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Basic emotions and their biological substrates: A nominalistic interpretation

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The thesis of this article is that an attitude akin to pragmatism is internal to the scientific enterprise itself, and as a result many scientists will make the same types of non-essentialistic interpretations of their subject matter that are made by pragmatists. This is demonstrably true with respect to those scientists who study the biological basis of emotion such as Panksepp, LeDoux, and Damasio. Even though these scientists are also influenced by what cognitive psychologists call the essentialist bias, their research programs are coherent with Peter Zachar’s rejection of natural kinds in favor of practical kinds. When the confrontation with complexity leads a scientist to offer non-essentialist interpretations, two popular options are to go eliminativist or go nominalist. Pragmatists prefer the nominalistic option, and we provide reasons for suggesting that scientists should as well.

Keywords: consciousness; eliminativism; emotion; essentialism; natural kind; nominalism; pragmatism

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Auburn University Montgomery 2: Southern Methodist University

Publication date: March 1, 2001

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