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Philosophical Topics

Volume 47, Issue 2, Fall 2019

Emotion Regulation

Ryan Cox
Pages 183-204

Only Reflect

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.

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