Are conflicts of emotion experienced as negative because of the existence of norms which suggest we ought not to be conflicted? Thoughts..?—
Luke (@lukephilosophy) August 26, 2012
I’ve engaged in mini-debates related to this on Twitter and Facebook for the past two days now, and decided it was time to formulate my thoughts here a little more formally.
The actual question Luke asks is an interesting one, but it quickly descended into skepticism about the possibility of conflicting emotions, which is the issue I want to address here.
It seems clear, then, that one can experience a conflict of emotions and judgements. For instance, a mother may love her son despite believing that she ought not to because her son is a bad person. But that’s not a case of conflicting emotions. An emotional conflict would involve love being conjoined with an emotion like hate, which at least appears to be a contradiction.
Now, obviously you can love and hate some thing or person in relation to different properties. You can love your spouse’s laugh and hate her habit of biting her nails. But what I doubt is the possibility of loving and hating someone on a foundational level. That is, if we take all the different respects in which we love or hate someone and thereby arrive at an all things considered judgement of the form “I ___ this person, period”, I doubt that the gap can be filled with both the words love and hate.
It seems intuitions are split on this. My sister, for instance, reacted by saying it was perfectly possible. My mother didn’t. But I think after a little reflection on the meaning of an all things considered judgement, we can see that an emotional conflict on this level is not possible. And that’s because of what an all things considered judgement is. It means that a decisive conclusion has been reached which seems to preclude the possibility of a contradiction. To reach this stage is to pick which emotion ultimately outweighs the other. In that sense, being able to love and hate someone would be equivalent to concluding something is both good and bad. Again, something may be both of these things in respect to different properties. But to label something good, period, is to say the good aspects outweigh the bad. Similarly, to say simply that you love someone is to say that you do not hate them.