most valuable in our intersubjective relations and which, in a sense, can be acquired through interaction with narrative art. Part IV discusses emotional variations using the object of the emotion as a basis for the discussion. It seems that a fruitful way to gain some insight into the emotional sphere is to analyse the presumed object involved, no matter whether the object is ambiguous or even absent. Finally, the last part will concentrate on education and identity within the frame of emotions and narrative. The aim of this part is to explore a more conscious attitude in the encounter with art, where narrative art can be a source for challenging of habits and valuations.

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