Emotion as a Mode of Engagement: A Critical Defense of Ben-Ze’ev’s Social Theory of Emotions

Title: Emotion as a Mode of Engagement: A Critical Defense of Ben-Ze’ev’s Social Theory of Emotions
Authors: Charbonneau, Jamie
Date: 2016
Abstract: What is an emotion, and what does an emotional reaction signify? In this thesis I critically defend Aaron Ben-Ze’ev’s theory of emotion as a mode of social engagement. Building on the idea that an emotional reaction is the opposite of indifference, emotions express one’s concerns. They are most intense with regard to the shifting dynamics of personal relationships and social status. Thus, in order to think well about social and personal issues, attention to emotional views of the world is paramount. The social concern of emotion opens what may seem private about our reactions to an interpersonal reading. Emotions are contrasted with an intellectual form of engagement, the latter being characterized by deliberative thinking, which focuses on generalities and stable patterns. Emotions, on the other hand, are more closely aligned with action tendencies and tend to disrupt detached styles of thinking by narrowing one’s focus to the emotion’s target. Because emotions express one’s concerns, Ben-Ze’ev argues that they tend to sincerely express our “profound values,” a view which I argue against. Building on Diane Meyers’s conception of the five-dimensional self, I argue that emotions are a source of deeply held convictions, but avoid conflating this with notions of sincerity. Instead, emotional concerns can be integrated into the cultivation of personal autonomy, in terms of self-definition and self-discovery. I apply this conception of emotion to the popular concept of emotional intelligence, and argue that emotional intelligence involves a capacity to handle with skill the emerging and chaotic urgency of emotional reactions.
URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10393/35515
CollectionThèses, 2011 - // Theses, 2011 -