Can Emotion be Modelled on Perception?



Perceptual theories of emotion purport to avoid the problems of traditional cognitivism and noncognitivism by modelling emotion on perception, which shares the most conspicuous dimensions of emotion, intentionality and phenomenality. In this paper, I shall reconstrue and discuss four key arguments that perceptual theorists have presented in order to show that emotion is a kind of perception, or that there are close analogies between emotion and perception. These arguments are, from stronger to weaker claims: the perceptual system argument; the argument from noninferential structure; the argument from epistemic role; and the argument from phenomenology. I argue that, while the arguments in favour of assimilating emotion to perception fail, the analogies between emotion and perception are not as close as perceptual theorists suggest even if some emotions resemble perception more than others, thanks to the two-levelled structure of emotional processing.