Reactive Attitudes as Communicative Entities


  • Thanks to Michael Nelson for a helpful discussion on the issues discussed in this paper and Angela Smith for comments on an earlier draft. Thanks also to an anonymous reviewer at Philosophy and Phenomenological Research. Responding to his or her comments has immeasurably improved the paper. I owe special debts of gratitude to Maggie Little, Joshua Hollowell, Monique Wonderly and Peter Graham for countless conversations about the material in this paper and for reading and commenting on numerous drafts.


Many theorists claim that the reactive emotions, even in their private form, are communicative entities. But as widely endorsed as this claim is, it has not been redeemed: the literature lacks a clear and compelling account of the sense in which reactive attitudes qua private mental states are essentially communicative. In this paper, I fill this gap. I propose that it is apt to characterize privately held reactive attitudes as communicative in nature because they, like many paradigmatic forms of communication, have representational content and the function of evoking uptake of this content in a recipient.