Maria Doulatova Defends "The Feeling Mind"

The Department of Philosophy and Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology Program congratulate PNP Graduate Student Maria Doulatova in successfully defending her doctoral dissertation The Feeling Mind.

Abstract: In my dissertation I argue that, pace the venerable "reason versus passions" dichotomy, affect plays an important role in a large number of mental processes, ranging from low-level phenomena like the unity of consciousness (i.e., having a unified experience of the world), to high-level phenomena like mindreading (i.e., attributing propositional attitudes to oneself and others in terms of other mental states). Outlining the role of affect in mental processes sheds light on some of the main controversies in philosophy of mind and moral psychology. Specifically, philosophers of mind commonly hold that mental processes primarily function to ensure epistemic accuracy (i.e., perception and beliefs aim at truth in representing the world). However, a close look at the pervasive and systematic role of affect in these processes casts doubt on this influential view. In particular, epistemic accuracy regularly takes a backseat to maintaining feelings of self-efficacy (i.e., feelings of motivation). Furthermore, even technically accurate states gain currency in our mental economy largely due to their functional role in maintaining feelings of motivational engagement. As a result, contra the attractive notion that effective self-regulation requires accurate self-awareness, developing agential skills for navigating the world do not depend on developing ways of increasing epistemic accuracy. Since even technically accurate feelings could foster mental rigidity by functioning to maintain feelings of motivation, agential skills depend on developing cognitive flexibility (i.e., the ability to "bracket" convictions during critical self-examination).