Emotionally Charged—The Puzzle of Affective Valence 1
The aim of this chapter is to understand what makes certain emotions positive and others negative. The discussion starts by emphasizing that valence is supposed to be a fundamental contrastive property of emotions, which should not be explainable in terms of other of their properties. This constraint is used to criticize accounts of valence that appeal to desires—e.g., the idea that negative emotions are those emotions that frustrate the subject’s desires—and hedonic states—e.g., the idea that negative emotions are those that contain an irreducible unpleasant phenomenal quality. The explanatory power of these accounts is illusory, it is argued, since the relevant desires need to be explained by hedonic states, and hedonic states are in turn partly composed of emotions. This conclusion leads to the examination of an evaluative explanation of valence that emphasizes the role of emotional attitudes. The discussion offers some reasons to doubt that valence can be explained in terms of what the emotions represent and explains why we should favor an approach centered around the bodily dimension of emotional experience.