Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Jesse Prinz

Subject Categories



Affect, Embodiment, Emotion, Intentionality, Mood


My primary thesis is that emotions are partially constituted by bodily states. My view derives from the James-Lange tradition, but contrary to Neo-Jamesian theories, I claim that emotions are partially constituted by integrated peripheral bodily states and brain states, rather than bodily perceptions. This view may seem vulnerable to two obvious critiques: emotions, unlike bodily states, have intentional objects, and neuroscientists have already identified the neural basis of emotions, so there is no reason to look for constituents outside of the brain. I argue on the basis of social psychology research that emotions are not intentional states, since they do not influence thought and behavior in a manner that is specific to any purported objects or contents. In my discussion of intentionality I point to a number of factors that collectively give the impression that emotions have objects. Regarding the second critique, I argue that current research in affective neuroscience tells us much less than it seems to about the constituents of emotions. A great deal of confusion in that literature results from failure to carefully distinguish emotions from desires. I also illustrate different ways that positions on the embodiment of emotions influence interpretations of the empirical data.

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