Stance, feeling and belief

Matthew Ratcliffe

in Feelings of Being

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

Published in print June 2008 | ISBN: 9780199206469
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191754470 | DOI:

Series: International Perspectives in Philosophy & Psychiatry

Stance, feeling and belief

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This chapter explores the role of existential feelings in philosophical enquiry. In the process, it considers whether the kinds of anomalous feeling found in psychiatric illness might also underlie certain philosophical concerns. I introduce the topic by briefly discussing a case study offered by Louis Sass. Then I return to the writings of William James. In the last chapter, I offered an interpretation of James's account of emotion, according to which emotions are feelings of bodily changes, which structure all experience and thought. As I show in this chapter, James also claims that some feelings operate as existential orientations, and he makes numerous remarks to the effect that these orientations can motivate and also partly constitute philosophical positions. Following that, I turn to the writings of some more recent philosophers in order to further explore the role of existential feeling in philosophy, focusing on a book by Bas van Fraassen. I propose that some existential feelings amount to broad philosophical dispositions, which motivate the explicit positions that philosophers defend. These feelings also play a role in regulating episodic doubts and convictions that are indispensable to philosophical thought. I go on to discuss how discrepancies can arise between explicit philosophical claims or implicit presuppositions regarding how we find ourselves in a world and how we actually find ourselves in the world. In so doing, I consider what it means to really believe the claims that one makes. The chapter concludes by suggesting that acknowledgement of the role played by existential feeling in philosophy need not threaten the rationality of philosophical enquiry. Existential feelings can contribute to non-rational dogmatic commitments but they can also play a role in critical reflection, as can an explicit understanding of their role.

Chapter.  12322 words. 

Subjects: Psychiatry

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