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A Sentimentalist Theory of the MindReview - A Sentimentalist Theory of the Mind
by Michael Slote
Oxford University Press, 2014
Review by Robert Zaborowski
Mar 17th 2015 (Volume 19, Issue 12)

The aim of this relatively short book is to "defend a sentimentalist theory or philosophy of the mind" (xi). Together with Slote's earlier books - Moral Sentimentalism (2010) and From Enlightenment to Receptivity: Rethinking Our Values (2013) it is a part of a larger project[[1]]. The whole triptych, the aim and content of which are presented in the Preface (xi-xxi), is supposed to "demonstrate the superiority of sentimentalism to rationalism". A Sentimentalist Theory of the Mind plays a crucial role in this project for it contains the most pronounced position. In it Slote has gone back on or improved several of his earlier opinions as to make them more radical. Sentimentalism is often associated with Hume's philosophy, but Hume, though a moral sentimentalist, "never claimed that emotion is on a priori philosophical grounds necessary to the construction of any intelligent mind" (xi), whereas Slote's main thesis is that "all belief and action inherently involve an element of emotion" (xi-xii). To say that emotion and the emotions are the irreducible core of the mind is a rare and bold claim, rather infrequently stated in such an overt and strong form. This is why the book's philosophical content and its implications are worth reading and exploring.

In the Introduction (1-10) we are told that sentimentalism in the philosophy of mind emerges rather from a consideration of the role empathy and emotions play in epistemology than from moral sentimentalism. According to the sentimentalist approach to the mind emotion is involved in all modes of thinking. In this sense Slote sides with a view that has had its place outside the mainstream of philosophical thinking. Those who privileged emotion in philosophical thinking have been some German Romantics as well as, more recently, certain feminists because they underscored the role of "empathy as a basis for many emotions" (4). Emotions are as fundamental to the human mind as empathy is crucial for a human being's life and human relationships.

In Chapter 1 (Epistemology and Emotion, 11-31) Slote opens his discussion of mind and emotion by looking at the role empathy plays in human mental life. Two points are made. First, one can be a moral sentimentalist without being sentimentalist about epistemology. Second, there are forms of epistemic irrationality which have nothing to do with emotions. Slote argues that being fair in discussion and beliefs, especially when seeking to justify them, requires open-mindedness and fair-mindedness which are based on "specific elements of feeling and [...] this means epistemic virtue or rationality as a whole has important emotional aspects" (14). His argument runs thus: in order to take another's arguments into consideration, especially when one disagrees with them, one needs a degree of open-mindedness, ability and willingness to be in the other's position, "to get into the heads of other people" (15) and this is a kind of empathy. What Slote has in mind therefore is not a purely intellectual open-mindedness but rather an intellectual sympathy. He claims no one can genuinely be willing to understand another's beliefs, arguments and viewpoints without "a certain degree or amount of sympathy [...] at least a mildly positive attitude toward [him]" (16). He concludes that "full epistemic rationality contains emotional elements" and "belief literally involves emotion" (18-19). Slote draws attention to the fact that feelings involved in beliefs are so mild that often they pass unnoticed. He also discusses a case of being intolerant of people who are themselves intolerant. As he says, there can be such a thing as epistemic anger (Slote, it seems to me, draws here tacitly on Aristotle for whom anger is a right feeling in front of wrongdoings). This is a second-order intolerance, compatible with a first-order open-mindedness. The chapter ends with a consideration of recent trends - in fact a polemic against the view that emotion affects reasoning for the worse - which argue for a constructive epistemic role of emotions and an inextricable binding of reason with emotion. Since these trends rely on empirical assumptions, they are insufficient in providing a conceptual and/or philosophical explanation of emotions' epistemic role and their relation with reasoning.

One might wonder how firm is the ground on which Slote's argument is based, viz. the sympathy vs antipathy dichotomy (in chapter 4 he does better, goes beyond a mere dichotomy and distinguishes three classes: egoistic, altruistic, neither-egoistic-nor-altruistic). Is a neutral open-mindedness implausible? Would such a person be not objective and not sufficiently open-minded to correctly understand another person's view? Should we really see things in favorable light in order to see them accurately? Maybe a clear light would be enough? Also I am not sure if "get[ting] inside people's heads without feeling what they feel" (177) should always be understood as amounting to psychopathy, even if I agree that this is what is characteristic of psychopaths[[2]]. If Slote were right there would be no middle ground between psychopathy and empathy and this seems odd to me.

The title of Chapter 2 (32-62) - Belief in Action - is partly misleading. It is more about emotion in the belief in action, in particular focused on the link between a belief about the world and the motivation set by that belief. For example favoring one belief over another is commonly described in intellectualist terms. But Slote asks why do we tend to think this rather than that. Slote thinks that the belief or preference in believing is also a matter of emotion - a positive emotional attitude - that underpins it. Accordingly, not only a belief but also "using and relying on that belief" (37) involves emotion[[3]]. In what follows Slote comments Hume's, Kant's and Davidson's positions with a special attention paid to the issue of when a belief is inert or operative.

In Chapter 3, The Emotional Unity of the Self (63-86), Slote develops "[t]he idea [...] that emotion and the emotions play a vital role in constituting the unity of our minds and our selves as selves" (63). This is an idea relatively rare given that only "the German philosophical Romantics" held this view[[4]]. Characteristic in this respect is that, as Slote remarks, Hume, whose views as labelled as moral sentimentalist, didn't grant emotions with any role to play in personal identity, for he denied personal identity altogether. This fact may mirror the gap between moral sentimentalism and sentimentalism in philosophy of mind. The way Slote argues is to start from Kant's unity of the mind explained for instance "in terms of what he calls the categories of the understanding" (64) or by the unity of the theoretical and the practical sides of human mind, "ultimately based in (practical) reason" (84). For Slote the unity of the self (or of the mind) involves "a certain kind of unity of the practical and the theoretical" (65) but the unity between the theoretical and the practical is "constituted through the role of emotion in both of them" (66). Since emotions are a kind of common denominator for the theoretical and the practical they provide a firmer ground for both than having one depend upon the other. Alternatively, if it is claimed that belief is what unifies the practical and the theoretical, and since belief itself is constituted as a unity by emotions, it follows that emotions must be the principle unifying the practical and the theoretical.

Slote next introduces a new argument about feelings being involved in opinions/beliefs. He says that if we agree that we can accept another's opinion - and he understands accepting as a kind of empathizing - and since the object of empathy can be only feelings, this means that another's opinion (or beliefs) has to include feelings in order to be empathized with. In this context Slote has in mind cases of being influenced by another's opinion, an empathic osmosis. The conclusion is valid but only as long as there is no other object of empathy than another feeling and this is not what all philosophers agree with (including one of Slote's main references, M. Hoffman in his book on empathy, 2000). Drawing on Frege's distinction between belief and proposition, Slote remarks that "beliefs have a distinctive unity of their own, one partly based on the previously acknowledged unity of propositions (Gedanken), but also involving emotion in a way that proposition do not" (76). Finally Slote comes to the issue of diachronic unity. Here again Slote refers to his argument from Chapter 1[[5]]: belief about one's future self or person over time cannot be understood in simply intellectual terms because motivational efficacy requires motivational force, which, in turn, is not separable from the emotion it actually involves. As he says, "the unity [...] at the deepest level, involves emotional factors that are out of keeping with the rationalistic picture of the self" (80). The whole picture is expressed by Slote in a short, paradoxically sounding statement: "no rationalism without sentimentalism; and that ultimately means no rationalism" (81).

In Chapter 4 (Egoism and Emotion, 87-120) Slote challenges recent arguments of those who deny human capacity of altruism. Support for psychological egoism comes from two positions, either from taking one's empathy or sympathy as motivated by her egoism or from questioning altruism by considering that empathy and sympathy involve identification with the other. As for the first position Slote replies that there is a distinction between behavior purely selfish and one in which one acts for the sake of, say, a person one loves. In this case egoism is not simple: there is an aspect, motive or act of altruism occurring in it as well. As Slote says, "[e]ven if there is an egoistic aspect to what happens, there is an altruistic and non-egoistic side to things too" (93). Slote remarks also that even if one's action can be spelled out - especially after the fact - in terms of avoiding a future sense of guilt, this is not the motive which underlies the action before or during the fact. Another point is that "ordinary normal human beings simply want (and like) to be liked [...] prefer being liked to being disliked" (100) and, for this reason, what they do they do often in view of being liked. This, however, should not be treated as egoistic as long as others are not used as means to that end (Descartes' distinction would be illuminating in this context[[6]]). Similar cases rather prove that there exists "a space between [...] altruism and egoism" (101). Slote's approach is welcome insofar as it overcomes the dichotomy of egoism vs altruism.

More complex is the second argument put forward by Cialdini in 1997, i.e. claim that in "act[ing] out of empathic concern for others, we are identifying and feeling one with those others" and, thereby, acting for others is egoistic, because it is the same as acting for ourselves. The moment the two selves are merged in empathy, they are metaphysically identified with each other and there is no more altruistic acting. Slote replies that the idea of metaphysical oneness and identity is not to be taken literally[[7]]. In fact, only qualitative identity is possible while numerical identity is not. If it is hard to see the difference this is because "the words for oneness, sameness, and identity [...] are subject to [...] ambiguity". (When Slote says that this occurs in other languages as well, he makes a mistake since in German, for example, selbe refers to numerical, while gleich to qualitative identity.) As for empathy, if it involves an identity, it involves the latter kind of it. Accordingly, there is no metaphysical unity and Caldini's argument doesn't hold up.

Slote sets also an argument of "crying over split milk". He says that mourning for the beloved person who died (or desire for a revenge on the one who stole one's money) instead of going out with people (or starting making new money) runs counter to what is "humanly attractive [...] potentially useful" and is a strong mark of non-egoism. By saying this, Slote operates against the psychological egoism not as much by advocating for psychological altruism as by pinpointing psychological non-egoism. But I can remain unconvinced. One can be still concerned by the past (rather than building his present or future) for several reasons, not necessarily or conceptually altruistic. For example he may feel - rightly or wrongly - that the past affects his image, amour propre, identity or integrity, or even his well-being and for this reason he mourns for the beloved who died instead of going out with people. He wishes to be faithful and being faithful is a part of how he wants to be. But even if this is correct, Slote is right in a more general sense by widening the realm of egoistic vs altruistic features. He concludes that "the range of non-egoistic, non altruistic motives turns out to be wider than has been thought, once one recognizes that the desire for love and the desire for approval have this character." (116) Now, in the context of the sentimentalist theory of the mind, this shows us a specific feature of emotions, which is that "most of all emotions aren't essentially either altruistic or egoistic or neutral" (118).

Chapter 5 (Empiricism and the Roots of Morality, 121-160) presents further details of Slote's theory of the mind on the one hand and develops the sentimentalist view of morality on the other. This view differs from what is currently taken to be the sentimentalist approach because Slote doesn't limit his range of emotions to, say, guilt and sympathy, often considered as prototypical moral emotions. He rather wants to make use of emotion as such, considered as foundational also for the moral life: "if [emotion] also plays a role - and a grounding role - in the moral life, this will show the importance of emotion to our (mental) lives in an additional way [...]" (123). To this end Slote passes on to a discussion of moral education and moral development centered around gratitude. The chapter is more relevant to the point of view of pedagogy and relies on data coming from that area. Slote writes: "[t]here is recognition that some adults are incapable of caring about others (intrinsically), incapable of guilt, incapable of empathically feeling the pains and joys of others - and we label them psychopaths and sociopaths [...]" (126). True, there is such recognition and this is true that some adults are incapable of caring. This is also true that we do better caring about moral education and processes of induction and modeling - this is what has been known since Plato's Republic. But, since we know about counterexamples, again Plato provides some of them, this factor plays a contingent role in the constitution of an adult mind. Slote complains that "the original desire or craving for love is never brought into the picture" (128), but I wonder if this is so. Some names come to my mind immediately (e.g. Françoise Dolto or Dabrowski's theory of positive disintegration) and others are not difficult to find. Slote's main idea is that when the need of love is satisfied, a feeling of gratitude arises and it works for the benefit of the moral development of a person henceforth.

I think this image is a bit simplistic. We should analyze biographies of people who suffered from scarcity of love in their childhood and, nevertheless, developed in such a way that we admire them today, and, vice versa, of those who have been sufficiently loved (if there is such thing), but become individuals we wouldn't like to be in order to see better how much the educational factor is strong in determining the shape of mind. Of course, a recurrent use of some (as in "some children become incapable of such moral education and development and end up (more or less) as sociopaths" (127)) mirrors Slote's awareness of the limitation of his view. After all, Slote points out to "the possibility [sic!] that gratitude toward parents is the basis for generalized adult altruism" (135). One could add that it is probable (but not necessary) that a neglected child will develop into an adult full of anger and it is only probable too that a loved child will become an accomplished person. But the opposite is also possible so that I would avoid saying that being loved is a necessary, let alone sufficient, condition for developing a flourishing personality, though, paraphrasing Aristotle, I agree that it is better to be loved than to be not loved. Slote is right when he hints at "the familiar problem of moral luck" in the context of personal development (constitutive luck mainly, I would guess), the problem that "[m]ost of us philosophers find [...] difficult to deal with" (136). He considers also how our emotionality can work in terms of obscuring factors (without calling them so[[8]]). After treating second-order emotions, he contrasts and favors sentimentalist and empiricist approaches over rationalist and innatist positions.

The last chapter (Mind and Love, 161-169), the shortest of all, adds new words on "the grounding role love [...] plays in the moral life" and its being "an important ingredient in a good life" (161). Slote, when speaking about love, uses also a combo "love and friendship", or even a kind of pleonastic formula, "genuine love and deep friendship" (163)[[9]]. Its counterpart is anger (this would be fantastic to think about the Iliad in this context, where love and anger are important themes within homeric psychology of heroic behavior). But surprisingly Slote doesn't discuss to what extent love (and anger) has irrational aspects. He simply claims that it has this kind of aspects and concludes that "[i]f our need for love inevitably eventuates in loving gratitude or anger, then irrationality may be built into the human condition as such, and a human mind free of epistemic irrationality may simply be impossible." (162) What is missing, in my view, is a taxonomy, even a basic one, of the kinds of love. There are several types or kinds of love, for instance, blind love, romantic love or the love Plato's Diotima speaks of. For Scheler, love is not blind at all or - maybe I should rather say - love he speaks about is not blind (and I have already alluded to Descartes' distinction). This shows that distinguishing different kinds of love is useful. I don't really see why loving someone, unless blindly, should result in overestimation or lack of partiality. I would rather think of being as impartial as possible as regards the beloved person, and that for her own good. It is simple to imagine that being partial or insincere can lead to the beloved's harm since it obscures the real condition or situation to her. The same can be said about parental love: if love towards children is blind it can end in spoiling. So, a genuine and deep love is, I suppose, open-minded without being partial to the beloved. This is what Slote hints at in this chapter though he considers both features separately, being "less than completely objective" to the beloved person and "still [...] open to and respectful toward everyone's opinions" (164) as coextisting but each limited to another object. The general conclusion is that, given the importance of love in human life and the irrational aspect of love, it is more clear, Slote says, "that many parts or aspects of our lives and our minds are inevitably less than fully rational" (169).

Conclusion (170-171) contains a short and simple reiteration of what has been told in the book.

Appendix (Sentimentalist Epistemology, 173-203) is to some extent an independent part. It argues that the epistemic virtues of open-mindedness and fair-mindedness - and the whole epistemic rationality as well - have emotional aspects. Slote also wants to show that even if "epistemic justification is justification of something emotional" in virtue of the fact that "all belief and all states of knowledge are emotional states" it doesn't mean that "epistemic justification is [...] to be understood in sentimental terms [...]" (174). Among others, Slote considers Frege's approach to the structure in order to use it for an analysis of belief in the way Frege never did. He also considers doubting (or more generally skepticism) as undermining spontaneity. I think, however, that Slote goes too far because doubting is not always a purely intellectual affair. On several occasions it can be emotional as in the case of affective ambivalence. For this reason contrasting receptivity[[10]] with skepticism in order to argue in favor of emotions' importance instead of intellect's is not convincing. One may well be intellectually open and affectively doubtful. Slote's idea is to challenge liberals for whom "we should subject all our beliefs, emotions, and relationships to critical rational scrutiny [...] for reasons of principle" (193). Slote discusses it at length and says that "liberal's suggestion [...] is not [...] a form of skepticism" (195). But I wonder if liberalism is not as self-destructive as skepticism is. How, in fact, a liberal's own views could survive even if they have been subjected to critical scrutiny provided we should ask for scrutinizing what the critical scrutiny is based on? Slote argues that in some circumstances what is irrational is not keeping believing in or experiencing emotions but questioning them. Such is the case of friendship or even stamp collecting, which, once it has been questioned, loses "one's whole-hearted and enthusiastic enjoyment" (194). Slote ends with a critical remark on Cartesian skepticism and "giving reasons for epistemically favoring commonsense views" (200). For sure, Descartes wasn't a sentimentalist, either moral or epistemic. Nonetheless, his approach is such as to tell us at the end of his treatise that "[n]ow that we have met up with all the passions, we have much less reason for anxiety about them than we had before. We see that they are all intrinsically good, and that all we have to avoid is their misuse or their excess [...]"[[11]]. We should think about it and perhaps be more careful before we want to follow Slote in concocting "a systematic critique of Western philosophy as a whole" (171)[[12]].

 Index (245-247) is extremely poor, indeed missing a great number of themes and concepts (as basic as receptivity for example) discussed throughout the book. Absence of bibliography is not helpful either.

As it is, the book is a serious challenge not only for rationalism but also for those among the defenders of affectivity opposed to Slote. He seems to recognize it himself since he says that his arguments are addressed to those who are not skeptical about emotions' role in the epistemology (compare Pascal's wager which was addressed not to atheists but to those whose belief in God is permeated with doubt). If so, it is maybe more inspiring to read it as a voice in an in-home dispute among those who consider affectivity as an important component of human life, more particularly, in discussion with cognitivists (or neo-Stoics) who explain emotion as a kind of belief, for Slote offers an opposite view on which belief is (a kind of) emotion. Both are extreme positions and Slote's contribution is valuable as it complements and fills the conceptual hole of the other extreme. And to see how much it is neglected suffice it to refer, for example, to J. A. Deonna & F. Teroni, The Emotions. A Philosophical Introduction (2012), appraised as "[q]uite simply the best introduction to the philosophy of the emotions on the market" (according to T. Crane) in which sentimentalism is not even taken into consideration. This is a pity because Slote's uncompromising position completes the model of theories of affectivity. For this reason it is as conceptually useful as cognitivism is.

Now the question is whether either extreme, cognitivism or sentimentalism, can be accurate and, independently of it, if sentimentalism is a more exact standpoint than cognitivism. This is not easy to answer, since, as a matter of fact, seen from this angle Slote's position is not entirely clear to me. I am hesitating between two options: either Slote opts for a right place of emotion/sentiment/affect/feeling within the mind, or he explains the whole mind by terms of emotion/sentiment/affect/feeling. I am confused and don't know which way exactly Slote wants to go since he once opposes emotion/feeling to intellect but on another occasion he explains the latter by means of the former. The trouble is that if he takes thought/reasoning and feeling/emotion to be two elements or aspects, be it separable or inseparable (but distinguishable), of the mind (see "intellect and emotion cannot be separated" (85)), there is a kind of symmetry between both, thought/reasoning and emotion/feeling. This option seems to be the right one also because Slote keenly alludes to the Chinese word xin. He says that "the Chinese term xin doesn't particularly focus on the mind to the exclusion of the heart or vice versa, and the term is often translated, therefore, as heart-mind" (85). On the other hand, if he considers that thought and emotion cannot be discerned and that these words are only names resulting from our deformed approach to the mind, then there is no sense of using words he criticizes as incorrect. But Slote makes no such remark and keeps using them (e.g. "moral thinking and feeling" (155)).

Furthermore, I don't know how Slote can consistently claim that, on the one hand, the mind has a nature of what we call thought-cum-emotion, taken inseparably of course (see "thought and emotion as somehow inseparable" (84)), and, on the other, that all mental phenomena are reducible to feeling/emotion (see "belief not only involves emotion but is a kind of emotion" (180) or better: "I am no longer just saying that belief and believing involve emotional elements, I am saying they are in themselves emotional attitudes or, simply, emotions" (184)). The claim about "a much tighter a priori/conceptual connection between belief and emotion" (207) is not the same as the claim about "the mind [as] constituted by emotion in a central and foundational way" (84)[[13]]. I think that it would be more correct to start with the following options (within the views accepting affectivity as crucial in the analysis of the mind):

1) thought and feeling are two symmetrical and foundational - indispensable but separable - elements of the mental,

2) thought and feeling are two symmetrical and foundational - and inseparable - elements of the mental,

3) there is no such thing as thought and feeling - they are only pure concepts we use to describe what is one mind (and the fact we are used to describe it so results from our deformed perspective).

Presented this way, it seems to me, Slote is shifting from (2) to (3) and vice versa. If we agree that these are three different views then a contradiction occurs when Slote says that a claim about "thought and emotion being inseparable" (84) is an "anticipation of generalized sentimentalism" (85), if sentimentalism is understood as a view in which all mental functions are based on emotion. It seems to me that putting an emphasis on the inseparability of heart and mind and saying that "the mind [is] constituted by emotion in a central and foundational way" (84) is not consistent either unless Slote uses the term mind in two different meanings, one including emotion and another as synonymous with reason/intellect and opposite to emotion.

There is also an inaccuracy in Slote's view on the history of Western thought. According to him, "the Chinese emphasis on xin [...] a concept that implicitly treats the emotional and the intellectual as inseparable [...] has no parallel in the West" (xviii). It is a pity that Slote doesn't take into consideration early Greek philosophy and poetry. Suffice it to check in, say, Greek-English Lexicon (LSJ) lexemes such as noosthumos or phren in order to see that they inherently include the emotional and the intellectual. Slote mentions thumos in an endnote (230) where he accepts the common translation of this Greek word in modern English as "the source of spirited anger". But here we are exactly at the point he has in mind: we cannot translate it accurately since we have no equivalent for it. Having no such word we are to some extent doomed to failure in translating and understanding correctly these concepts as used by Plato, pre-Socratics and Homer. Also I am not sure if Slote is right when he says that "[...] Aristotle [...] do[es]n't put emotion at the center of the moral life in the way care ethics does" (144). Obviously, he doesn't do it as care ethics does but of the three ethics Aristotle offers us one is based on friendship and another on moral virtue, which, in turn, is strongly related to excess, deficiency and middle state of emotions[[14]]. Again, in Descartes his cogito is a shortening for several mental functions of which one is sensing (or feeling). More recently such philosophers as Nietzsche, Ribot, MacMurray, Collingwood and some less known names as Crittenden and Tallon - absent from Slote's discussion - make his claim about "all previous Western philosophy [...] assuming or saying that mind and emotion can be separated" (86) weak. Scheler, called I don't know why a "German Romantic" (8, 64) as well as Stocker are too quickly dismissed. Unless I am mistaken, Scheler doesn't speak about "agapic love" as Slote pretends (210) and there is no mention of Hartmann either.

Moreover, a good many arguments rely on examples. But showing that x is sometimes the case doesn't prove that is always the case. That's why I would like to hear more about conceptual distinctions. My impression is that the ambition of Slote is to work on a conceptual level but then he sometimes uses data from every-day life. In this sense while Slote's contribution is convincing as for the practical domain, i.e. human life of personal relationships in which affectivity plays an important role, it is much less so in what concerns theoretical. I don't find satisfactory the conceptual argument in support of the idea - though I am sympathetic to it - that human (theoretical) mind is inconceivable without affectivity, be it its component or its whole content in the same way as we are often told that rationality is indispensable to thinking about the human mind.

Slote uses various words as synonyms for speaking about the class of affectivity. He uses feeling coextensively with emotion (see 15-16, though, he rightly notes, feeling can refer also to bodily sensing only, see also 22: "feelings/emotions", 145: "feelings/emotions", 149: "the emotions or feelings", 164: "intense feelings/emotions"), but also "emotion (or affect)" (32, also 181: "emotion or affect") as well as "sentiment or feeling" (233), and, again "sentiments/emotions" (152, and 160: "sentiment or emotion"), and then "feeling or affect" (179, see also 179: "feeling, affect, or emotion"), and finally "emotional elements [...] sentimental aspects" (179). It makes me think that there are no terminological distinctions between emotion/feeling/sentiment/affect and it shows how much English - and possibly other languages too - is imprecise in the realm of affectivity, which, to be sure, includes "emotion and particular emotions" (145), that is the whole class, together with its genera (and possibly species and sub-species).

At times Slote is repetitive what in a such short book seems unnecessary. The US president, Bill Clinton, is quoted thrice (12, 131, 176) as an authority in matter of empathy/sympathy distinction. There are also passages where Slote offers us rather a coup de renvoi rather than argument. Examples: "Epistemic rationality turns out to require ... an emotional element" (12) vs "[...] it seems plausible to conclude that the epistemic virtues of ... require certain tendencies ... " (18); or "last chapter attempted to show that belief entails emotion" (34) vs "we argued in the previous chapter [...] any belief involves a certain favorable or positive emotion" (36), and more explicitly: "I argued or pointed out that ..." (15). Otherwise, since we meet several expressions such as "a certain kind of emotion" (30), but also simply "emotions", also "an element of emotion" (67), "ordinary emotion" (68), "emotional factors" (86) as well as "empathy and the emotions" (4) and "empathic/emotional responses" (146), one may wonder if Slote does not present us rather an essay than a philosophically rigorous analysis.

To sum it up. Slote's book is important because of the balance it brings with its interpretation of the mind in terms of emotion/sentiment/feeling/affect. In this sense it fills a conceptual gap. More particularly, Slote offers us worthwhile remarks about feeling/emotion and particular emotions/feelings. Finally, his attempt at explaining the mind can be read in holistic light. The number of endnotes to this review reflect, I hope, how much Slote's book is a significant contribution for anyone interested in issues pertaining to affectivity.

 

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

 

[[1]] Another book of his, The Ethics of Care and Empathy (2007) is also referred to (see xiii).

 

[[2]] This meets a view on which a psychopath can share a high intelligence but is devoid of high feelings. Among examples quoted most often are Hitler, Stalin, and Mao.

 

[[3]] This is a similar issue to that of recalcitrant emotions (not discussed by Slote) which is an argument against cognitive approach to emotions. But it is also an argument for complementarity of both approaches: in some cases belief precedes emotion, in others it is the opposite, so that in the end we arrive at a chicken-and-egg dilemma.

 

[[4]] Not only. As far as I can say, the oldest example of this kind of thinking is also the oldest we possess within European thought: as I showed in an analysis of the Odyssey, book 11, the same idea can be reconstructed from the way Ajax' story is told. See R. Zaborowski, Méandres de la psychologie homérique: le cas d'Ajax in: Organon 34, 2005, pp. 5–20.

 

[[5]] On the one hand, Slote uses recurrently the procedure of drawing on the claim put forward in Chapter 1 - and this is "a kind of philosophical "butterfly effect"" (82) - from which he infers further claims. Yet, on the other, he unceasingly attempts to improve the initial claim as well. It looks as if it weren't definitively worked out, which may be inferred from various remarks, e.g. "we have given what I hope [sic!] is an intuitively forceful argument for saying that belief does involve an emotional element, and almost everything else we have said [...] emerges out of what we have said about belief" (82, see also 84: "This is my hope!"). But if his claim that "full epistemic rationality contains emotional elements [...] belief literally involves emotion" (18-19) stands for one-for-all explanation, the expectations are quite predictable, every further claim being based on the same principle of explanation.

 

[[6]] See R. Descartes, Passions of the Soul, art. 82, transl. J. Bennett: "[...] love only for the possession of the objects [...] passion is related to; for the objects themselves [...] [no] desire to have anything from them [...] [love for] their good [...]".

 

[[7]] If it were, then one could go further and say that this destroys the concept of empathy itself. If two selves are merged no more empathy is possible, because no two separate persons exist any more, but only one self.

 

[[8]] On obscuring factors see J. D'Arms & D. Jacobson, Demystifying Sensibilities: Sentimental Values and the Instability of Affect in: P. Goldie (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Emotion, Oxford: Oxford University Press 2010, pp. 585-613.

 

[[9]] I think there is a concept, absent from Slote's book, that could make progress his analysis. Although Slote often speaks about genuine friendship (is there any not genuine?), genuine caring, genuine compassion, genuine love, genuine sympathy, genuine concern, he does not introduce the category of authenticity which, in my opinion, allows to make a better link between beliefs about the future with beliefs about the present and the past. (Slote speaks about "deep friendship" and even "the deepest level" - but, unfortunately, depth, used as category also by Heraclitus and Scheler, is metaphorical.) But it can be that authenticity is hard to test and we can know about it only by means of "after the fact" vs "before the fact" (94) comparison of motives and deeds.

 

[[10]] Slote permanently draws on the category of receptivity. This is true that he published a book with receptivity in its title. Yet, I would expect this category to be fleshed out in the book under review in any way whatsoever.

 

[[11]] R. Descartes, Passions of the Soul, art. 211, transl. by J. Bennett.

 

[[12]] The same blunder occurs in an endnote to Conclusion: "Perhaps Western philosophy and philosophers have been unwilling to see the mind as essentially involving emotional factors because of their general tendency to devalue - and even fear - (the) emotion(s)." (238)

 

[[13]] I think that partly at least we are victims here of labelling a view with -ism. Compare N. Hartmann, Ethics I, 106, transl. S. Coit: "A narrowing of the field of vision is the inveterate vice of philosophy. The defect in all "isms" - whether rationalism, empiricism, sensualism, materialism, psychologism or logicism - is narrowness in the mapping out of the problem. Everywhere the manifoldness of the phenomena is misjudged and varieties are erroneously treated as all alike".

 

[[14]] See W. Tatarkiewicz, Les trois morales d'Aristote [1931], reprinted in: Organon 33, 2004, 215-223.

 

© 2015 Robert Zaborowski

 

Robert Zaborowski, thymos2001@yahoo.fr, University of Warmia and Mazury Polish Academy of Sciences


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