Emotion as a Form of Perception: Why William James was not a Jamesian

AbstractTwo main views have informed the literature on the psychology of emotion in the past few decades. On one side, cognitivists identify emotions with processes such as judgments, evaluations and appraisals. On the other side, advocates of non-cognitive approaches leave the “intellectual” aspects of emotional experience out of the emotion itself, instead identifying emotions with embodied processes involving physiological changes. Virtually everyone on either side of the cognitive/non-cognitive divide identify William James’ view, also known as the James-Lange theory, fully on the non-cognitivist side. But this is a mistake. Re-interpreting James’ writings in its scientific context, this paper argues that he actually rejected the cognitive/non-cognitive divide, such that his view of emotions did not fit either side—that is, James was not a “Jamesian” in the sense the term is used in the literature.

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