Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.



Committee Chair

Potter, Nancy Lee Nyquist

Author's Keywords

Virtue ethics; Philosophy of emotion; Philosophy of literature; Aristotle; Epistemology; Intersubjectivity


Emotions (Philosophy); Literature--Philosophy; Ethics; Philosophy of mind


This dissertation offers a brief survey of the rise of reason and the tum to the self at the expense of emotion in Western thought. This marginalization of emotion has had deleterious effects on two areas: the cultivation of virtue and the intersubjectivity necessary to sustain human flourishing. Using current research in neuropsychology the dissertation argues that reason and emotion form a dynamic partnership in the process of attaining reliable knowledge. Moreover, the dissertation argues that the emotional experience necessary for the cultivation of virtue, as well as the ability to attend to the emotional lives of others in the service of inter subjectivity, can be augmented by simulating emotional experiences through reading literature. The dissertation is divided into six chapters. Chapter One traces the history of the rise of reason and the tum to the self in the West, arguing that the preeminence of reason has pushed emotion to the irrational margins. Chapter two explores theories of emotion, contending that emotion is best understood as a process initiated by affective appraisal. Chapter Two also argues for an understanding of emotion as a necessary part of the process of knowing. Chapter Three uses an Aristotelian analysis of virtue to argue for the need for emotion in developing virtue and sustaining community. Chapter Four sets down a theory of emotional attending that argues against viewing others as objects or as mirror images of the self. Chapter Five offers an argument about the simulation of emotion and the use of the imagination in reading literature, and why expanding emotional resources is an important goal. Chapter Six provides a practical example of how reading can enrich the fund of emotional experiences upon which one draws to attend to the emotional lives of others through analysis of Richard Russo's, Empire Falls.