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1. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 47 > Issue: 2
Hanna Pickard Stop Telling Me What to Feel!: A Clinical Theory of Emotions and What’s Wrong with the Moralization of Feelings
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“Don’t be jealous of your sister.” “Don’t be angry with your father.” “You should be more forgiving.” “You ought to feel terrible for what you’ve done.” “You ought to feel ashamed of yourself!” It is common practice within our society to morally reprimand people for their emotions, thereby expressing a kind of moralism: the idea that there are morally right and morally wrong ways to feel. Drawing on an alternative way of engaging with emotions derived from my experience working clinically with people with personality disorders, I argue against the value of this common practice and the moralization of emotions that underpins it. Stop telling people what to feel!
2. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 47 > Issue: 2
Tad Zawidzki Metacognitive Skill and the Therapeutic Regulation of Emotion
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Many psychiatric disorders are characterized by problems with emotion regulation. Well-known therapeutic interventions include exclusively discursive therapies, like classical psychoanalysis, and exclusively noncognitive therapies, like psycho-pharmaceuticals. These forms of therapy are compatible with different theories of emotion: discursive therapy is a natural ally of cognitive theories, like Nussbaum’s (2009), according to which emotions are forms of judgment, while psycho-pharmacological intervention is a natural ally of noncognitive theories, like Prinz’s (2006), according to which emotions are forms of stimulus-dependent perception. I explore a third alternative: the therapeutic regulation of emotion as the development of metacognitive skills. This is a natural characterization of newer forms of therapy that are increasingly prescribed, like so-called Third-Wave Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and other mindfulness-inspired interventions. I argue that these newer forms of therapy make sense if we conceive of emotion as neither a form of judgment nor a form of perception, but, rather, as a variety of what Gendler calls “alief ” (2008). As Gendler notes, although aliefs do not succumb to direct rational regulation, they can be trained. Thus, if we conceive of emotions as aliefs, we can make sense of their therapeutic regulation through the development of metacognitive skills. Drawing on recent philosophical analyses of skill, as well as empirical paradigms in emotion regulation, and Buddhist characterizations of meditative practice, I sketch a characterization of metacognitive skill, and conclude with some reflections on the advantages of conceiving of psychotherapy as the development of metacognitive skills.
3. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 47 > Issue: 2
Razia S. Sahi It’s Okay to Be Angry: A Functionalist Perspective of the Dangers of Overregulating Anger
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Recently, the view that anger is bad, even wrong, to feel and express has gained popularity. Philosophers like Martha Nussbaum and Derk Pereboom posit that anger is fundamentally tied to a desire for retribution (i.e., getting even for past events), which they argue is immoral, counterproductive, and irrational. Thus, they argue, we should try our best to stop ourselves from feeling and expressing anger whenever it arises. I argue that anger is not inherently retributive, and that feeling and expressing anger are sometimes the most adaptive response to unfairness in one’s environment. I draw on robust psychological literature to characterize the dangers of overregulating anger in terms of the practical, psychological, and humanitarian costs associated with not feeling and expressing anger. In the appropriate contexts, anger is crucial to prepare people to communicate disapproval, motivate necessary confrontation, and change wrongdoers’ harmful behaviors. Thus, the functions of anger are not focused on getting even for past events, but rather on protecting individuals from future harm. Importantly, the overregulation of anger is likely to cause the most harm to individuals and communities that experience routine unfairness, thereby reinforcing social injustices. By adopting a functionalist perspective of emotions, we can shift our focus away from policing experiences of anger and toward enhancing its functional qualities through thoughtful reflection on the sources of people’s anger and resolutions for that anger.
4. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 47 > Issue: 2
Alfred Archer, Georgina Mills Anger, Affective Injustice, and Emotion Regulation
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Victims of oppression are often called to let go of their anger in order to facilitate better discussion to bring about the end of their oppression. According to Amia Srinivasan (2018), this constitutes an affective injustice. In this paper, we use research on emotion regulation to shed light on the nature of affective injustice. By drawing on the literature on emotion regulation, we illustrate specifically what kind of work is put upon people who are experiencing affective injustice and why it is damaging. We begin by explaining affective injustice and how it can amount to a call for emotion regulation. Then we explain the various techniques that can be used to regulate emotions and explain how each might be harmful here. In the penultimate section of the paper, we explain how the upshot of this is that victims of affective injustice are left with a dilemma. Either they try to regulate their anger in a way that involves ignoring the fact of their oppression or they regulate it in a way that is likely to be harmful for them. Finally, we consider whether there are any good solutions to this dilemma, and how this issue opens up the possibility for further research into emotion regulation and moral philosophy.
5. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 47 > Issue: 2
Myisha Cherry Gendered Failures in Extrinsic Emotional Regulation; Or, Why Telling a Woman to “Relax” or a Young Boy to “Stop Crying Like a Girl” Is Not a Good Idea
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I argue that gendered stereotypes, gendered emotions and attitudes, and display rules can influence extrinsic regulation stages, making failure points likely to occur in gendered-context and for reasons that the emotion regulation literature has not given adequate attention to. As a result, I argue for ‘feminist emotional intelligence’ as a way to help escape these failures. Feminist emotional intelligence, on my view, is a nonideal ability-based approach that equips a person to effectively reason about emotions through an intersectional lens and use emotions to inform how we think and react to the world. This includes being attuned to the ways in which the world and our emotional lives are structured by and favors men. It stresses the need to be attuned to, as well as resist and challenge gender-based stereotypes and attitudes around emotions, paying close attention to the ways those stereotypes, norms, and attitudes differ across race, class, ethnicity, et cetera.
6. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 47 > Issue: 2
Celine Leboeuf What Is Body Positivity?: The Path from Shame to Pride
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“Body positivity” refers to the movement to accept our bodies, regardless of size, shape, skin tone, gender, and physical abilities. The movement is often implicitly understood as the effort to celebrate diversity in bodily aesthetics and to expand our narrow beauty standards beyond their present-day confines. Like other feminists, I question whether the push to broaden beauty norms should occupy as central a role as it does now in the movement’s mainstream incarnations, and I believe that, beyond challenging confining beauty standards, body positivity should teach us that all bodies are worthy—for example, of care and respect. My aim in this paper is to offer a general account of body positivity. I argue that body positivity should be understood as the transition from limiting body shame to proper body pride. I adopt a pluralistic approach to body positivity, incorporating the idea that we should not only expand aesthetic standards, but also celebrate such aspects of embodiment as our capacity for bodily pleasure or our bodily abilities. What is common to these different ways of developing empowering relations to our bodies is the move to resist all forms of body shame that limit our flourishing and to cultivate proper pride in one’s body. I conclude by considering several avenues toward embodying such pride and, thus, embracing body positivity: expanding beauty ideals; promoting equal access to physical activities and celebrating the accomplishments of all athletes, regardless of body size or level of ability; and consciousness-raising.
7. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 47 > Issue: 2
James Sias The Self as a Reason to Regulate: Dispositional Emotion Regulation and Shaftesbury on Integrity of Mind
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Notably absent from much of the psychological literature on emotion regulation are attempts to answer explicitly normative questions about the phenomenon. It is one thing to explain how emotional states are regulated. It is another thing to say something about what reasons there are to regulate our emotions, whether and why we might sometimes be obligated to regulate our emotions, and how we regulate our emotions well, or optimally. This paper is an attempt at the latter task, focused specifically on a type of emotion regulation also receiving little attention in the literature—what I call dispositional emotion regulation. Dispositional regulation occurs, when it does, at some point or period of time significantly prior to the onset of affected emotional states or episodes, and by means of modifying the subject’s emotional dispositions. And it is done well, or optimally, I argue, when it is done with an aim toward achieving and maintaining a coherent and comprehensible self, in the sense Shaftesbury had in mind.
8. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 47 > Issue: 2
Heidi L. Maibom Empathy and Emotion Regulation
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In this paper, I evaluate one of the most prominent accounts of how emotion regulation features in empathy. According to this account, by Nancy Eisenberg and colleagues, empathy develops into either personal distress or sympathy depending on the ability to regulate one’s empathic distress. I argue that recent evidence suggests (1) that empathic distress and sympathy co-occur throughout the empathic episode, (2) that a certain degree of empathic distress may be necessary for prosocial motivation, as high emotion regulation leads to loss of this motivation, and (3) that emotion regulation is not an unmitigated good since much of it is achieved by dehumanizing the sufferer or minimizing her pain. A fertile ground for further research, I suggest, is the role of up-regulation of sympathy.
9. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 47 > Issue: 2
Monique Wonderly On the Affect of Security
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In the contemporary philosophical literature, the topic of security has been largely neglected, and this is especially true of the affect of security. In what follows, I aim to nudge the affect of security toward the philosophical foreground by offering a basic analysis of (one sense of ) this attitude. Specifically, I sketch an account on which the affect of security is helpfully construed as a feeling of confidence in one’s ability to competently and effectively exercise one’s agency. Security, so construed, is an affective attitude toward one’s agency that both admits of affect regulation and plays a crucial meta-affective regulatory role in facilitating and modulating other affective dispositions and occurrent emotions. Examining this attitude can help to illuminate both the phenomenology and motivational structure of agency and the nature of certain emotions.
10. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 47 > Issue: 2
Ryan Cox Only Reflect
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While it is widely held that normative reflection is an effective means of controlling our emotions, it has proven to be notoriously difficult to provide a plausible model of such control. How could reflection on the normative status of our emotions be a means of controlling them? Higher-order models of reflective control give a special role to higher-order beliefs and judgments about the normative status of our emotions in controlling our emotions, but in doing so claim that higher-order beliefs and judgments have more control over our emotional lives than they in fact have, and fail to explain some of the central features of reflective control. First-order models of reflective control give a special role to first-order evaluative beliefs and perceptions about the objects of our emotions in controlling our emotions, but in doing so fail to explain how normative reflection could be a distinctive means of controlling our emotions at all. In this essay, I defend a model of reflective control which avoids the twin pitfalls of the higher-order and first-order models of reflective control, while learning from them both. I defend a model according to which normative reflection is a means of bringing our emotions under the control of reflective reason, where an emotion’s being under the control of reflective reason is to be understood in terms of its being under the control of one’s first-order evaluative beliefs and perceptions in accordance with one’s reflective commitments.
11. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 47 > Issue: 2
Joel Krueger, Lucy Osler Engineering Affect: Emotion Regulation, the Internet, and the Techno-Social Niche
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Philosophical work exploring the relation between cognition and the Internet is now an active area of research. Some adopt an externalist framework, arguing that the Internet should be seen as environmental scaffolding that drives and shapes cognition. However, despite growing interest in this topic, little attention has been paid to how the Internet influences our affective life—our moods, our emotions, and our ability to regulate these and other feeling states. We argue that the Internet scaffolds not only cognition but also affect. Using various case studies, we consider some ways that we are increasingly dependent on our Internet-enabled “techno-social niches” to regulate the contours of our own affective life and participate in the affective lives of others. We argue further that, unlike many of the other environmental resources we use to regulate affect, the Internet has distinct properties that introduce new dimensions of complexity to these regulative processes. First, it is radically social in a way many of these other resources are not. Second, it is a radically distributed and decentralized resource; no one individual or agent is responsible for the Internet’s content or its affective impact on users. Accordingly, while the Internet can profoundly augment and enrich our affective life and deepen our connection with others, there is also a distinctive kind of affective precarity built into our online endeavors as well.
12. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 47 > Issue: 2
Luca Barlassina, Max Khan Hayward Loopy Regulations: The Motivational Profile of Affective Phenomenology
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Affective experiences such as pains, pleasures, and emotions have affective phenomenology: they feel (un)pleasant. This type of phenomenology has a loopy regulatory profile: it often motivates us to act a certain way, and these actions typically end up regulating our affective experiences back. For example, the pleasure you get by tasting your morning coffee motivates you to drink more of it, and this in turn results in you obtaining another pleasant gustatory experience. In this article, we argue that reflexive imperativism is the only intentionalist account of affective phenomenology—probably, the only account at all—that is able to make sense of its loopy regulatory profile.
13. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 47 > Issue: 1
William Bausman The Aims and Structures of Ecological Research Programs
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Neutral Theory is controversial in ecology. Ecologists and philosophers have diagnosed the source of the controversy as: its false assumption that individuals in different species within the same trophic level are ecologically equivalent, its conflict with Competition Theory and the adaptation of species, its role as a null hypothesis, and as a Lakatosian research programme. In this paper, I show why we should instead understand the conflict at the level of research programs which involve more than theory. The Neutralist and Competitionist research programs borrow and construct theories, models, and experiments for various aims and given their home ecological systems. I present a holistic and pragmatic view of the controversy that foregrounds the interrelation between many kinds of practices and decisions in ecological research.
14. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 47 > Issue: 1
Gregory J. Cooper, Lawrence E. Hurd The House and the Household: Habitat, Demographic Independence, and Ecological Populations
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The concept of population is central to ecology, yet it has received little attention from philosophers of ecology. Furthermore, the work that has been done often recycles ideas that have been developed for evolutionary biology. We argue that ecological populations and evolutionary populations, though intimately related, are distinct, and that the distinction matters to practicing ecologists. We offer a definition of ecological population in terms of demographic independence, where changes in abundance are a function of birth and death processes alone. However, demographic independence (DI) is insufficient on its own so we supplement it with the idea of shared habitat. An ecological population is a group of organisms of the same species in a habitat that manifests DI. Given the importance of metapopulation dynamics to modern ecology, an account of ecological population must apply to this domain as well. Thus, we extend our definition of ecological population to the metapopulation. To facilitate the extension, we introduce the metahabitat—a collection of spatially segregated habitat patches shared by a single DI population. This enables us to (1) diagnose some unhelpful trends in the metapopulation literature and (2) emphasize the importance of habitat dynamics in pursuit of the goals of theoretical ecology and conservation biology.
15. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 47 > Issue: 1
Eric Desjardins On the Meaning of “Coevolution” in Social-Ecological Studies: An Eco-Darwinian Perspective
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Researchers studying linked Social-Ecological Systems (SESs) often use the notion of coevolution in describing the relation between humans and the rest of nature. However, most descriptions of the concept of socio-ecological coevolution remain elusive and poorly articulated. The objective of the following paper is to further specify and enrich the meaning of “coevolution” in social-ecological studies. After a critical analysis of two accounts of coevolution in ecological economics, the paper uses the frameworks of Niche Construction Theory and the Geographic Mosaic Theory to define social-ecological coevolution as the reciprocal adaptation of human-social and ecological ensembles through human and ecological niche construction activities. In sum, this conceptual analysis suggests that an ecologization of Darwinian coevolution can bring clarity to profound functional integration that takes place between humans and ecological systems, and at the same time opens fruitful avenues for social-ecological research.
16. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 47 > Issue: 1
Alkistis Elliott-Graves The Future of Predictive Ecology
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Prediction is an important aspect of scientific practice, because it helps us to confirm theories and effectively intervene on the systems we are investigating. In ecology, prediction is a controversial topic: even though the number of papers focusing on prediction is constantly increasing, many ecologists believe that the quality of ecological predictions is unacceptably low, in the sense that they are not sufficiently accurate sufficiently often. Moreover, ecologists disagree on how predictions can be improved. On one side are the ‘theory-driven’ ecologists, those who believe that ecology lacks a sufficiently strong theoretical framework. For them, more general theories will yield more accurate predictions. On the other are the ‘applied’ ecologists, whose research is focused on effective interventions on ecological systems. For them, deeper knowledge of the system in question is more important than background theory. The aim of this paper is to provide a philosophical examination of both sides of the debate: as there are strengths and weaknesses in both approaches to prediction, a pluralistic approach is best for the future of predictive ecology.
17. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 47 > Issue: 1
Jeremy W. Fox The Many Roads to Generality in Ecology
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The variety of nature presents a challenge for ecologists. Individual organisms differ from one another in ways both obvious and subtle, even if they’re members of the same species living in the same location. Different populations, species, communities, ecosystems, biomes, habitats, food webs, etc. also differ from another. What, if anything, can be said in general about ecological systems and how they work? If there are generalities in ecology, do they take the form of exceptionless “laws of nature” analogous to the laws of physics? Or do they take some other form? Should ecologists even try to identify ecological generalities? If so, how? The variety of nature is matched by the variety of ecologists’ answers to those questions. I will suggest that all of their answers are right—sometimes. Here I propose a taxonomy of the many different “roads to generality” in ecology: the various different kinds of “generality” that ecologists seek. I argue that each road to generality is valuable in its own way, but that different roads are useful in different contexts and for different purposes. Different roads to generality thus can be complementary to one another, and it would be a mistake for the field of ecology as a whole to focus exclusively on any one of them.
18. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 47 > Issue: 1
James Justus Ecological Theory and the Superfluous Niche
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Perhaps no concept has been thought more important to ecological theorizing than the niche. Without it, technically sophisticated and well-regarded accounts of character displacement, ecological equivalence, limiting similarity, and others would seemingly never have been developed. The niche is also widely considered the centerpiece of the best candidate for a distinctively ecological law, the competitive exclusion principle. But the incongruous array and imprecise character of proposed definitions of the concept square poorly with its apparent scientific centrality. I argue this definitional diversity and imprecision reflects a problematic conceptual indeterminacy that challenges its putative indispensability in ecology.
19. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 47 > Issue: 1
Christopher Hunter Lean General Unificatory Theories in Community Ecology
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The question of whether there are laws of nature in ecology has developed substantially in the last 20 years. Many have attempted to rehabilitate ecology’s lawlike status through establishing that ecology possesses laws that robustly appear across many different ecological systems. I argue that there is still something missing, which explains why so many have been skeptical of ecology’s lawlike status. Community ecology has struggled to establish what I call a General Unificatory Theory (GUT). The lack of a GUT causes problems for explanation as there are no guidelines for how to integrate the lower-level mathematical and causal models into a larger theory of how ecological assemblages are formed. I turn to a promising modern attempt to provide a unified higher-level explanation in ecology, presented by ecologist Mark Vellend, and advocate for philosophical engagement with its prospects for aiding ecological explanation.
20. Philosophical Topics: Volume > 47 > Issue: 1
Stefan Linquist Why Ecology and Evolution Occupy Distinct Epistemic Niches
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Recent examples of rapid evolution under natural selection seem to require that the disciplines of ecology and evolution become better integrated. This inference makes sense only if one’s understanding of these disciplines is based on Hutchinson’s two-speed model of the ecological theater and the evolutionary play. Instead, these disciplines are more accurately viewed as occupying distinct “epistemic niches.” When so understood, we see that rapid evolution under selection, even if it is generally true, does not imply that evolutionary explanations are improved by the inclusion of ecological details. Nor are ecological explanations necessarily improved by the inclusion of information about trait variation, heritability, effective population size, or other standard evolutionary factors. To illustrate, I develop a version of Kitcher’s (1984) “gory details” argument to show that, even for some trait that is under strong directional selection, a dynamically sufficient explanation of its ecological relationships should ignore most of the information explaining why that trait is evolving. The wholesale integration of ecology and evolution looks even less appealing when empirical sufficiency, a purely practical requirement, is taken into account. As a way forward, I propose an eco-evo partitioning framework. This strategy enables researchers to estimate the empirical sufficiency of a purely ecological, a purely evolutionary, or a combined eco-evo approach.