The Meaning of Moods location:Kaiseraugst date:8-9 Dec 2015
This paper contrasts Sartre’s account of emotion with Heidegger’s account of Befindlichkeit and ‘mood’ (Stimmung). Sartre’s account of emotion is a strong one: emotions occur only when a more neutral and colourless ‘pragmatic attitude’ is frustrated or breaks down. In this manner, emotion has to be acutely felt in and through the body, which also means that there are many circumstances and states in which we do not undergo any emotion at all. In fact, Sartre’s ‘pragmatic attitude’ is precisely the mode in which we simply go about our business in an emotionless manner. This raises the question as to whether Sartre’s stark opposition between emotional and non-emotional experiences actually holds. I believe Heidegger’s account of Befindlichkeit and its moods are key in this regard, in that it can be used to nuance the Sartrean account. Indeed, Heidegger famously states that Dasein is never unattuned. In fact, precisely because of the ontological structure of Befindlichkeit, the world always already matters to us in one way or another, with moods being one of our primary ways of experiencing what matters and why. This discussion therefore aims to yield an account whereby faint moods (Heidegger) and strong emotions (Sartre) form two poles of the same dynamic. To use a metaphor, moods are the tectonic plates that make the various emotional shakes and quakes possible in any given situation. Finally, I finish with some possible remaining tensions between the two thinkers, as well as a way to look for a possible solution.