What Not to Make of Recalcitrant Emotions

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Recalcitrant emotions are emotions that conflict with your evaluative judgements, e.g. fearing flying despite judging it to be safe. Drawing on the work of Greenspan (Emotions and Reasons, Routledge, London, 1988) and Helm (Emotional Reason, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2001), Brady (Philos Stud 145:413–430, 2009) argues these emotions raise a challenge for a theory of emotion: for any such theory to be adequate, it must be capable of explaining the sense in which subjects that have them are being irrational. This paper aims to raise scepticism with this endeavour of using the irrationality shrouding recalcitrant episodes to inform a theory of emotion. I explain (1) how ‘recalcitrant emotions’ pick out at least two phenomena, which come apart, and (2) that there are different epistemic norms relevant to assessing whether, and if so how, subjects undergoing recalcitrant bouts are being irrational. I argue these factors result in differing accounts of the precise way these emotions make their bearers irrational, which in turn frustrates present efforts to adjudicate whether a given theory of emotion successfully meets this challenge. I end by briefly exploring two possible ways a philosophy of emotion might proceed in the face of such scepticism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)747-765
Number of pages19
Issue number2
Early online date7 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2022


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