Affect and emotion in philosophy and neuroscience: identity or difference?
Kingston University, London
Supervisor: Professor Catherine Malabou
A lack of distinction between the concepts of affect and emotion pervades the fields emerging from the ‘affective turn’ in both the humanities and science. This project will provide a critical philosophical and interdisciplinary engagement with these fields to clarify the concepts and examine what is at stake in their separation or equation. Beginning with Spinoza’s conception and Deleuze’s development of affect (affectus) as continuous variation in the force of existing or power of acting, the research will first consider the implications of treating affect as separate and distinct from emotion and question how specific affections or emotions emerge from this force or power. The research will then consider the implications of the alternative thesis that the concepts should be treated synonymously with no positing of force separate from conscious reflection or awareness of emotion through a focus on Hegel’s critique both of Spinoza and those philosophies of feeling that attribute interiority and immediacy to feeling. Instead, refusing any separation of affect from its phenomenal effects as emotion, the research will explore the dialectical mediation of feeling. Finally, through a discussion of the varying taxonomies of affect/emotion and methods for their regulation or moderation in philosophy, psychoanalysis and neuroscience, the research will move into a wider socio-political investigation into the subjugating potential of discourses on the affective and emotional realm of human behaviour and question who today is claiming a truth to affect and emotion and what is at stake in such claims. Under both theses, questions arise around the mind/body split, the relation between affect/emotion and reason, whether there is any originary knowing of affect or emotion and how to recognise our own affects/emotions and those of the other whilst respecting the alterity of the other.