Peter Goldie, ed., The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Emotion. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010, xiv + 722 pp. £32.00/$55.00 paper.
“Philosophical research in the emotions is now extremely active and productive,”[p. 1] says editor Peter Goldie. That said, the Handbook includes thirty-one chapters grouped into six post-Introduction parts: 1) What Emotions Are, 2) The History of Emotion, 3) Emotions and Practical Reason, 4) Emotions and the Self, 5) Emotion, Value, and Morality, and 6) Emotion, Art, and Aesthetics. Part 6 seems most relevant here, and so I’ve selected two chapters from this part for special consideration: Chapter 27: “Expression in the Arts” by Derek Matravers, and Chapter 30: “Emotions, Art, and Immorality” by Matthew Kieran.
Matravers considers four accounts of the relation between music and the emotions before turning to consider expressiveness in painting; more specifically, the contributions of Richard Wollheim and Dominic Lopes. In the end, Matravers opts for “a generous pluralism” that draws from multiple “accounts of the relation between art and the emotions.”[p. 632]
More interesting, to my mind, was Kieran’s consideration of “Emotions, Art, and Immorality.” He begins:
We are naturally interested in why people are bad, come to be so or come to do bad things. What looks more puzzling is how and why works get us to empathize, sympathize, and even admire bad people or react to morally problematic situations as we would or ought not to ordinarily.[p. 681]
“The reason we do so,” says Kieran, “is the payoffs such imaginings will bring.”[p. 693] He goes on to consider various motivations and values including aesthetic, emotional intensity, cognitive gains, drives and desires as well as artistic values before addressing the question of “imagining morally problematic characters and states of affairs” and our character.[p. 701] Noting that these imaginings need not be morally problematic, he nevertheless concludes that “we need a better conceptual grasp of the ways in which emotionally responding to imagined states of affairs might manifest virtue and vice.”[p. 702] Indeed, that is precisely what we need, and more to the point, precisely what I had hoped to find here. The essay is, nevertheless, helpful in walking through the various parts of the conversation, and is, as such, well worth reading.
“Wittgenstein is a contested figure on the philosophical scene.”[p. 1] That said, this Handbook includes thirty-five chapters grouped into seven parts: 1) Introduction, 2) Logic and the Philosophy of Mathematics, 3) Philosophy of Language, 4) Philosophy of Mind, 5) Epistemology, 6) Method, and 7) Religion, Aesthetics, Ethics. Part 7 seems most relevant here, and so I’ve selected one chapter from this part for special consideration: Chapter 34: “Wittgenstein on Aesthetics” by Malcolm Budd.
Budd begins: “Wittgenstein had a deep and enduring interest in at least two of the major art forms, literature and music; practised, if only briefly, two others, architecture and sculpture; was an artistic benefactor, leaving part of the fortune he inherited from his father, all of which he gave away, to be distributed to Austrian artists who needed financial support; and towards the end of his life acknowledged aesthetic along with conceptual questions as the only ones that really gripped him.”[p. 775]
Regarding aesthetics, Wittgenstein was primarily concerned to argue against appreciating, and instead for understanding a work of art. Budd explains: “When we admire a work without reservation, it is not replaceable for us by another that creates the same effect, for we admire the work itself, so that its value does not consist in its performing a function that another work could perform just as well.”[p. 790] The issue, for Wittgenstein, was that appreciating divorces the effect (i.e., appreciation) from the work itself.
Less helpful than it might have been, this chapter is nevertheless thorough, providing handles for the novice and multiple points of entry.
Reviews by Christopher R. Brewer
Image Credit: Oxford University Press