Philosophy 375: Special Topics/Philosophy of Emotion

Spring Semester, 2008
Jacksonville University
Dr. Scott Kimbrough
Office: Council 127
Office hours: M 11:00-1:00, W 10:00-12:00, or by appointment
Office phone: 256-7118

Last updated 4/21/08

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Course Description:

What is an emotion? In one way, the answer couldn’t be more obvious: we feel our own emotions and talk confidently about the emotions of others. But there is widespread disagreement among theorists about the nature of emotions and how best to study them. This class will explore some of the main contemporary theories about emotion, including the James-Lange theory (emotions as the detection of internal states), Darwinian theories, cognitive theories (according to which emotions are a kind of judgment), and social constructivist theories. Issues to be discussed include the relationship between emotion and feeling, the rationality (or lack thereof) of emotion, the relevance of neuroscientific studies, and the role of emotions in ethics.

Required Books:

Antonio Damasio. Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain, Harcourt, 2003.

Martha Nussbaum. Upheavals of Thought: The Intelligence of Emotions, Cambridge University Press, 2001.

Robert Solomon (ed.). What is an Emotion?: Classic and Contemporary Readings, 2nd edition, Oxford University Press, 2003.

Course Requirements:

Participation and Attendance: Attendance and participation in discussions are expected.

Finding interesting things (10%): Each student will write six one-page commentaries about a course-related topic. For example, you may find psychological studies, individual case studies, legal cases, news stories, analyses of particular emotions, etc. The purpose of these assignments is to stimulate interest in a research topic. These assignments are due on the following Wednesdays: 1/17, 1/24, 1/31, 2/7, 2/14, and 2/21.

Argumentative Essays (20% each): Two five to seven page argumentative essays will be assigned. The due dates are February 12th and March 13th.

Research Paper (30%): A ten to twelve page research paper on a topic of your own choosing is due Tuesday, April 15th. One-page topic abstracts are due by Tuesday, March 11th. Students will present their research findings to the class in the final class period.

Final Exam (20%): The take-home exam will consist in essays comparing and evaluating the relative merits of the theories of emotion studied over the course of the semester. The final exam is due Tuesday, April 29th at noon.

Plagiarism and Turn It In

Definition of plagiarism: Plagiarism consists in copying or closely paraphrasing the work of another, in whole or in part, without citing the source. Plagiarized papers will receive a zero. Furthermore, plagiarists will be reported to the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs.

All papers must be submitted electronically to

A hard copy of each paper must be submitted as well. The hard copy must have the turnitin reciept number for the paper written on the upper right corner of the first page.

To register for turnitin, click on New User on the upper right hand side of the screen and follow the instructions.

To log on, you will need the class ID number and the password. Here they are: ID 2139708, password emotion.

Papers that are not submitted to turnitin will receive an F.


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