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Is Appraisal 'Embodied' and 'Embedded'? A Neurophilosophical Investigation of Emotions

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Emotion theories in present philosophical discussion propose different models of relationship between feeling and appraisal. The multicomponent model considers appraisal as separate component and distinguishes it from feeling and physiological body changes thus presupposing what may be called 'disembodied' and 'disembedded' appraisal as representational. The recently emerged concept of enactment, in contrast, argues that appraisal is closely linked to feeling and physiological body changes presupposing what can be called 'embodied' and 'embedded' appraisal as relational. The aim of the paper is to investigate which concept of appraisal, the 'disembedded' or the 'embedded' one, is better compatible with current neuroimaging data on emotion processing and thus neurophilosophically more tenable. The 'disembodied' and 'disembedded' concept implies distinct and independent brain regions underlying feeling and appraisal whereas 'embodied' and 'embedded' appraisal implies overlapping and dependent brain regions. Recent neuroimaging studies demonstrate that medial and lateral prefrontal cortical regions are involved in both feeling and appraisal and that there seems to be reciprocal modulation between these regions. Though preliminary, these data suggest that feeling and appraisal are associated with different patterns of neural activity across overlapping and interdependent brain regions. I therefore conclude that current neuroscientific evidence is rather in favor of the 'embodied' and 'embedded' concept of appraisal as relational than the one of 'disembodied' and 'disembedded' appraisal as representational that is presupposed in current multicomponent theories of emotions.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Dept. of Psychiatry, University of Magdeburg, Leipziger Strasse 44, 39120 Magdeburg, Germany., Email: georg.northoff@medizin.uni-magdeburg

Publication date: 2008-01-01

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