Emotions and Cognitions. Fourteenth-Century Discussions on the Passions of the Soul

in Vivarium
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Abstract

Medieval philosophers clearly recognized that emotions are not simply "raw feelings" but complex mental states that include cognitive components. They analyzed these components both on the sensory and on the intellectual level, paying particular attention to the different types of cognition that are involved. This paper focuses on William Ockham and Adam Wodeham, two fourteenth-century authors who presented a detailed account of "sensory passions" and "volitional passions". It intends to show that these two philosophers provided both a structural and a functional analysis of emotions, i.e., they explained the various elements constituting emotions and delineated the causal relations between these elements. Ockham as well as Wodeham emphasized that "sensory passions" are not only based upon cognitions but include a cognitive component and are therefore intentional. In addition, they pointed out that "volitional passions" are based upon a conceptualization and an evaluation of given objects. This cognitivist approach to emotions enabled them to explain the complex phenomenon of emotional conflict, a phenomenon that has its origin in the co-presence of various emotions that involve conflicting evaluations.

Vivarium

A Journal for Medieval and Early-Modern Philosophy and Intellectual Life

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