This Thursday (Oct 20) at the Serious Metaphysics Group, James Hutton
will be presenting 'Emotion as sensitivity to value: the implementation
problem' (abstract below). The talk will be at 1.00-2.30pm, at the
Philosophy faculty board room.
For the rest of the Michaelmas term card, please do have a look here:
How can emotions function as a sensitivity to evaluative properties? If
we want to maintain that they can, then there are various problems we
need to solve. One is the _Implementation Problem:_ can we explain how
emotions track evaluative properties, without lamely invoking an
unexplained faculty of intuition?
The problem can be put more clearly, by distinguishing between three
levels of description: the _function_; the _algorithm _that performs the
function; and the biological processes that _implement _that algorithm.
What kind of algorithm_ _could perform this epistemic function of
tracking values? And how could the emotions implement_ _that algorithm?
To fill in the _algorithm_-level, I draw an analogy with cases from the
psychology of "expert intuition": the capacities of expert chess
players, firefighters and neonatal nurses. These experts' "intuitive
capacities" are constituted by subpersonal processes which exploit
stable statistical correlations between cues and the 'intuited' facts. I
argue that similar processes would suffice in the case of value,
exploiting the supervenience of values on non-normative properties. I
argue that the inputs and outputs of our emotion-systems make them
capable of implementing such an algorithm.
A question remains as to how our emotion-systems could become attuned to
the relationship between cues and values. Understood as a causal
question, we can answer with an explanation, involving upbringing and
cultural evolution. The explanation leaves a residual sceptical worry,
but this isn't as serious as it first appears.
Li Li Tan
PhD Candidate in Philosophy
St Catharine's College
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