chapter  7
8 Pages

The Uncanny and Other Negative Existential Feelings

ByJérôme Dokic

This chapter is about an intriguing negative existential feeling, namely the feeling of uncanniness that aroused the interest of Sigmund Freud, amongst others. The discussion starts by emphasizing that the feeling of uncanniness involves more than a failure of familiarity; it targets something that, although it should be familiar to us, strikes us as being somehow strange. A representative example is the feeling that is elicited by realistic puppets or wax figures, which answer only some of our expectations regarding the behavior of sentient beings—it is arguably for that reason that they make numerous appearances in horror fiction. Dokic explores the nature of the experienced strangeness involved in this feeling and argues that it constitutes a distinctive experience that cannot be understood as the mere absence of a feeling of familiarity. The feeling of uncanniness is a meta-feeling, which is elicited by the cognitive dissonance between the familiarity one expects and the strangeness of what one actually confronts. This relation to cognitive dissonance helps emphasize the crucial roles played by existential feelings in general, and the feeling of uncanniness in particular, in our cognitive life and behavior.