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Emotion, Evolution, and Rationality$
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Dylan Evans and Pierre Cruse

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780198528975

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198528975.001.0001

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Towards a ‘Machiavellian’ theory of emotional appraisal 1

Towards a ‘Machiavellian’ theory of emotional appraisal 1

(p.89) Chapter 5 Towards a ‘Machiavellian’ theory of emotional appraisal1
Emotion, Evolution, and Rationality


Oxford University Press

This chapter takes up the idea that emotions are appraisals — that is, responses to features of the environment that concern human beings. It argues that neurological and experimental psychological evidence point to the conclusion that emotional appraisal takes place on at least two different levels — appraisals can involve complex judgements about the environment, but can also take place at a ‘lower’ level at which they completely bypass cognitive mechanisms, and often conflict with cognitions. However, the chapter argues that the relationship between lower-level emotions and higher-level cognitions cannot be explained on the grounds of the intentional content of those states since the impoverished inferential role of lower-level states suggests it is inappropriate to attribute conceptual content to them at all. Instead, it argues that the relationship between lower and higher level appraisals is better understood in terms of the fact that they both track features of concern to organisms in their environment.

Keywords:   emotional appraisal, experimental psychological evidence, complex judgements, cognitive mechanisms, conceptual content, environment

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