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Argue for and Against the Existentialists' View That Emotions Are Chosen

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Argue for and against the existentialists' view that emotions are chosen

The Existentialist philosophy was developed the 20th Century and centred on the premise that humans are whatever they make themselves to be. To this point existentialism denies that there is any essential feature to human nature. Instead, it is argued through this philosophy that individuals create their own nature through free, responsible choices and actions. On emotions - the existential Philosopher John Sartre argues that they are choices, that, like any choices involve options and alternatives, and that they are chosen around a purpose - or for that matter are employed purposefully.

In understanding the philosophy of Sartre in relation to emotions it is important to analyse his main argument existences precedes essence. This thesis gives us the concept that being human, what makes us who we are, is not fixed by what type of thing we are, but what we make of ourselves, existence itself being self-making in a situation. Contrary to a rock for instance that's essential properties are fixed because of the type of thing that it is. Evidence of this concept is that fact that in identical situations people do not behave or react in the exact same way, thereby showing us that the reaction, and in deed emotion in situation is not a fixed property of being a human, thereby creating an argument that there is, in a emotion - a degree of free will and choice.

Sartre argues that the emotions originate in a degradation of consciousness when faced with a certain situation. He describes a process of being faced with a situation it is through the individuals reaction that they attempt to view the situation differently. I am overcome with fear for instance, therefore I faint so that I no longer in that situation, therefore providing the argument that the essence of emotion is not in the "mental state" but rather in the individual's perception of the world. If for instance in the same situation described I choose to be a hero and fight the danger, a different emotion or perceptual reaction occurs from the same situation, therefore showing that there is in fact choice in the matter.

Sartre explains that in order to understand emotions, that one must get away from the mechanistic picture which associates emotions as physiological disturbances or bodily upset which we then experience, - emotions therefore, he argues, are chosen. They are in fact, our strategy for dealing with difficulties - and as such are our responsibility and not the source of excuses. What this argument tells me is that I must always consent to the emotion before it is able to manifest itself, somewhat as Philosopher Robert Spillane suggests is like role playing, with one putting themself in the emotional state, somewhat like an actor in play.

Philosopher William James counters this position

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