Emotions and Motivation: Reconsidering Neo‐Jamesian Accounts

Bennett W. Helm

in The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Emotion

Published in print December 2009 | ISBN: 9780199235018
Published online January 2010 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

Emotions and Motivation: Reconsidering Neo‐Jamesian Accounts


Emotions are notorious for their irrationality, and nowhere does this irrationality show up more clearly than in their effects on motivation. Thus, to take some stereotyped examples, fear, anger, and jealousy frequently seem to move us to act contrary to our better judgment. Recently, however, there has been increasing emphasis on the rationality of emotions and their place in practical reason. Thus, while deliberating about what to do, although we may be able to articulate reasons for and against each option, we may not be able to say why the weight of these reasons favor one over the others; in such cases, we may simply go with the one that “feels” right—that resonates more fully with our emotional sense of our circumstances—and such an appeal to emotions seems appropriate. In particular, this article argues that emotions motivate not because they involve mere dispositions to behave but rather because they are rational responses to things we care about, responses that sometimes rationally demand intentional action.

Keywords: emotions and motivation; irrationality; judgment; rationality of emotions; practical reason; emotional sense

Article.  10090 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Philosophy of Mind

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