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Choose one of the topics below. The paper should be 5-6 pages, with standard formatting—double spaced, 11-12 pt font, 1” margins, page numbers, with the topic number included in the title

If you use any, and I mean any, resource other than what was offered in the course material, it must be cited. (This holds true whether you quote directly from it or merely “used it to get an idea”. I.e., even paraphrasing another source requires a full citation of that source in the paper. Merely listing it as a work cited at the end is insufficient.)

One note about the topics—the sub-questions are designed to help you think about the ways you might develop your paper. You do not have to answer all of them, and certainly not in the order they are presented. They are merely a set of questions to get you started thinking about what the question is really asking about.

1. In class, I discussed a unique experience that I had at a Baja Fresh. An ordinary looking man acting in an ordinary way walked out the door. Yet the second I saw him, I jumped with fear. It was a mere flash that lasted only a few seconds (if even that), and so appeared to be a classic example of what some scientists call an affect response. It wasn’t until a few seconds later that I realized I recognized him. He was an actor (Peter Wingfield) who had played the character Tanith on Stargate SG-1, someone who had had a 1000-year-old, conscious/intelligent, but incredibly evil, alien symbiote implanted into him. And as it turned out, I had just watched an episode with him in it a few days earlier. I described this experience as unique because of the unusual and theoretically interesting circumstances that triggered it. In most cases of fear, the experience can be plausibly explained by either a sensation theory like James’ or by a cognitivist theory like Solomon’s. But the features of the Baja Fresh experience highlights the point at which the two theories seem to pull apart. (I.e., if I were to design an experiment in order to test cognitivist vs non-cognitivist theories of emotion, this situation would come close to being the perfect setup.) Solomon would argue that the experience calls into question the Jamesian theory’s ability to account for my fear because it is a clear instance of what he calls a “re-cognition”. That is, in order to re-cognize something, I had to have already had a cognition of it—in this case, a sophisticated set of beliefs about Peter Wingfield, his character, and the threat his character might have posed to me at that moment. And if I feared him only because I recognized him as an evil alien, then either a) the Jamesian input/output or affect-response systems would be insufficient to trigger the response (because there is no evolutionary wiring for “evil alien symbiote” like there might be for “snake”), or b), it would be sufficient to trigger the response, but only because James “sneaked in” a lot of what cognitivist theories call “cognition”. Is Solomon correct in thinking that the Jamesian theory could not account for my fear of Tanith? Or is there a way for James to explain, and if there is, would we still consider him to be a non-cognitivist? In answering, be sure to explain how the two theories describe emotion and what the relevant differences are between them—including how each thinks of the thought/perception/cognition that is involved, what the relationship is between it and the emotion, and how it is that the emotion is able to determine that the object is dangerous.

2. Aristotle’s structure of virtue requires that there always be the possibility of an excess and deficiency in the underlying emotion/desire. As we discussed in class, for courage, it is an excess/deficiency of fear, and for temperance, it is an excess/deficiency of appetite/desire (for food, drink, and sex). But there are some virtues that don’t seem to fit this model—i.e., they fail to have either an excess or a deficiency. Two virtues in particular are justice/mildness (anger towards an offense/injustice) and generosity/compassion (being charitable/generous with one’s money, time, attention, assistance, being concerned about the welfare of others). So is it possible to be too generous/compassionate? I.e., can it ever be wrong to help someone in need? Or is it possible to remain too calm in a given situation? I.e., can it ever be wrong to not get angry about something that happened? In answering, be sure to include a description of the virtue itself, the two associated vices, and the underlying emotion/desire that accounts for the three states. The focus of your paper will be on this underlying emotion. So be sure to describe what you think the emotion is, what it is to feel the emotion correctly (to hit the mean), why the medial state is good (what it is that the emotion helps us know/do—e.g. fear helps us evaluate danger so that we can avoid it), why the extreme states are bad, why some people might think it doesn’t admit of excess (in the case of compassion), or deficiency (in the case of anger), whether they are correct in thinking so, and why you think so. In answering, feel free to create your own scenario to use in your discussion. You also do not need to give the actual account Aristotle gives—what I want is an account that Aristotle could give based on the structure of his theory. So there is some flexibility in what you could say here. You can also make up your own terms as needed to explain the structure (but be sure to define them if you do).

3. According to medieval descriptions, angels are considered to be pure/non-embodied intellects (i.e., they are creatures constituted of nothing but reason and will). Yet, they are also thought to be creatures that can be good/evil. Given this conception of angels, could a version of Aristotle’s account of virtue be developed to apply to them? If so, what might such an account look like? In answering, be sure to explain Aristotle’s account of virtue/vice (the Doctrine of the Mean), how reason relates to emotion, and so what role emotion plays in virtue/vice. Then consider in what ways this account might apply to angels, and/or in what ways it might need to be altered. Focus in particular on what emotions are, how angels might be thought to have emotions, and what particular types of virtue those emotions might give rise to. I.e., could an angel feel anger, resentment, fear, compassion or pride? If so, could he feel too much or too little fear or anger? (You might look to question 2 for help.)

4. Imagine a scenario in which you might experience a set of overwhelming negative emotions, such as the notification that your parents just died in a horrible car accident, or that you are a soldier about to engage in a dangerous operation. If there was an “emotion killer”—i.e., an emotional equivalent to a pain killer that dulls or eliminates emotional pain—would you take it? If so, why? If not, why not? What theoretical assumptions must be in place for you to answer as you do? I.e., what does it tell you about the nature of emotion, its function, its value, and the possibility of other faculties of the mind that might be able to do the same job and/or do it better (e.g., figure out how to act in a dangerous situation). In answering, you may draw from any of the authors/readings we’ve covered so far this quarter. (Warning: Be careful not to get off track with this question. The bulk of your answer should involve a discussion of one or more of the theories. I.e., a non-cognitivist would likely give a very different answer to the question than a cognitivist. So another way to think of the question is—what might each theorist say, and whywould they say it? What is it about how each thinks of emotion that would incline them to take or not take the emotion killer?)

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