Enjoyment as Enriched Experience: A Theory of Affect and Its Relation to Consciousness 3031137892, 9783031137891

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Enjoyment as Enriched Experience: A Theory of Affect and Its Relation to Consciousness
 3031137892, 9783031137891

Table of contents :
List of Figures
1: Introduction
The Problem of Affect
Feeling, Value, and Causation
The Enrichment Approach
Enrichment as Harmonic Intensity
The Causal Enrichment of Experience
The Enjoyment of Sadness in Music
Systematic Considerations
Part I: The Problem of Affect
2: The Problem of Value in Scientific Explanation
The Modern Problem of Value
The Sails of Theseus
A Comparison of Köhler and Damasio on the Problem of Value
The “Affective-Valuative Circle”
3: The Core Challenge
Alliesthesia and the Chocolate Experiment
Affect Zombies
Analytic Philosophy of Pleasure
4: Adding Pieces to the Puzzle
The Data of Affective Science
The Unity of Affect
Intensity and Other Dimensions of Affect
Affect and Motivation
Affect and Emotion
Affect and Information
Affect and Cognition
Desiderata for a Theory of Affect
A theory of affect should be able to account for the following features:
Part II: The Harmonic Theory of Affect
5: Affect as a Feeling of Harmonic Intensity
Harmonic Intensity and Contrast
Causal Contrasts and Nonlinear Dynamics
Causal Events
The Contrastive Determination of Causal Events
Nonlinear Dynamical Systems and Contrastive States
The Dynamic Repertoire
Contrastive States: A More Formal Account
Feelings of Causal Contrast: The Harmonic Theory of Affect
A Brief Review of Emerging Evidence
6: Affect and Consciousness
The Problem of Consciousness for Pan-Experientialism
Toward an Affective View of the Jamesian Stream
The Interrelatedness of Flow, Meaning, and Affect
Flow and Affect
Meaning and Affect
Varieties of Affect
7: Affect and the Feeling Self
Minimal Self-Awareness and the Minimal Self
Subjectivity Changes
Non-objectifying Self-Enjoyment
Expansive Feelings
Why Does Expansiveness Feel Good?
The Feeling Self as a Unique Individual
8: The Affective Continuum
Bipolarity and the Affective Baseline
Is a Baseline Sufficient for Bipolarity?
Explorations of the Affective Continuum
Narrow Feelings: Strong Pains and Pleasures
Interlude: Testing the Differentiated-ness of Feeling
Different Causes of Affective Change
Feelings of Dissonance
Wide Feelings
Feelings of Motivation
The Boundaries of Affect
9: Enjoyment
Pleasure and Enjoyment
Enjoyment and Rhythm
The Conditions of Enjoyment: Energy, Engagement, and Skill
Human Enjoyment
The Enjoyment of Sadness
Existential Enjoyment
10: Conclusion
Testing the Theory
The Mystery of Qualities and the Importance of Importance
Value and the Critique of Experience
Causation and Other Unfinished Groundwork
Nature as a Process of Perpetual Enrichment

Citation preview


Enjoyment as Enriched Experience A Theory of Affect and Its Relation to Consciousness Nathaniel F. Barrett

Palgrave Perspectives on Process Philosophy

Series Editors Wahida Khandker Dept of History, Politics and Philosophy Manchester Metropolitan University Manchester, UK Tim Flanagan Philosophy Murdoch University Murdoch, WA, Australia

The aim of this series is to provide monographs, edited collections and Palgrave Pivots from both established and early career scholars in Process Philosophy, with particular reference (but by no means exclusively) to the writings of Alfred North Whitehead, Henri Bergson, William James, and Charles Hartshorne. The series aims to promote new writing in this area that is innovative, rigorous, and yet accessible to readers both within philosophy and beyond disciplinary boundaries. The expected focus of the books falls roughly into three areas, though it is likely that these areas will overlap: New readings of the major early twentieth-century process philosophers, Whitehead, Bergson, James, Hartshorne, et al, including studies of their influence on, or relevance to, contemporary philosophy The roots of process philosophy in ancient and early modern philosophy, as well as hitherto unexplored affinities with thinkers in these eras Future orientations: including cross-disciplinary explorations of the implications of process thought. We are particularly interested in studies of intersections with the arts, architecture, environmental humanities, and the sciences, but projects proposing other disciplinary intersections will be welcomed.

Nathaniel F. Barrett

Enjoyment as Enriched Experience A Theory of Affect and Its Relation to Consciousness

Nathaniel F. Barrett Institute for Culture and Society University of Navarra Pamplona, Spain

ISSN 2524-4728     ISSN 2524-4736 (electronic) Palgrave Perspectives on Process Philosophy ISBN 978-3-031-13789-1    ISBN 978-3-031-13790-7 (eBook) https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-13790-7 © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 This work is subject to copyright. All rights are solely and exclusively licensed by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors, and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, expressed or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. This Palgrave Macmillan imprint is published by the registered company Springer Nature Switzerland AG. The registered company address is: Gewerbestrasse 11, 6330 Cham, Switzerland

Para Diego y Telmo Que disfrutéis mucho


This book is the fruit of a long-standing interest in the question of how experience belongs to nature. My thinking about this question is deeply indebted to the tradition of speculative naturalism that runs through classical pragmatism and the process philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead. The central idea of this book, that enjoyment is an enriched form of experience and a “culminating event of nature,” comes from the core of this tradition, although it did not originate there. It can be traced all the way back to classic texts of ancient Greece and China. The idea is not new, in other words. But its implications are now, if anything, more radical than ever before. Enjoyment is not generally accorded such importance in contemporary thought, to say the least. In the sciences of mind and brain, enjoyment is usually treated as if it were a secondary or even superfluous feature whose investigation should take a back seat to questions about perception and cognition. And when science pays attention to enjoyment, its explanations tend to be purely functionalist. Scientific theories generally do not address the question of what enjoyment is; they only tell us why we enjoy certain things and not others. Meanwhile, in the study of consciousness, sensory qualities like the color red take center stage, while enjoyment and other affective dimensions of experience are relegated to the background. Enjoyment hardly figures in the questions we ask about consciousness or in standard vii

viii Preface

formulations of the problem that it presents to understanding. When the philosopher Thomas Nagel asked us to ponder “What is like to be a bat?” in his hugely influential paper about the problem of consciousness, he was asking specifically about perceiving the world with sonar, not the joy of hunting gnats at dusk. Of course, for a bat, the joy of hunting involves the use of sonar, a special form of perception. But the readiness with which we ascribe enjoyment to other animals suggests that it is more basic to experience than any particular form of perception. Maybe if Nagel had asked about the enjoyment of bats, philosophy of consciousness would have gone down a different path. Even the scholarly literature most directly concerned with the nature of enjoyment tends to be tightly circumscribed in a way that downplays its importance. Over the last century and a half, philosophers have uncovered major problems in our understanding of pleasure and pain. But they have repeatedly framed these problems as if they pertained to a special class of feelings rather than the nature of experience per se. As a result, even where enjoyment is most closely examined, it is effectively marginalized. It does not belong to our basic concept of what experience is, let alone our understanding of how experience belongs to nature. This book is intended to challenge this way of thinking. It does this by calling attention to the special challenges presented by the affective nature of experience, and by showing how these challenges can be overcome by understanding affect as the causal enrichment or deterioration of experience as a whole. As I have just indicated, this “enrichment approach” comes from Whitehead and the classical pragmatists Peirce, James, and Dewey, all of whom thought of enjoyment and suffering as fundamental to experience. However, although my debt to these sources is clear, what follows is not a close study of their writings on experience. As developed in pragmatism and process philosophy, the enrichment approach remains unfinished and incomplete. It is modeled too closely on certain types of aesthetic enjoyment and it cannot explain how negative feelings of pain and suffering arise within a continuum of enrichment. In sum, the enrichment approach needs to be revised and expanded so that it can comprehend the full range of affective experience and engage with contemporary sciences of consciousness and affect.



For this task, I draw from recent scientific research that suggests that the dynamic repertoire of consciousness is constantly changing, effectively expanding and contracting our capacity to feel. Weaving these scientific perspectives together into a theory of causal enrichment, the book develops a theory of affect that accounts for its peculiar phenomenology and sheds new light on a diverse range of experiences, from everyday pleasures and pains to the special satisfactions of the arts and religious festivity. At the same time, it presents a fresh and distinctively affect-­ centered perspective on the nature of consciousness. Given this scientific orientation, readers may be surprised to find that I have so little to say about the physiological, cognitive, or behavioral aspects of affect. For instance, I do not enter into any detailed discussion of the neurological mechanisms of pain and pleasure. I am well aware that a complete theory of affect must include these mechanisms. But they are not where the philosophical work needs to be done. In my view, the capacity to feel pleasure and pain is intrinsic to the nature of conscious experience, and once we understand how this is so, we will be better prepared to understand how this capacity is shaped and enhanced by specially dedicated mechanisms of affective regulation. In other words, the theory of affect to be developed in this book focuses on aspects of affect that most scientific theories leave out—everything having to do with the experience of affect and the role of affect in experience. Moreover, it is the kind of theory that is intended to contribute to our understanding of how experience belongs to nature and, in some small way, to efforts to re-imagine the kind of nature in which experience is possible. This book had a long period of gestation during which I was fortunate to have the support of family, friends, and colleagues. I owe a special debt of gratitude to my teachers Wesley Wildman and Bob Neville, both exemplary persons and philosophers. Without the inspiration of your example, it would never have occurred to me to write a book like this. I also want to thank José Ignacio Murillo and other members of the Mind-Brain Group, as well as the staff of the Institute for Culture and Society at the University of Navarre, for providing the kind of environment in which adventures of ideas are possible. This book could not have been written anywhere else.

x Preface

Thanks to Giovanna Colombetti and to Donovan Schaefer for feedback on parts of the book. Thanks to Brandon Daniel-Hughes for his steadfast companionship on the winding path of inquiry. And special thanks to Anderson Weekes for reading a draft of the entire manuscript and for many hours of painstaking critique. I could not have finished without your help. Finally, to Ariadna, thank you for being patient when I get lost in my thoughts, and for helping me find my way home. Pamplona, Spain

Nathaniel F. Barrett


1 I ntroduction  1 The Problem of Affect    1 Feeling, Value, and Causation   8 The Enrichment Approach   11 Enrichment as Harmonic Intensity   14 The Causal Enrichment of Experience   18 The Enjoyment of Sadness in Music   21 Systematic Considerations  24 References  34 Part I The Problem of Affect  39 2 The  Problem of Value in Scientific Explanation 41 The Modern Problem of Value   42 The Sails of Theseus   47 A Comparison of Köhler and Damasio on the Problem of Value  48 The “Affective-Valuative Circle”   58 References  58


xii Contents

3 Th  e Core Challenge 61 Alliesthesia and the Chocolate Experiment   63 Affect Zombies  67 Analytic Philosophy of Pleasure   72 References  79 4 Adding  Pieces to the Puzzle 83 The Data of Affective Science   84 The Unity of Affect   87 Intensity and Other Dimensions of Affect   89 Affect and Motivation   92 Affect and Emotion   95 Affect and Information   99 Affect and Cognition  101 References 105 Desiderata for a Theory of Affect 111 Part II The Harmonic Theory of Affect 113 5 Affect  as a Feeling of Harmonic Intensity117 Harmonic Intensity and Contrast  117 Causal Contrasts and Nonlinear Dynamics  131 Causal Events  131 The Contrastive Determination of Causal Events  135 Nonlinear Dynamical Systems and Contrastive States  141 Contrastive States: A More Formal Account  154 Feelings of Causal Contrast: The Harmonic Theory of Affect  157 A Brief Review of Emerging Evidence  163 References 169 6 A  ffect and Consciousness175 The Problem of Consciousness for Pan-Experientialism  176 Toward an Affective View of the Jamesian Stream  182



The Interrelatedness of Flow, Meaning, and Affect  196 Flow and Affect  197 Meaning and Affect  204 Varieties of Affect  221 References 223 7 Affect  and the Feeling Self227 Minimal Self-Awareness and the Minimal Self  228 Subjectivity Changes  234 Non-objectifying Self-Enjoyment  236 Expansive Feelings  239 Why Does Expansiveness Feel Good?  243 The Feeling Self as a Unique Individual  246 Conclusion 252 References 253 8 Th  e Affective Continuum255 Bipolarity and the Affective Baseline  256 Is a Baseline Sufficient for Bipolarity?  262 Explorations of the Affective Continuum  264 Narrow Feelings: Strong Pains and Pleasures  268 Interlude: Testing the Differentiated-ness of Feeling  274 Different Causes of Affective Change  277 Feelings of Dissonance  279 Wide Feelings  284 Feelings of Motivation  288 The Boundaries of Affect  292 References 294 9 E  njoyment297 Pleasure and Enjoyment  300 Enjoyment and Rhythm  305 The Conditions of Enjoyment: Energy, Engagement, and Skill 310 Human Enjoyment  316

xiv Contents

The Enjoyment of Sadness  321 Existential Enjoyment  323 References 332 10 C  onclusion335 Testing the Theory  339 The Mystery of Qualities and the Importance of Importance  341 Value and the Critique of Experience  344 Causation and Other Unfinished Groundwork  347 Nature as a Process of Perpetual Enrichment  350 References 355 I ndex359

List of Figures

Fig. 5.1 Harmonic intensity as a function of strength and diversity of contrast124 Fig. 5.2 Changes of potential or attractor landscapes in relation to control parameters of interaction (b/a) and heterogeneity of components (Δω)150 Fig. 5.3 Representation of a simple system composed of two interacting components 155 Fig. 8.1 Circumplex models of affect. (From Barrett and Bliss-Moreau 2009, p. 183) 266 Fig. 8.2 A harmonic model of the affective continuum 266


1 Introduction

Mountain peaks do not float unsupported; they do not even just rest upon the earth. They are the earth in one of its manifest operations. —John Dewey, Art as Experience (1934/1980, p. 3)

The Problem of Affect What is a good feeling? More precisely: How do you know that a feeling is good? If you have never pondered this question before, it may seem pointless at first. Like the blueness of a clear blue sky, the goodness of a good feeling seems impossible to describe in more basic terms. Words like pleasant and positive do not help; the question is only rephrased. A good feeling is perhaps the quintessential example of something you just know when you feel it. Especially when you have a really good feeling, it seems absurd to ask how you know that it’s good. But if the question is raised at a more general level, it cannot be put aside so easily. Consider the variety of good feelings that you have had recently: a beautiful song, a favorite food, a joyous celebration, a relaxing swim, and so on. What do these feelings have in common that makes them all good

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 N. F. Barrett, Enjoyment as Enriched Experience, Palgrave Perspectives on Process Philosophy, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-13790-7_1



N. F. Barrett

and, moreover, so easily recognized as such? This question turns out to be surprisingly difficult to answer (Katz 2016; Shapiro 2018). The surprise comes from the fact that the presence of goodness in a really good feeling is as unmistakable as the presence of blueness in our view of a clear blue sky and yet, in the former case, we cannot identify this unmistakable presence with the appearance of any particular quality. However ineffable blueness may be, it is grounded in a family of more or less distinct qualities that we can pick out, examine, and compare. In contrast, although it seems that we can compare good feelings—indeed, we do it all the time— we cannot say how these comparisons are grounded in experience (Kahneman 2000). Perhaps this is because each and every good feeling is totally unique. The good feeling of eating a fresh strawberry is nothing like the good feeling of listening to Schubert, which is nothing like the good feeling of swimming in the ocean, and so on. Faced with this heterogeneity, we might conclude that there is no common nature that unites all good feelings and distinguishes them as a class (Labukt 2012). But the heterogeneity of good feelings does not prevent us from identifying each and every one of them as good. How do we do that? How is a feeling marked as good? If no such mark exists, how do we reconcile this fact with the unmistakable presence of good feelings? The more closely we examine good feelings, the more perplexing they become. Questions beget questions. What about bad feelings? Nearly all questions about good feelings have counterparts on the side of bad feelings that are just as hard to answer, and considering good and bad feelings together adds another layer of perplexity. How do good feelings differ from bad feelings? It seems that no difference could be more basic to experience, and yet this difference is not based in any distinction that we can pick out, examine, and describe. Think of a time when, carried away by your relish of a favorite food, you ate way too much. During the course of this experience, the pleasure of eating declined and eventually turned to displeasure, and this change was just as unmistakable as it was regrettable. But, again, it is surprisingly difficult to describe the nature of this change, or to explain how the eventual bad feeling differs from the initial good feeling.

1 Introduction 


A bit of introspection can help to clarify the problem. When considered in relation to other aspects of experience, we find that good and bad feelings have a peculiar transparency: good and bad feelings seem to merge completely with other features of their objects. The delicious taste of chocolate does not show up as the taste of chocolate together with a distinct gloss of pleasure. It is one, seamlessly integrated feeling—a pleasant chocolatey feeling. And yet, although we cannot separate the taste of chocolate from its pleasantness, they seem to change independently. As indicated by the example of overeating, the pleasantness of chocolate can decline notably even while the taste seems to stay the same. This independent variability suggests that good and bad feelings modify other feelings (Aydede 2014), although, once again, it is very difficult to say how. Even the badness of extreme physical pain, which can seem even more plain and incontrovertible than the goodness of our most pleasurable feelings, is surprisingly difficult to pin down as a discrete fact of experience. Our commonsense view is that the badness of physical pain shows up in the distinct form of a bodily feeling—a stabbing, throbbing, or searing feeling located somewhere in the body. But the perceptual side of physical pain can be experienced without any unpleasantness, as in cases of pain asymbolia (Grahek 2007) or even as pleasurable, as in cases of “hedonic flipping” (Tracey 2016). Thus, it seems, the badness of pain— that which causes us to suffer, that which we want to be rid of—is not the part that we can describe as a bodily feeling. What is it, then? As indicated by the example of extreme pain, good and bad feelings can also be distinguished by their power. The power of good and bad feelings is manifested in the way they dominate our attention and the force-­ like influence that they exert on our thought and behavior (Schaefer 2019). At their extremes, good and bad feelings are the most powerful feelings we have. However, although power and degree of goodness or badness seem to be directly related, greater power does not make these feelings any more distinct: the goodness of our strongest good feeling is no less elusive than the goodness of our most subtle change of mood. Questions about the nature of good and bad feelings are further complicated by the many cases in which, through music, theater, and other arts, we seem to find enjoyment in situations and emotions that normally cause us to suffer. This phenomenon, known as the “paradox of tragedy,”


N. F. Barrett

has been discussed and debated since Aristotle (Levinson 2014). Perhaps the most common subtype is the gratifying experience of being moved by sad music. In fact, such experiences are so common that they usually do not seem to demand any explanation. Recently, however, the puzzling nature of our enjoyment of sad music was brought to light by the enormous success of the pop ballad, “Someone Like You,” by the British singer Adele. At the peak of the song’s popularity in the United States, the fact that so many people listened obsessively to a song about heartbreak— often while crying—was parodied on television while the press searched for a scientific explanation (e.g., Doucleff 2012). Although psychologists and philosophers have proposed a number of different solutions to this puzzle, most do not address the basic question that lies at the very heart of the matter: the nature of good and bad feelings. Suppose we take the experience at face value, that is, as a gratifying experience of sadness. If being moved to tears by a song about heartbreak is a good feeling, how does it differ from the bad feeling of crying, sans music, over a broken heart (Benzon 2001)? I suggest that our answer to this question depends on how we understand the nature of good and bad feelings and their relationship to the meaning of experience. What is the connection between the meaning of an experience and the way in which it makes us feel? Are these the same thing or are they distinct? Does perceiving something as bad make us feel bad, or is it the other way around? Finally, what do these questions about good and bad feelings indicate about our understanding of experience as a whole? Up until now the discussion has proceeded as if good and bad feelings belonged to a special class that is readily distinguished from sensations, thoughts, and other feelings (even if we cannot say how). But on closer inspection we cannot find any such distinction in experience. Goodness and badness may be more pronounced in some feelings than others but, as indicated by previous discussion, we cannot find any clear difference that marks these feelings as a class. Still, cannot we define this class in negative terms? Is there no such thing as a purely neutral feeling, neither good nor bad? Though seemingly remote from our initial inquiry about the nature of good feeling, this last question deserves careful consideration. While many sensations, thoughts, and other feelings can seem neutral when taken in isolation, the possibility of experience that is totally without

1 Introduction 


good or bad feeling should give us pause. Granted, we can imagine the existence of other sentient beings whose experience is utterly devoid of all pleasure and pain: science fiction is full of these “affect zombies.” But it is difficult, if not impossible, to imagine this experience for ourselves. Be that as it may, if we accept the possibility of affect zombies—a possibility implied by the assumption that good and bad feelings belong to a special class—it follows that good and bad feelings are not entailed by our concept of consciousness. Rather, like the color red, they are an accidental feature that could, in theory, be eliminated from experience. What does this lack of entailment signify? And how do these unresolved questions about the nature of good and bad feeling connect with our understanding of consciousness? * * * These and many other questions are tangled together in a complex puzzle that I call the problem of affect. The task of this book is to confront this problem, first by articulating its special challenges and its many interrelated parts, and then by presenting an original theory that attempts to explain the nature of affect by showing how it is, in fact, essential to consciousness. The problem of affect is not new. It has troubled thinkers in some form or another since the beginnings of western philosophy (Shapiro 2018). In its current, most commonly debated form it can be traced back at least as far as the nineteenth century (Sidgwick 1874/1967). And yet, in recent decades, even as affect has become increasingly important to our understanding of mind (e.g., Damasio 1994; Panksepp and Biven 2012; Colombetti 2014; Asma and Gabriel 2019), its implications for our understanding of experience are widely overlooked. Even in the burgeoning fields of affective science and consciousness studies, the kinds of questions posed above—questions that lie at the intersection of these fields—are seldom confronted head-on. There are a number of reasons for this neglect. Perhaps the most deeply rooted cause, and also the most subtle, is the common but rarely examined assumption that affect pertains to a certain class of feelings rather


N. F. Barrett

than the nature of experience per se. Another, closely related cause is the pervasive “sensory bias” in modern discourse about experience (Frijda 2009, p. 102; Crane 2019), evidenced by the way the most influential formulations of the problem of consciousness focus on sense qualities like the color red (Block et al. 1997). In this context, the peculiar challenges posed by affect tend to be overshadowed by the vexed concept of qualia, and when they come to light, they tend to be circumscribed as questions about a certain class of feelings. As a result, debates about the nature of affect are largely confined to subfields of philosophy dedicated to the examination of pleasure and pain. These tendencies can be exposed by considering the aforementioned possibility of affect zombies—beings with conscious experience but no affect. Take any theory of consciousness, or any theory of affect, and pose the following question: Does it exclude the possibility of affect zombies? Take, for example, Giulio Tononi’s Integrated Information Theory (2015), perhaps the leading scientific theory of consciousness at the time of this writing. This theory clearly does not preclude affect zombies: rather, affect is presumed to be one of the many kinds of “information” integrated by conscious states. Tononi’s theory is by no means unusual in this respect. Nearly all theoretical approaches presuppose that affect pertains to a special class of feelings and, thus, implicitly allow for its elimination from experience. In contrast, I believe that it is impossible to make progress on the problem of affect as long as affect is treated as a special class of feelings. I also believe that this way of thinking about affect, though seldom acknowledged, is a major impediment to our understanding of consciousness. Accordingly, although my main purpose in this book is to present a theory of affect, many parts of the following argument might just as well be described as an attempt to construct an affect-centered theory of consciousness. This approach may seem overly ambitious, but if I am right about the nature of affect it is the only way forward. If nothing else, I hope to show that the problems of affect and consciousness belong together: they are more tractable when thought about together than when thought about separately.

1 Introduction 


At the core of the problem of affect is the challenge presented by the peculiar character of good and bad feelings. This core challenge can be summarized as follows: Despite their unmistakable presence and power and their pervasive role in experience, affective feelings are nearly impossible to describe because they have no distinctive quality of their own.

Another way to bring the core challenge into focus is to consider all that is left unexplained by the concept of pleasure as a “gloss” that overlays the qualities of experience: although this concept neatly captures the transparency of affect, it sheds no light on its unmistakable presence, its force-like influence, or its intrinsic goodness or value. The elusiveness of affect is such that its special challenge is often overlooked or mistaken for other problems of experience, especially the ineffable “what-it-is-like-ness” of sense qualities like the color red. I do not mean to trivialize these other problems. But in this book I will try to show that important clues about consciousness are missed when affect is lumped together with the sense qualities that dominate our view of consciousness. We do not feel anything like the color blue when we have the blues. Moreover, as I have indicated above, the problem of affect involves much more than the feelings we single out as pleasures and pains. Indeed, if we trace out the implications of the core challenge, we soon discover that the problem of affect is tangled up in a host of other problems, many of which lie buried in our habitual ways of thinking about experience and its relation to the rest of nature. To bring the full extent of the problem of affect to light would require a thorough excavation of modern thought, something I will not attempt here. Nevertheless, tracing out the main roots of the problem will make it easier to justify the systematic and speculative nature of my approach, and will serve to introduce some of the ideas and theses to be explored in this book.


N. F. Barrett

Feeling, Value, and Causation1 I suggest that what makes the problem of affect so intractable is the way in which it involves problems of feeling, value, and causation, all tangled up together. This analysis is debatable, of course, but I do not think that it goes beyond what we can draw from experience. I have just argued that affect is incorrigibly indistinct. Yet within this indistinctness, it is possible to make out these three ingredients—feeling, value, and causation—as starting points of inquiry. The most basic ingredient is feeling. For some, this may seem too obvious to mention. In the last century, however, some notable thinkers have denied that affect is a feeling (e.g., Ryle 1949/1984; Feldman 1997). I uphold the commonsense view that affect is indeed felt, but this is, again, just the starting point of inquiry. Despite our intimate acquaintance with feeling, we do not really know what it is. It is one of those things that, as Augustine famously said of time, we understand only as long as no one asks us to explain it. What is worse, too often inquiry into the nature of feeling starts from the assumption that the matter can be boiled down to its simplest qualitative elements, sometimes known as qualia. For this view, feeling is the sheer presence of one or more qualia. In light of the complexity and constant flowing of actual experience (James 1890/1983), however, this view is a crude abstraction. More to the point, affect indicates that qualia are not the whole story. Affect indicates the existence of feelings that have no distinct quality of their own, even though they must be feelings of something. But what? This question brings us to the other two ingredients of affect. It should not be controversial to point out that affect includes value as an essential feature. Affective feelings are good or bad, pleasant or  Throughout this book I use feeling, experience, and consciousness in various overlapping ways, most of which are close to common usage. Usually, consciousness is an encompassing term for sentient awareness and all that it entails, while feeling is used to focus on specific moments and components of consciousness and experience is used to refer to more extended episodes as well as cumulative and holistic features. In the context of the pan-experientialist philosophy that informs the current approach, feeling and experience may be extended to non-sentient events or processes in nature, while consciousness is reserved to distinguish our wakeful states from other, more widespread kinds of feeling and experience. Following Whitehead, I generally use feeling as the most basic and inclusive term. 1

1 Introduction 


unpleasant, positive or negative. Whatever different nuances of meaning these descriptors may have, for present purposes they are roughly equivalent, as they all indicate the essential connection between affect and value. Again, it is very difficult to describe how value is felt; this difficulty is at the core of the problem of affect. Moreover, if affect were more easily described as a simple quality like red, it is hard to conceive how such a quality could account for the special characteristics of value—goodness and its motivating power or influence (Helm 2002; Aydede 2014). Thus, although value and quality may turn out to be closely related aspects of experience, it seems that the feeling of value cannot be reduced to the presence of a quality. It has something more—something dynamic, relational, and forceful, but also some kind of inherent reason, demand, or “fittingness” (Köhler 1938/1976)—that any mere quality, considered by itself, cannot have. These last points, together with our commonsense notion of what it means to be affected, suggest a connection to causation. Value is not something that we perceive as a distinct object or feature. Rather, we feel the value of things in a way that is more intimate than perception, through vague but often powerful feelings of their impact on our “feeling self,” the subject of consciousness. Can we not say, then, that the feeling of value entails a non-perceptual feeling of direct causal influence? Sometimes the influence of affect can be quite forceful, as when the sight of something repulsive causes us to look away. On the other hand, affect is never a sheer, brute force. Even in our strongest affective feelings—the most captivating feelings of sexual pleasure or the most incapacitating feelings of physical pain—the forcefulness of affect is always grounded in a direct and intuitive sense of its inherent value or disvalue. Notice that in the preceding analysis the ingredients of feeling, value, and causation are interrelated, suggesting that our understanding of each ingredient depends on the others. Again, I admit that parts of this analysis are debatable. Some may question that affect is a feeling; others may question the connections to value or causal influence. But given that feeling, value, and causation present formidable problems in their own right, if I am right about their entanglement with the problem of affect then it is no wonder that we find the latter so intractable.


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Fortunately—or regrettably, depending on how you see these matters—I will not attempt to confront all of these problems at once. My main focus will be on affect and feeling: How is affect felt? What are good and bad feelings, how do they modify other feelings, and how do we tell them apart? What does affect tell us about the nature of feeling? How does affect belong to consciousness? How does affect relate to other basic features of conscious experience, especially the meaning of experience? These are the main questions to be pursued here, and they are plenty. On the other hand, if questions about affect and feeling entail questions about value and causation, the latter topics cannot be simply set aside. The problem of affect cannot be addressed without coming to grips with all three of its main ingredients—feeling, value, and causation—in short, pretty much everything that modern science has left out of its view of nature. In my thinking about this challenge, I have drawn inspiration from Gregg Rosenberg’s book, A Place for Consciousness (2004), which advances a novel theory of causation in order to show how the qualitative aspects of experience can be grounded in the natural world, thus joining together two major problems of modern thought—consciousness and causation. In defense of this approach, Rosenberg likens these problems to parts of a “sliding tile puzzle” in which a jumbled array of pieces must be rearranged in order to arrive at a coherent picture (pp.  11–12). With this analogy, Rosenberg is suggesting that to understand how consciousness belongs to nature we may have to change our view of nature—that is, rearrange the whole puzzle. My approach to the problem of affect takes a similar tack. I believe that to understand affect, we not only have to understand how it belongs to experience: we also have to understand how experience belongs to nature. Moreover, like Rosenberg, I believe that this task is likely to require that we adopt a different view of nature, another arrangement of the whole puzzle. Rather than try to fill in the gaps in the standard “physicalist” picture—the picture in which feeling, value, and causation are all missing pieces—I want to suggest a different picture that, I hope, opens up a more productive way of thinking naturalistically about experience. Yet the way in which I have chosen to carry out this task is rather different from Rosenberg’s approach.

1 Introduction 


Although the theory of affect and experience to be presented in this book derives from a distinctive view of nature, this view is largely left in the background—which is not to say that it will be left a secret. My preferred view of nature is the variety of pan-experientialism that derives from pragmatism and process thought (see below for further discussion). One of the key features of this variety of pan-experientialism is the idea that the three main ingredients of affect—feeling, value, and causation— are intimately related such that we cannot think adequately about any of them if we cannot “think them together.” I am well aware that when such a distinctive view of nature serves as the basis of a theory with more limited scope it is expected that the merits of the wider system will be established first. Here I am gambling on a different route that changes the usual order of systematic philosophical argumentation. The usual way of doing systematic philosophy begins at the most general level—metaphysics or philosophy of nature—before advancing toward more specific topics. In this book, however, I attempt an abbreviated form of systematic philosophy that largely skips over this “groundwork,” as my main purpose is not to articulate and defend a systematic view of nature, but to show how the special demands of the problem of affect can be met by a systematic approach that incorporates causation and value into a theory of experience. Insofar as the theory of experience succeeds, I hope that the wider view from which it derives is given some measure of support. But my first priority is to develop this theory so that it can be tested against experience and the many fields of scientific research that impinge on the problem of affect. Much more will be said about the systematic nature of my argument in the closing section of this chapter. Now let us proceed to an initial exposition of the theory to be developed in this book.

The Enrichment Approach The central idea behind the present approach is that a good feeling is not a special ingredient added to experience but rather a heightening, intensification, or enrichment of experience as a whole. To paraphrase John Dewey, experience is affective but there is no separate thing called affect


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in it (1934/1980, p.  42). This is why, when we have an unmistakably good feeling, there is no special quality in experience that marks its goodness. Rather, you might say that what we feel is an improvement in the activity of experiencing itself. This idea can be called the enrichment thesis, though perhaps it is more aptly called the enrichment approach, because as just stated it is too vague to qualify as a testable thesis about the nature of good and bad feelings. But even as an initial orientation toward the problem of affect, it has important implications. It implies that affect is marked by a change in our way of experiencing rather than the addition of a special ingredient; it implies that affect is integral to experience, so that there can be no such thing as a totally affectless experience (no “affect zombies”); and it implies that consciousness is not an all-or-nothing phenomenon—it can be enriched or impoverished. For the enrichment thesis to be given serious consideration, it is necessary to specify how consciousness is enriched when we feel good. This means that any attempt to explain affect as enrichment must include an account of the “enrichable nature” of experience. The importance of this point cannot be overstated, as it sharply differentiates enrichment from other approaches and helps to justify the broad scope and complexity of the arguments to be undertaken in the second part of this book. As long as affect is treated as special class of feelings, the problem of affect will not seem to demand that we rethink the nature of experience. But if affect pertains to the enrichment of experience as a whole, to understand affect requires that we develop a theory of experience that specifies its capacity for enrichment—there is no other way for inquiry to advance. Accordingly, in the second part of this book I develop a theory of the “enrichable nature” of experience—to be introduced shortly—and I provide an account of how affective enrichment shows up in relation to three other basic features of consciousness: awareness of change, awareness of meaning, and awareness of self. Admittedly, given the difficulty of these tasks, the enrichment approach carries a much heavier burden than other approaches. But it also opens up a new path of inquiry into the nature of experience (and the place of experience in nature). In short, if some version of the enrichment thesis is true, then we should be able to learn about the nature of experience by examining

1 Introduction 


occasions of unmistakably good feeling. That is, assuming that we already know how to pick out the peaks of experience, we can learn about experience by trying to understand how these peaks constitute enrichments of the much wider terrain from which they stand out. Below I will show how this can be done with a brief examination of a peculiar species of enjoyment: the enjoyment of sad music. Perhaps the most important precedent for the enrichment approach is the philosophy of John Dewey, especially his late work, Art as Experience (1934/1980). In the passage that serves as the opening epigraph—the remark about how mountain peaks “are the earth in one of its manifest operations”—Dewey is suggesting that we understand peak experiences of aesthetic enjoyment as manifestations of the basic nature of experience in general: aesthetic enjoyment is “the clarified and intensified development of traits that belong to every normally complete experience” (p.  46, italics added). Dewey’s Art as Experience is as much an account of the basic traits of experience as an account of their intensification in aesthetic enjoyment, because for an enrichment approach these go together. In Dewey’s words: “To aesthetic experience, then, the philosopher must go to understand what experience is” (p. 274). The present project follows a similar path. Another key feature of Dewey’s philosophy is its thoroughgoing naturalism, indicated by his repeated emphasis on the continuity of experience and the rest of nature. Experience and its capacity for enrichment cannot “float unsupported.” Accordingly, just as Dewey understood aesthetic enjoyment as the full flowering of traits that belong to everyday experience, he understood experience as “heightened vitality”: “experience is the fulfillment of the organism in its struggles and achievements” (p. 19). For this view, then, enjoyment is “the culminating event of nature as well as the climax of experience” (1929/1958, p. xvi). Enjoyment is the peak of a vast continuum of enrichment extending beyond consciousness to the basic rhythms of life and, even further, to the flows of energy on which life depends. This idea of a vast continuum of enrichment is essential to the present attempt to “think together” feeling, value, and causation as interrelated phenomena. Just as enjoyment can be thought of as enriched experience, experience itself can be thought of as the enrichment of traits that belong


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to all of nature. As noted in the previous section, most of this pan-­ experientialist view of nature will remain in the background, with one major exception: in support of the central idea of enrichment, the arguments of this book include a distinctive way of thinking about causation. In short, the theory of affect to be developed in this book is a theory of the causal enrichment of experience.

Enrichment as Harmonic Intensity The enrichment approach that I have just sketched is not unique to Dewey. It has many precedents in psychology (e.g., Fredrickson 2001; Csikszentmihalyi 1990) and philosophy (e.g., Aristotle, Confucianism). Closer to the present project, the idea that affect is a basic trait belonging to the whole of experience is a central theme of pragmatism in its early, classical stage. Charles Peirce made aesthetics the basis of his theory of inquiry, and William James famously observed that our experience of life is “soaked and shot-through with values” (1899/1977, p. 645). However, in this book, many of the most important ideas about enrichment come from another source: the process philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead (1978). Whitehead’s term for enrichment is intensity, which can be confusing at first. Normally, intensity suggests strength rather than richness, and it does not have a uniformly positive connotation. We associate intensity with acute pain, with overpowering sense qualities like the smell of vinegar, and, on the positive side, with sexual pleasure. But in Whitehead’s usage, intensity is a relational feature constituted by contrast, such as the contrast achieved by blue and yellow. Moreover, intensity is determined as much by the diversity of the features that make up a contrast as the strength of their mutual individuation. In short, for Whitehead, intensity is strength of contrast compounded by diversity. In this sense, the most intense feelings are not acute pains or overpowering qualities but more complex feelings featuring a vivid contrast between multiple diverse features. For example, the multicolored radiance of a stained-glass window has more intensity than a flash of lightning insofar as former has both strength and diversity of contrast while the latter

1 Introduction 


has only strength. Whitehead’s intensity thus adds an important qualification to our commonsense notion of richness: it says that richness is not constituted by the sheer multiplicity of diverse things comprehended in single feeling but rather by the vividness of detail that is achieved when many diverse things are felt together in a complex contrast (1933/1967, pp. 252–253). Because of this interplay of strength and diversity, I prefer to call this trait harmonic intensity.2 The harmonic theory of affect to be developed in this book takes its name from this feature. To reiterate, following Whitehead, richness of feeling is to be defined here as an intensive feature, called harmonic intensity, which is constituted by strength and diversity of contrast. Once harmonic intensity is brought to our attention, it is easy to think of examples of enjoyment—common peaks of experience—that are marked by this feature. In particular, harmonic intensity is frequently found in our enjoyment of music, sport, festivity, and other activities distinguished by a constant flux of diverse and vivid qualities. We can also find harmonic intensity in simpler, more fleeting pleasures: in Chap. 5, I will use the taste of strawberry and cheese as an example. At this point, we need not enter into descriptive detail. All that matters for now is that we can confirm that the trait of harmonic intensity—strength of contrast compounded by diversity—can be found in a wide variety of positive feelings. But also, and just as importantly, we should be able to confirm that harmonic intensity does not apply to all positive feelings. Our enjoyment of a multicolored tapestry might have harmonic intensity, but a pleasant taste of dark chocolate apparently does not. And a pleasantly cool breeze? Moreover, what about pain? Are we to understand the badness of pain as merely the lack of harmonic intensity? Just from these examples it should be clear that Whitehead’s harmonic definition of richness—and, indeed, any attempt to understand affect as enrichment—is confronted by a number of serious obstacles. Here are

 Whitehead himself described intensity in terms of harmony. See Whitehead (1933/1967, pp. 252–253). The idea of harmony as the mutual enhancement of diverse things can be found in both ancient Greek and ancient Chinese texts. See Li (2008). 2


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three major challenges to the enrichment approach as it has been described so far. Many good feelings are not marked by a high degree of harmonic intensity. This is the point just made. Even if many common varieties of enjoyment can be characterized by harmonic intensity, the enrichment approach implies that all good feelings can be so characterized, and this is clearly not the case. Many good feelings are lacking in either the strength or the diversity that constitute richness according to the definition just provided. Many sensory pleasures are strong but notably lacking in diversity—think of the pleasing taste of fresh mint, for instance, or the vivid blue of a clear sky—while a wide variety of soothing or relaxing feelings seem to be pleasing precisely because of their lack of strength. Perhaps another definition of richness might cover a wider variety of good feelings, but as long as it excludes some good feelings the challenge to the enrichment approach is the same: however we define richness, if richness determines goodness there can be no exceptions. Differences of harmonic intensity, insofar as they are discriminable, do not account for the felt difference between good and bad feelings. This point can be seen as an extension of the previous one. If goodness is determined by richness qua harmonic intensity, then not only should we not find any good feelings that are notably lacking in richness, but also we should find that all good feelings are notably richer than all bad feelings and we should not be able to find a single example of a bad but notably rich feeling. Some may be confident that there are plenty of clear exceptions to these rules. But even if we are not so confident, just this tentativeness poses a serious problem. How could something so incontrovertible as the difference between good and bad feeling be determined by something that we cannot discriminate with confidence? And even if it were more clearly discriminable, how could a graded continuum account for the difference between good and bad feeling? Are not bad feelings marked by a forceful negative quality of their own and not just a lack of positivity? Thus, there is a further question about whether harmonic intensity is sufficient to account for the distinctiveness and power of good and bad feelings.

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It is difficult to conceive how the various special features of conscious awareness could be explained by a continuum of harmonic intensity. This third challenge is more theoretical than phenomenological and it belongs specifically to pan-experientialist versions of the enrichment approach. Much more will be said about this challenge later on; for now, the following points will suffice. First, any enrichment approach that purports to give a naturalistic account of experience must take up a position on the place of experience in nature. Thus, if harmonic intensity is to be understood as an essential trait of experience it must be shown that it does not “float unsupported.” On the other hand, even if we suppose that the enrichment of experience belongs to a continuum of harmonic intensity that extends throughout nature, we must still account for the apparent discontinuity between our own conscious and non-conscious states. At first blush, degree of harmonic intensity does not seem adequate to this difference (see Chap. 6 for further elaboration of this point). By laying out these challenges, I hope to give the reader a sense of the why and wherefore of the arguments to be presented in this book. Without some appreciation of the difficulty of these challenges, it will be difficult to understand why my development of the enrichment approach takes a speculative turn toward the causal dynamics of conscious feeling. On the other hand, without some appreciation for the promise of this approach, it will be difficult to understand why it is worth trying to salvage. The promise of the enrichment approach is indicated by experiences in which enjoyment is marked by increased harmonic intensity. It should be evident that we do feel more or less richly in this sense; the harmonic intensity of experience does vary. Furthermore, it should be evident that in some cases this variation is inherently connected to the felt value of experience. At least within a limited range of experiences, then, the concept of harmonic intensity manages to capture the affective enrichment of experience. Despite its limitations, it seems to provide an important clue about the kind of theory we are looking for.


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The Causal Enrichment of Experience We are nearly ready to present an initial statement of the central thesis of this book: a statement of what constitutes the affective enrichment of experience. But first it is necessary to introduce a few additional concepts. In the previous section, harmonic intensity was introduced as a feature of the contents of experience. To meet the challenges just discussed, I will argue that we should think of affective enrichment as a non-perceptual feeling of harmonic intensity pertaining to the differentiated-ness of conscious feeling. The concept of non-perceptual feeling comes from Whitehead’s distinction between feelings of “presentational immediacy” and feelings of “causal efficacy” (1927/1959). Roughly speaking, feelings of the former type make up the content of consciousness, including all objects of perception and thought, while the latter pertain to the active determination of this content—its occurrence, happening, or coming into being—and to the causal context within which this determination occurs. The latter feelings are non-perceptual because they cannot made into objects of feeling; they pertain to the active constitution of all objective content as such. But insofar as they make a difference to how this content is felt, they are part of experience, and are thus ideal candidates for the determinants of affective tone. Whitehead’s identification of non-perceptual feelings with the causal context of consciousness suggests that we can learn about affect from scientific theories of the neural dynamics associated with conscious experience. The concept of differentiated-ness is a critical piece of the theory to be developed in this book, as it allows for the enrichment approach to be extended to the causal dynamics of consciousness. My thinking about differentiated-ness is heavily indebted to a family of “neurodynamic” theories of perception and consciousness (e.g., Kelso 1995; Freeman 2000; Edelman and Tononi 2000; Spivey 2006; Northoff and Huang 2017; for overviews, see Cosmelli et al. 2007; Breakspear 2017), about which I will have more to say in Chap. 5. Here the key point is that for this approach one of the distinguishing features of neural activity that supports conscious experience is its high degree of differentiation

1 Introduction 


(Edelman and Tononi 2000; Tononi 2015). This means that each and every conscious brain state is believed to be determined as such in relation to a large number of possible alternative states. Put another way, each conscious state is determined in relation to all the other states belonging to the dynamic repertoire of integrated brain-wide activity that many believe constitutes the neural correlate of consciousness. The dynamic repertoire of a system is the subset of states that are presently accessible to that system. For present purposes, the most critical feature of the dynamic repertoire of consciousness is that it is constantly evolving at nearly the same timescale as consciousness itself. Moreover, as the dynamic repertoire of consciousness evolves, it “expands” and “contracts,” altering the relational context—the causal context—within which conscious feelings are determined from moment to moment. Based on this view of the neural basis of consciousness, it can be inferred that as the dynamic repertoire of consciousness changes, so does the differentiated-ness of the conscious states that are specified within this repertoire. That is to say, as the conscious repertoire “expands” and “contracts,” conscious states can be more or less differentiated. This picture of how differentiated-ness changes in relation to changes of the conscious repertoire seems to be supported by experimental research, at least insofar as these features are related to measures of the complexity of brain activity associated with consciousness (see Northoff and Lamme 2020). The next step—which is more of an imaginative leap—is key. In this book I will argue that the differentiated-ness of conscious states is part of experience, as it belongs to the way in which conscious feelings are determined. In short, I will claim that consciousness includes non-perceptual feelings of its own changing differentiated-ness and, moreover, I will claim that this changing differentiated-ness is felt as changes of harmonic intensity. Thus, in a sense, every feeling has two sources of harmonic intensity: in addition to whatever harmonic intensity is achieved by the qualitative contents of experience (e.g., a contrast between blue and yellow), every conscious feeling also includes a non-perceptual feeling of the harmonic intensity achieved by the causal differentiation of these contents (the determination of blue and yellow in relation to other possible contents). In support of these claims, I will make an elaborate “bridge argument”— essentially, a theory of causation as contrastive determination—that


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connects Whiteheadian concepts of contrast and harmonic intensity with the nonlinear dynamics associated with consciousness. In so doing, I hope to make a plausible case for thinking of affect as the causal enrichment of experience. Now, putting all these pieces together, the main thesis of this book can be stated as follows: affect is a non-perceptual feeling of the changing differentiated-­ness of experience as indexed by changes of harmonic intensity. This thesis should not be treated as a description of our experience of affect. Rather, it is an inference—what C.S. Peirce called an abduction— about how to understand and account for this experience. But it is not a physiological explanation. It is a metaphysical thesis, in the naturalistic sense exemplified by the philosophies of Dewey and Whitehead: it defines affect in terms of generic traits that in principle should be applicable to any natural process. Accordingly, it should also be capable of being elaborated into a full-fledged theory of affect that can be tested against our experience as well as relevant fields of scientific research. Some of this work is undertaken in the later chapters of the book. In anticipation of those arguments, here is a preview of two of the most important implications of this thesis for our understanding of affect. First, the thesis implies that a relatively simple feeling—such as might be had when looking up at a clear blue sky—can be more or less differentiated within the present dynamic repertoire of consciousness, and thus can be felt with more or less harmonic intensity. Also, two conscious feelings with roughly the same qualitative contents—two tastes of chocolate, for example—can be felt with more or less harmonic intensity depending on how these contents are differentiated. Thinking of affect this way, as the “implicit richness” of a feeling’s causal determination rather than the “explicit richness” of its contents, allows for the enrichment approach to be developed into a more complete theory of affect that covers all varieties of pleasure and pain. Second, the thesis implies that changes of affect are directly related to our changing capacity to feel, which is enriched or impoverished according to how the conscious repertoire evolves as we engage continuously with our surroundings. In later chapters I will argue that the connection between our changing capacity to feel and harmonic intensity helps to explain why relatively low levels of the latter are felt as negative. In other

1 Introduction 


words, the connection between harmonic intensity and our evolving repertoire is what explains the bipolarity of affect. This initial statement still leaves a great deal to be explained, of course. It is not yet clear how this theory is supposed to be tested against evidence from consciousness studies and affective science. What is worse, there is no hint of how the theory can be tested against experience. Where do we find evidence for the differentiated-ness of feeling and its connection to affect? Insofar as affect is not the kind of trait that can be picked out and examined, we cannot directly verify the claim that affect is a non-­ perceptual feeling of harmonic intensity. Nevertheless, a theory of affect must be somehow testable against experience. As I have just indicated, one of the main tasks of this book is to show how changes of harmonic intensity are connected to our changing capacity to feel; I will also explore connections to other basic features of consciousness, especially awareness of change, awareness of meaning, and awareness of self. In the last chapter I will show how the theory can be used to distinguish two broad categories of positive experience, which I call pleasure and enjoyment, and to explain some of the special features of human enjoyment. Here, to give an initial sense of how the theory applies to experience, I briefly show how it can be used to understand the paradox of enjoyable sadness in music.

The Enjoyment of Sadness in Music There are many ways to frame this problem, not to mention the more general “paradox of tragedy” to which it belongs (Levinson 2014). Most approaches either deny that the problematic negative emotion is really felt—we are not actually saddened by music—or argue that gratification comes from something achieved as a result of the experience of negative emotion but not the experience itself. My approach takes the paradox at face value. Let us stipulate that at least in some cases we are saddened by music and yet somehow this experience of sadness is gratifying in itself. The question then becomes: what makes musically induced emotion different, such that it is possible to find deep satisfaction in a song about heartbreak (Benzon 2001)?


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The composer Felix Mendelssohn famously wrote that the emotions experienced through music are too “definite” (bestimmte) for words (1842/2019; see also Langer 1942/1996, pp.  222–245). The increased specificity of musically induced emotion may not be something we can easily verify, but it does seem to be supported by our experience of the fineness of musical expression. Especially if we compare the nuances of different but equally masterful performances of the same piece, we see (or rather hear) that an experience of sadness in music is more accurately described as a very particular emotional feeling that we may categorize as sad but is, in fact, much finer than any word can describe. Even more precise terms such as “melancholy” and “anguish” fall well short of the fineness of musical feeling. Yet this fineness is only part of what makes music so compelling, and it is only part of what I mean by differentiated-­ ness. The other part is the strength and power of musical feeling, its capacity to fascinate and to incite strong emotion. When strength and fineness combine in a single feeling, as we find in feelings of musical emotion, the result is a feeling that is both fine and vivid—one could say that it is vividly fine. The fine and vivid character of musical emotion is manifest in the way that emotion becomes more palpable when experienced through music. We do not just feel emotion in music, we hear it: music presents us with an aural image that imbues our feeling of emotion with the richness of perceptual experience. In music, the powerful but elusive character of emotion is given a “visage” on which we can “gaze.” The musical rendering of emotion in perceptualized form suggests something of the crystalizing effect achieved by finding a name for a feeling that has haunted the edges of our awareness, but the vividness of musically rendered emotion is far more striking, and its fineness goes beyond any name we could give it.3 If this analysis of the experience of musical emotion is on the right track, it suggests a way to resolve the paradox of tragedy. When we are gratified by the experience of being moved to tears by a heartbreaking piece of music, we are saddened by the music, but we experience sadness  This idea of fineness is related to the concept of emotional granularity developed by Lisa Feldman Barrett and others. See Barrett (2006), Lindquist and Barrett (2008), Smidt and Suvak (2015), Barrett and Schulkin (2017). 3

1 Introduction 


in a special way that rarely occurs when actually grieving over a broken heart. As indicated by the preceding discussion, there are two main differences between musical and non-musical experiences of emotion: the perceptualized form of musical emotion and its extraordinary fine and vivid character. The first seems to be the cause of the second. If we can assume that musically induced emotion is more or less the same as its non-musical counterpart in other respects, then it seems that these two differences hold the key to the musical transfiguration of a bad feeling of sadness (crying over a broken heart) into a good feeling of sadness (being moved to tears by a song about heartbreak). In turn, this transfiguration suggests something about good and bad feelings in general: perhaps all good feelings share something of the fine and vivid character of musical emotion, while all bad feelings are deficient in this same respect. Now, although the preceding example is offered in support of the harmonic theory of affect, its import must be carefully qualified. In my view, the enjoyment of music is singularly expressive of the nature of good feelings, but it is not representative. That is, the enjoyment of music provides important clues about the nature of all good feelings, but to understand these clues we must recognize and account for the fact that not all good feelings are like the enjoyment of music. And one of the fundamental dissimilarities that must be recognized is that many good feelings plainly do not manifest the fine and vivid character that I have just singled out as the key to the musical enjoyment of sadness. This problem is the same as the first challenge presented above in connection with the enrichment approach: fine and vivid character is another way of glossing the richness that distinguishes some but not all good feelings. What makes the preceding example so revealing is the suggestion that music enriches emotion by rendering it in perceptualized form. Again, to be clear, this kind of enrichment is not common to all good feelings. It is, rather, a common trait of aesthetic enjoyment, which is a particular kind of good feeling. But the good feeling of musically perceptualized emotion is doubly significant for our understanding of affect in general. First, it makes manifest the connection between enrichment qua differentiated-­ness and good feeling. Differentiated-ness actually shows up in musical experience as a trait of perceptualized emotion, and a


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comparison with non-perceptualized “negative emotions”—emotions that normally feel bad—suggests that this increased differentiated-ness, rather than perceptualization per se, is what makes the difference between good and bad feelings in general. Perceptualized emotion is thus an explicit version of the increased differentiated-ness that constitutes all good feelings. Second, the phenomenon of perceptualized emotion suggests the presence within consciousness of a vast realm of non-perceptual feeling. After all, most of the time, emotions are felt without the aid of music, and the distinctly perceptual character of musical emotion points up the fact that, except for a few vague bodily feelings, the feelings that we identify with the specifically affective impact of emotion are non-perceptual.

Systematic Considerations As I have already indicated, this project is beset by a number of special challenges related to the nature of the problem of affect and my attempt to undertake a systematic approach that bypasses the usual groundwork of philosophical system-building. The remainder of this chapter is dedicated to a more in-depth discussion of these challenges for the purpose of providing additional orientation and justification for the arguments to follow. Additional justification is needed, I think, because systematic arguments are at a distinct disadvantage in contemporary academic culture. Even in philosophy, systematic arguments are widely eschewed, although the reasons for this are seldom made clear. There is lingering confusion about the problems of speculative thinking (e.g., metaphysics), on the one hand, and the problems of systematic thinking, on the other. These kinds of thinking are related, as I will point out below. But their treatment in recent years has been notably different. Especially in the context of analytic philosophy, which began as a rejection of speculative philosophy, many speculative ideas have regained respectability, while systematic arguments—especially if they are new or unfamiliar—still struggle to get a hearing. Why is this?

1 Introduction 


An important clue can be found in the recent surge of interest in panpsychism (aka pan-experientialism) among analytic philosophers. Not too long ago, panpsychism was beyond the pale, dismissed as “extravagant” (McGinn 1997, p. 539). Now it enjoys the support of a growing number of prominent analytic philosophers, including David Chalmers, probably the most recognized name in all of consciousness studies (1996; see Goff et al. 2021). What changed? Panpsychist ideas are no less speculative than they were before. Perhaps only prevailing attitudes toward speculative ideas have changed. But I suggest that what made panpsychism seem really extravagant in the past was its systematic implications for our understanding of nature. Roughly speaking, a systematic argument is one that attempts to persuade us to change our way of thinking about multiple topics, pretty much all at once. That kind of extravagance remains dubious in the eyes of most philosophers. And if we look at the way panpsychism has developed in the past few decades, we see that it is usually treated in ways that play down its systematic implications. This way of treating panpsychism reflects a pronounced tendency in contemporary philosophy—and in academic culture at large—to prefer piecemeal approaches over systematic reconstruction. One of the main reasons for this preference is that a piecemeal approach allows for problems to be defined with maximum clarity and rigor, which in turn allows for work on these problems to be converted into an area of specialized expertise. Thus, I suggest that panpsychism has gained wider acceptance in philosophy precisely to the degree that it has been converted from a systematic but vague proposal about experience and nature into a set of more well-defined problems (e.g., the problem of combination) that can be worked on in piecemeal fashion by small communities of experts. The preference in academia for piecemeal work goes a long way toward explaining why analytic discussions of panpsychism focus so heavily on the version that stems from Bertrand Russell, while alternative varieties stemming from Alfred North Whitehead and the classical pragmatists— the main influences of the present work—are rarely even mentioned. Perhaps intellectual chauvinism is partly to blame (Russell is a canonical figure for analytic philosophers, Whitehead is not), but the explanation that is most consistent with the way panpsychism has developed in recent years has to do with the systematic nature of these alternatives. Whitehead’s


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version of panpsychism (if it can be called that4) is particularly resistant to piecemeal treatment. Indeed, Whiteheadian panpsychism is almost impossible to articulate without getting into the details of the philosophical project from which it derives—a systematic attempt to revise our understanding of nature (1978). Meanwhile, Russellian panpsychism can be neatly formulated in way that allows it to be simply plugged into the hole that has been left by physical science (Goff 2019, p. 132), leaving the rest of the standard physicalist worldview undisturbed. To be clear, I do not mean to argue that piecemeal philosophy is necessarily bad philosophy. But I hope it is evident that not all problems are amenable to a piecemeal approach. Indeed, I doubt that the current preference for piecemeal philosophy is predicated on the assumption that a piecemeal approach is always best. Rather, as I have suggested, it has more to do with the disciplinary constraints of contemporary academic philosophy. Some of the special challenges confronting the present project should now be clear. Systematic philosophy is the antithesis of piecemeal philosophy. When we are faced with a difficult and complex problem, a piecemeal approach tries to break this problem down into a set of more precisely formulated questions, while systematic approach tries gain leverage in a very different way, by reconceiving the problem—and much more besides—within a different conceptual framework. In principle, this does not mean that one is better than the other. But in practice it means that systematic arguments nearly always suffer by comparison, because it is extremely difficult to make systematic arguments that can be evaluated according to well-established standards belonging to a single area of expertise. By their very nature, systematic arguments do not belong to well-circumscribed areas of expertise except where classic examples of systematic philosophy—e.g., Hegel’s philosophy—are made into objects of scholarly study. Accordingly, most attempts at actually doing systematic philosophy come off as just bad, inexpert philosophy.

 Philosophers who are influenced by Whitehead (myself included) often prefer to use alternate terms such as panexperientialism or panprotoexperientialism. These terms do not clarify anything, however. At best they serve, like Peirce’s pragmaticism, to prevent appropriation and misuse. 4

1 Introduction 


Of course, some attempts at systematic philosophy are bad. What I am pointing out is the possibility that our ability to make good systematic arguments, or at least better ones, is hampered by the fact that we lack a clear sense of how to judge them. This may sound like special pleading; I hope it is not. Opening up a space for systematic philosophy should not be just a matter of lowering our standards and expectations. What is required is a clearer sense of what systematic arguments are, the contexts in which they are undertaken, how they are developed, how they are supposed to work, and what we are hoping to accomplish through them. To conclude this Introduction, I will try to be as clear as possible about how I see these aspects of systematic philosophy, moving toward a preview of the abbreviated form of systematic philosophy that I undertake in this book. Drawing from the examples of Whitehead, the classical pragmatists, and the tradition of systematic speculative philosophy that follows after them, I present here a simplified and somewhat idealized picture of systematic philosophy as experimental inquiry. The most concise definition of systematic philosophy as an experimental enterprise comes from Robert Cummings Neville, one of the great systematic philosophers of our time: systematic philosophy is “thinking things together that would otherwise have to be thought separately” (2018, p.  165; cf. Sellars 1962). I call this the “humble definition,” because it contains no reference to the Big Ideas that we normally associate with philosophical system-building: no first principles, metaphysical categories, or categorical schemes. Systematic philosophy does involve the use of highly abstract concepts—I will have more to say about this shortly—but it is important to keep in mind that its abstract concepts and schemes are tools for exploring new ways of thinking things together. When things cannot be thought together, the resulting gap constitutes a limitation on how different parts of experience can inform one another. It is a barrier to inquiry. By developing new ways of thinking things together, systematic philosophy should help to remove these barriers and thereby lead to the improvement of thought. Unfortunately, this pragmatic orientation is too often obscured by images of systematic philosophy as a grand edifice built on unshakable foundations. Although some systems have an architectonic grandeur that is aesthetically satisfying, philosophical system building should not be undertaken for its own sake.


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General claims about reality should not be treated as foundational but rather as hypotheses to be tested by their capacity to expand and enrich our thinking about more specialized topics. The value of a system is found in its fruits for inquiry. Another critical point is that the context in which we undertake systematic philosophy is one in which various kinds of systematic thinking are already operative, often in ways that are not clearly recognized, articulated, or understood. I suspect that those who are most adamantly opposed to systematic philosophy assume that systematic thinking is a uniquely philosophical vice, a temptation to thinkers of a certain ilk. The best response to this view is to point out the persistent and pervasive influence of systems of thought that are rarely acknowledged as such and show that systematic philosophy is essential to awareness and critique of this influence. For example, much of what goes by the name of scientific naturalism or physicalism is a vestige of an enormously influential philosophical system—Newtonian mechanistic philosophy—that today enjoys the special privilege of having entered so deeply into our thinking about nature that it is no longer recognized as a system and no longer begs to be defended as such. In this context, the best systematic critique does not simply point out the gaps in our view of nature: it uncovers the ways in which scientific inquiry is held back by systematic presuppositions that have outlived their usefulness. Recognition of the persistent gap between mind and nature in modern thought is important, but it does not get at the systematic roots of the problem. It takes a thinker like Whitehead to trace this gap to something so abstract as the “fallacy of simple location” (1925/1967)—the idea that natural phenomena are confined to finite regions of space and time—and to draw out the implications of this fallacy for our thinking about mind and nature. We are not concerned here with the details of Whitehead’s critique of the fallacy of simple location. But for present purposes it is helpful to note the extraordinary abstraction of the idea of simple location and its near ubiquity as a presupposition of thought. At least until recently, simple location has been presupposed by nearly all scientific thinking about nature (see Smolin 2013). It is also presupposed by everyday thinking about how things are located in the world. It is implicitly denied,

1 Introduction 


however, by our commonsense notion of how things participate in our experience of them. In the construction of his systematic philosophy, Whitehead seized upon this “non-simple” way of understanding how things are located in experience and abstracted from it a radically innovative way of thinking about how all things are located in space and time. This example illustrates how systematic philosophy develops new ways of “thinking things together” by a method of abstraction that originates in experience. In this respect it works like many other kinds of thought. In general, thinking with abstractions is a process of selective extraction, generalization, and application of a pattern found in one part of experience to a wider, or at least different, part of experience. This process is basic to scientific thinking; it is also found in many common ways of thinking about life and its problems. When thinking about life, baseball players apply their experience of baseball; dancers apply their experience of dance; entrepreneurs apply their experience of business; and so on. In each case the aim is to clarify a problematic area of experience by giving it a more coherently organized form that is borrowed from another area. Success varies with the aptness of the form and the skill of application. Systematic philosophy differs from these more commonplace varieties of abstract thought in depth and scope but the basic purpose is the same. When things are thought together in a new way, the most immediate benefit—if the process is successful—is the initial clarification, or at least the promise of clarification, brought about by new and greater coherence of thought. However, as important as these initial clarifications are, they are not the end of systematic inquiry. To be really fruitful, systematic arguments must try to “cash out” these insights by drawing out their implications for experience and more specialized kinds of inquiry. Perhaps the most important contribution of systematic philosophy is that it makes our ideas more testable. And with increased testability comes the promise of greater adequacy. In service of these aims of greater coherence, testability, and adequacy, systematic philosophy advances by means of a kind of dialectic—a process of thinking that moves deliberately between different perspectives. What makes systematic dialectic different from other kinds is the way in which this movement involves the progressive articulation of concepts at


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different levels of abstraction. To see how this works, consider the following example. Recent decades have witnessed the emergence of a new systematic approach to cognitive theory called enactive theory (Varela et al. 1991), distinguished by the view that every form of life is in some sense cognitive—aka the “Life-Mind Continuity Thesis” (Thompson 2007). Given the notorious difficulty of defining life and mind on their own, one might wonder how a thesis about their continuity is supposed to be elucidating. But while scientists and philosophers may not agree on definitions, they do know how to think in fairly detailed ways about various instances of life and mind. Accordingly, as a starting point of inquiry, the continuity thesis suggests that we can advance understanding by drawing new ideas about mind from our thinking about life and vice versa—a kind of dialectic that moves between two areas of thought in search of greater clarification. In addition, most adherents of the life-mind continuity thesis are oriented by a particular theory of the nature of living systems called autopoietic theory (Maturana and Varela 1980). For this approach, then, autopoietic theory is used to “think together” life and mind in a particular way. The special features of systematic dialectical thinking are illustrated by the way in which enactive thought moves between different levels of abstraction and the way in which concepts at all levels are continually revised by this movement. By enabling us to think about one-­celled organisms as cognitive systems and forms of discourse as organisms, this approach generates a wealth of new insights that can be tested against the perspectives of more specialized areas of inquiry. At the same time, enactive theory is revised by this dialectic process as these other perspectives “push back,” asserting that important features of life and mind are left out of the initial version of the theory (see Di Paolo et al. 2018, pp. 107–116). The preceding example shows how the dialectic of systematic thinking involves working with varying levels of vagueness and specificity. As inquiry progresses, life and mind begin as vaguely defined but interrelated concepts and then gradually move together toward greater definition. This vagueness is essential for developing new ways of thinking things together and for revising these ways of thinking in response to feedback. The process is not unlike the way artists begin with a rough, faintly drawn sketch

1 Introduction 


of the whole composition that can be revised once the details start to be filled in. The sketch that lies embedded within the final work is not the same as the sketch with which the artist began. Similarly, I am suggesting that philosophical systems should be thought of as continually revised sketches of how different areas of inquiry fit together. Indeed, one could say that to do their job well systematic arguments need to retain a certain degree of sketchiness: a certain degree of vagueness that calls out for further specification as well as an openness to correction. It is not a weakness for a systematic argument to be unsettled, unfinished, and even a bit dubious, provided that it indicates how its principal ideas and claims can be further specified, tested, and revised. It is time to move on from these general remarks about systematic philosophy toward a characterization of the systematic argument to be developed in this book. As mentioned previously, the present project belongs to a hybrid tradition of pragmatism and process philosophy that adopts a pan-experientialist approach to systematic philosophy. This approach is oriented by a vague thesis about the continuity of experience and nature not unlike the “Life-Mind Continuity Thesis” briefly discussed above. When pan-experientialism is undertaken as systematic philosophy, its purpose is not merely to fill the gaps in our existing frameworks, but to improve our understanding of both experience and nature through the gradual development of a new and different framework. It does this by means of a dialectical process of inquiry that moves between investigations of experience and nature, guided by vague concepts that are designed to help us to think together these areas of inquiry. A succinct description of this dialectic is provided by Dewey in a late essay that expresses his affinity with Whitehead. According to Dewey, he and Whitehead share the view …that experience is a manifestation of the energies of the organism; that these energies are in such intimate continuity with the rest of nature that the traits of experience provide clues for forming ‘generalized descriptions’ of nature…and that what is discovered about the rest of nature (constituting the conclusions of the natural sciences) provides the organs for analyzing and understanding what is otherwise obscure and ambiguous in experience directly had… (1941/1988, p. 125)


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I suggest that this dialectical process of systematic inquiry is not well served by the terms panpsychism or pan-experientialism insofar as these entail the facile attribution of consciousness to everything in nature. To be clear, what makes this attribution facile is the assumption that we already know what consciousness is. As Dewey points out, there is much that is “obscure and ambiguous in experience directly had.” Accordingly, it is extremely difficult to judge the adequacy of our ideas about the nature of experience, and this obscurity is a good part of what makes progress on the problem of consciousness so difficult. In light of this difficulty, the pan-experientialism of Whitehead and Dewey is best understood as a distinctive orientation toward, rather than a specific claim about, experience and nature: it is an attempt to gain traction on difficult problems by coupling our investigations of experience with our investigations of the rest of nature. The argument presented in this book is a highly abbreviated version of this dialectic, as it is almost wholly concerned with the nature of experience, and even more specifically with the question of how to understand the nature of affect and its role in experience. However, the abstract concepts that it uses to investigate experience—contrast and harmonic intensity—are products of this dialectic as it has already been carried out within a tradition of systematic philosophy that runs through Peirce, James, Dewey, Mead, Whitehead, Langer, and many others. This tradition of systematic philosophy can be distinguished as a whole by the following insight: many of the deepest incoherencies and most persistent inadequacies of modern thought stem from the way in which basic features of experience are excluded from prevalent ways of thinking about nature. Notice how vague this last statement is. It does not specify the basic features of experience or tell us how we should revise our concepts of nature so as to include them. Each of the thinkers listed in the previous paragraph developed a different systematic response to this challenge. For the present project, perhaps the two most important features of experience that need to be incorporated into our view of nature are value and relation. Now, without further definition, value and relation are extremely vague concepts, so much so that it is hard to say whether and how they fit into

1 Introduction 


standard views of nature. Indeed, according to some definitions they are already well incorporated into scientific frameworks of explanation. In the next chapter I will have much more to say about the specious use of value concepts in science. With respect to relation, let it suffice to point out that what is missing from our concept of relation in nature—at least as commonly represented in formal, mathematical terms—is the sense of causal connection and influence that attends our experience of relation. Hume famously claimed that we have no such experience. Perhaps he came to this conclusion because he was attached to a particular idea of causation or a particular idea of what it means to experience something. In any case, the pragmatist/process tradition of systematic philosophy is founded in large part on the rejection of Hume’s view of experience (Smith 1999, pp. 8–11). Pace Hume, it avers that experience includes a variety of feelings of causal relation, including feelings of tension and release, repellence and attraction, harmony and discord. Notice that these feelings of causal relation all carry with them suggestions of value. What to make of this connection? The main ideas of this book stem from Whitehead’s insight that the features of relation and value can be thought together with the concepts of contrast and harmonic intensity. With these concepts, relational aspects of experience can be thought of as values, and valuational aspects can be thought of as relations. As I will explain further in Chap. 5, contrast and harmonic intensity can be discerned as basic features of experience from which it is possible to extract a set of abstract ideas that can be used to think feeling, value, and causation together. In this book I enact an abbreviated version of this systematic approach, moving from an exposition of contrast and harmonic intensity as features of experience almost immediately to their application to the causal dynamics of consciousness. The “cosmological background” on which the argument depends is reduced to four postulates about the nature of causation. These postulates are introduced in Chaps. 5 and 6 and explained only as required to advance the argument about the affective nature of consciousness. The sacrifice of all the argumentation that would normally be deployed to explain and defend these claims as part of a full-­ fledged theory of causation is the main gambit of this book. My hope is that this move is justified by whatever advances in understanding are


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achieved by the theory of experience to be developed in the following pages. But regardless of the success of the present project, I am convinced that systematic approaches need not always build their arguments “from the ground up,” that is, through successive stages of decreasing generality and abstraction. As I have tried to indicate in my brief discussion of the dialectical process of systematic thinking—and the metaphor of the artist’s revisable sketch—systematic inquiry can leave abstract levels unfinished as speculative theses are tested out within a more specialized area of inquiry. For this abbreviated form of systematic philosophy to work, at least the following conditions must be met. First, the special challenges and risks of attempting a systematic approach should be justified by the nature of the problem. The entire first part of this book is devoted to an exposition of the systemic nature of the problem of affect and its resistance to piecemeal efforts at resolution. Second, it is important to be transparent about the systematic background of the theory on offer. This condition is met by these introductory remarks and the concluding chapter, as well as the expression of the cosmological background of my argument in the form of four postulates. Third, the theory should be presented in a way that allows for it to be tested against experience as well as relevant areas of more specialized inquiry. This condition is met in the first part by the systematic exposition of the problem of affect in relation to multiple fields of scientific research and in the second part by the systematic development of the main theory in relation to basic traits of consciousness.

References Asma, Stephen T., and Rami Gabriel. 2019. The Emotional Mind. Harvard University Press. Aydede, Murat. 2014. How to Unify Theories of Sensory Pleasure: An Adverbialist Proposal. Review of Philosophy and Psychology 5 (1): 119–133. Barrett, Lisa Feldman. 2006. Solving the Emotion Paradox: Categorization and the Experience of Emotion. Personality and Social Psychology Review 10 (1): 20–46.

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Barrett, Nathaniel F., and Jay Schulkin. 2017. A Neurodynamic Perspective on Musical Enjoyment: The Role of Emotional Granularity. Frontiers in Psychology 8: 2187. Benzon, William. 2001. Beethoven’s Anvil: Music in Mind and Culture. New York: Basic Books. Block, Ned, Own Flanagan, and Güven Güzeldere, eds. 1997. The Nature of Consciousness: Philosophical Debates. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Breakspear, Michael. 2017. Dynamic Models of Large-Scale Brain Activity. Nature Neuroscience 20 (3): 340–352. Chalmers, David J. 1996. The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory. Oxford: Oxford Unviersity Press. Colombetti, Giovanna. 2014. The Feeling Body: Affective Science Meets the Enactive Mind. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Cosmelli, D., J.  Lachaux, and E.  Thompson. 2007. Neurodynamics of Consciousness. In The Cambridge Handbook of Consciousness, ed. P.D. Zelazo, M.  Moscovitch, and E.  Thompson, 731–752. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Crane, Tim. 2019. A Short History of Philosophical Theories of Consciousness in the 20th Century. In Philosophy of Mind in the Twentieth and Twenty-first Centuries, ed. Amy Kind, 78–103. London: Routledge. Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly. 1990. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. New York: Harper & Lee. Damasio, Antonio. 1994. Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons. Dewey, John. 1929/1958. Experience and Nature. New York: Dover. ———. 1934/1980. Art as Experience. New York: Putnam. ———. 1941/1988. The Philosophy of Whitehead. In John Dewey, The Later Works, 1925–1953. Volume 14: 1939–1941, ed. J.A.  Boydston, 123–140. Carbondale and Edwardsville, IL: Southern Illinois University Press. Di Paolo, Ezequiel A., Elena Clare Cuffari, and Hanne De Jaegher. 2018. Linguistic Bodies: The Continuity between Life and Language. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Doucleff, Michaeleen. 2012. Anatomy of a Tear-Jerker. Wall Street Journal, February 11. Edelman, Gerald M., and Giulio Tononi. 2000. A Universe of Consciousness: How Matter Becomes Imagination. New York: Basic Books.


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Fedrickson, Barbara L. 2001. The Role of Positive Emotions in Positive Psychology: The Broaden-and-Build Theory of Positive Emotions. American Psychologist 56 (3): 218–226. Feldman, Fred. 1997. On the Intrinsic Value of Pleasures. Ethics 107: 448–466. Freeman, Walter J. 2000. How Brains Make Up Their Minds. New  York: Columbia University Press. Frijda, Nico. 2009. On the Nature and Function of Pleasure. In Pleasures of the Brain, ed. K.C.  Berridge and M.L.  Kringelbach, 99–112. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Goff, Philip. 2019. Galileo’s Error: Foundations for a New Science of Consciousness. New York: Vintage. Goff, Philip, William Seager, and Sean Allen-Hermanson. 2021. Panpsychism. In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2021 Edition), ed. Edward N. Zalta. https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2021/entries/panpsychism/. Grahek, Nikola. 2007. Feeling Pain and Being in Pain. 2nd ed. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Helm, Bennet W. 2002. Felt Evaluations: A Theory of Pleasure and Pain. American Philosophical Quarterly 39 (1): 13–30. James, William. 1890/1983. The Principles of Psychology. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. ———. 1899/1977. What Makes a Life Significant? In The Writings of William James: A Comprehensive Edition. Ed. John J. McDermott, 645–660. University of Chicago Press. Kahneman, Daniel. 2000. Experienced Utility and Objective Happiness: A Moment-Based Approach. In Choices, Values, and Frames, ed. D. Kahneman and A. Tversky, 673–692. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Katz, Leonard D. 2016. Pleasure. In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2016 Edition), ed. Edward N.  Zalta. https://plato.stanford.edu/ archives/win2016/entries/pleasure/. Kelso, J.A.S. 1995. Dynamic Patterns. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Köhler, Wolfgang. 1938/1976. The Place of Value in a World of Facts. New York: Liveright. Labukt, Ivar. 2012. Hedonic Tone and the Heterogeneity of Pleasure. Utilitas 24 (2): 172–199. Langer, Susanne. 1942/1996. Philosophy in a New Key. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Levinson, Jerrold. 2014. Suffering Art Gladly: The Paradox of Negative Emotion in Art. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

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Li, Chenyang. 2008. The Ideal of Harmony in Ancient Chinese and Greek Philosophy. Dao 7: 81–98. Lindquist, Kristen A., and Lisa Feldman Barrett. 2008. Emotional Complexity. In Handbook of Emotions, ed. M. Lewis, J.M. Haviland-Jones, and L.F. Barrett, 513–530. New York: Guilford Press. Maturana, Humberto, and Francisco Varela. 1980. Autopoiesis and Cognition: The Realization of the Living. Dordrecht: D. Reidel. McGinn, Colin. 1997. Can We Solve the Mind-Body Problem? In The Nature of Consciousness: Philosophical Debates, ed. N.  Block, O.  Flanagan, and G. Güzeldere, 529–542. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, F. 1842/2019. Letters of Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy from 1833 to 1847. Glasgow: Good Press. Neville, Robert C. 2018. Defining Religion: Essays in Philosophy of Religion. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. Northoff, Georg, and Zirui Huang. 2017. How Do the Brain’s Time and Space Mediate Consciousness and Its Different Dimensions? Temporo-spatial Theory of Consciousness (TTC). Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews 80: 630–645. Northoff, Georg, and Victor Lamme. 2020. Neural Signs and Mechanisms of Consciousness: Is There a Potential Convergence of Theories of Consciousness in Sight? Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews 118: 568–587. Panksepp, Jaak, and Lucy Biven. 2012. The Archaeology of Mind: Neuroevolutionary Origins of Human Emotion. New York: W. W. Norton & Co. Rosenberg, Gregg. 2004. A Place for Consciousness. Oxford University Press. Ryle, Gilbert. 1949/1984. The Concept of Mind. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Schaefer, Donovan. 2019. The Evolution of Affect Theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Sellars, Wilfrid. 1962. Philosophy and the Scientific Image of Man. In Frontiers of Science and Philosophy, ed. Robert Colodny, 35–78. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press. Shapiro, Lisa. 2018. Pleasure: A History. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Sidgwick, Henry. 1874/1967. The Methods of Ethics. London: Macmillan. Smidt, Katharine E., and Michael K.  Suvak. 2015. A Brief, But Nuanced, Review of Emotional Granularity and Emotion Differentiation Research. Current Opinion in Psychology 3: 48–51.


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Smith, John E. 1999. Introduction. In Classical American Pragmatism: Its Contemporary Vitality, ed. S.B. Rosenthal, C.R. Hausman, and D.R. Anderson, 1–11. Chicago: University of Illinois Press. Smolin, Lee. 2013. Time Reborn. New York: Mariner. Spivey, Michael. 2006. The Continuity of Mind. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Thompson, Evan. 2007. Mind in Life: Biology, Phenomenology, and the Sciences of Mind. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Tononi, Giulio. 2015. Integrated Information Theory. Scholarpedia 10 (1): 4164. Tracey, Irene. 2016. Finding the Hurt in Pain. In Cerebrum: The Dana Forum on Brain Science, vol. 2016. Dana Foundation. Varela, Francisco, Evan Thompson, and Eleanor Rosch. 1991. The Embodied Mind: Experience and Cognitive Science. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Whitehead, Alfred N. 1925/1967. Science and the Modern World. New  York: Free Press. ———. 1927/1959. Symbolism: Its Meaning and Effect. New  York: Capricorn Books. ———. 1933/1967. Adventures of Ideas. New York: The Free Press. ———. 1978. Process and Reality: Corrected Edition. Ed. D.R.  Griffin and D. W. Sherburne. New York: Macmillan.

Part I The Problem of Affect

The chapters of Part I are devoted to a systematic exposition of the problem of affect. The goal of this exposition is to be as clear as possible about the peculiar phenomenological challenges of affect while at the same time showing that the problem of affect is much more than a purely phenomenological question about a certain class of feelings. Part I ends with a set of desiderata for a theory of affect that will be used again in the Conclusion (Chap. 10) to summarize the arguments of Part II. The problem of affect needs systematic exposition for a number of reasons, beginning with its tendency to be overlooked or conflated with other problems. Especially in recent decades, the problem of affect has been eclipsed by the problem of consciousness, which is usually defined as the problem of sense qualities or qualia like the color red. Although affect also belongs to the ineffable “what it is like” to be something, the experience of affect presents a number of special challenges that are distinct from those associated with qualia. At the same time, the problem of affect is much more deeply implicated in our understanding of emotion, thought, and behavior. Thus, although affect is arguably even more elusive than qualia from a phenomenological standpoint, unlike qualia it cannot be so easily relegated to an epiphenomenal realm. Indeed, I believe that the problem of affect offers an important but neglected inroad into the problem of consciousness. To take advantage of this opportunity,


The Problem of Affect

however, it is necessary to distinguish the problem of affect from the problem of qualia and to explore its systematic implications. Chapter 2, “The Problem of Value in Scientific Explanation,” reveals the systematic nature of the problem of affect through an examination of value concepts—especially concepts of reward and punishment—in psychology and neuroscience. My thesis is that these concepts depend in an unacknowledged way on two common fallacies: (1) the idea that the feeling of value shows up as a special quality and (2) the conflation of value and meaning. Chapter 3, “The Core Challenge,” turns to the phenomenological challenge at the core of the problem of affect: the peculiar elusiveness of affective feeling together with its unmistakable presence and power. First, the core challenge is brought into focus through close examination of the notable change of pleasantness that accompanies the binge eating of chocolate. Next, the question of “affect zombies” is used to explore common presuppositions about the nature of affect and its relation to consciousness. Finally, an overview of philosophical debates about the nature of pleasure indicates that the core challenge cannot be surmounted by phenomenological analysis alone. Chapter 4, “Adding Pieces to the Puzzle,” shows how the core challenge is implicated in different areas of affective science, focusing especially on the following issues: (1) the unity of affect; (2) the relation between different dimensions of affect; (3) affect and motivation; (4) affect and emotion; (5) affect and information; (6) affect and cognition.

2 The Problem of Value in Scientific Explanation

In this chapter, I undertake a brief critical examination of value concepts in scientific explanation with the aim of uncovering their connection to affect. Within the larger scheme of this book, the purpose of this critique is to set the stage for a systematic exposition of the problem of affect by indicating some of the other questions with which it is entangled. Specifically, I want to show that the problem of affect is not just a phenomenological issue or a variant of the so-called “hard problem” of consciousness: it is also deeply implicated in the widespread use of value concepts in psychology and neuroscience. By value concepts, I mean the term value itself as well as a variety of concepts connected to affect and motivation, such as reward and punishment. The crux of the matter is the widespread assumption that these concepts can be understood in purely functionalist terms, allowing for them to be deployed in scientific contexts without regard for their experiential nature. Against this assumption, I will argue that the cogency of these value concepts depends on our feeling of value—that is, on affect— in a way that is rarely if ever acknowledged. Moreover, I will argue that behind this unacknowledged dependence is a common but fallacious notion of the nature of these feelings: namely, that they belong to a © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 N. F. Barrett, Enjoyment as Enriched Experience, Palgrave Perspectives on Process Philosophy, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-13790-7_2



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special class distinguished by a kind of discrete quality not unlike the color red. In sum, my claim is that scientific use of value concepts is doubly problematic, as it depends in a hidden way on a false notion of affect. To make this case, I focus on Antonio Damasio’s concept of “biological value” (2010) as a representative example of the functionalist concept of value that is prevalent in psychology and neuroscience.

The Modern Problem of Value First, in preparation for these arguments, in this section I briefly introduce the modern problem of value, with special attention to the way in which this problem has been exacerbated by inattention to the problem of affect. I suggest that our thinking about value is plagued by three fallacies: (1) the fact-value dichotomy; (2) the assumption that value shows up in experience as a distinct quality or sensation; (3) the conflation of value and meaning. The first two fallacies are closely related; an examination of this relation will serve to illustrate my main point about the importance of coming to grips with the problem of affect. The third fallacy is much more subtle, although it too can be exposed by closer attention to affect; in this chapter I will make only a few remarks in preparation for further discussion in later chapters. The fact-value dichotomy refers to a common modern view of facts and values as distinct spheres of reality: simply put, facts refer to “objectively verifiable” states of affairs while values are “merely subjective.” This dichotomy is supported by a common view of how facts and values are grounded in different aspects of experience, namely, the notion that facts have clear and consistent support in the “empirical data” of sense experience while values do not. My main concern in this section is to uncover the problematic notion of affect implied by this dichotomy. But first let us consider how it entails a problematic notion of fact. As pointed out by Hilary Putnam (2002), the fact side of the fact-value dichotomy is closely related to a positivist understanding of knowledge that can be traced back to Hume and Descartes. Positivist notions of fact continue to shape the public image of science, but among philosophers,

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historians and sociologists (not to mention many scientists) positivist epistemology is widely considered to be totally discredited and defunct. Accordingly, where positivism is rejected it is no longer possible to define the problematic subjectivity of values over and against the unproblematic objectivity of facts. For many if not most late-modern intellectuals, there is no pristine realm of value-free science: even the most settled facts are now seen as tainted by subjectivity and value. Once it takes hold, this rejection of positivism leads to what could be called the postmodern collapse of the fact-value dichotomy. Significant though it may be, the postmodern collapse concerns only the fact side of the dichotomy and does not, by itself, prompt any significant change in our understanding of value. Indeed, I would say that the postmodern collapse only deflates the epistemological status of facts, bringing them closer to the humble status of values. The notion of value that is presumed by the dichotomy is left more or less unchanged. And what is this notion? According to Hans Joas (2000), the modern view of value stems from a significant “shift toward subjectivity,” which in turn follows “recognition of the historical contingency of values” (p. 22). In fact, according to Joas, the very term value, at least in modern usage, emerged in the nineteenth century in order to mark the subjective and historicist status of what had been previously understood as the good. Thus, the modern concept of value is defined not only in contradistinction to positivist notions of fact, but also in contradistinction to pre-­ modern notions of the good. Joas’s analysis suggests that the modern problem of value is not simply a product of the modern fact-value dichotomy and its positivist heritage. Rather, it seems that the fact-value dichotomy constitutes a particularly strong and influential reading of the modern problem of value, which is, in turn, an acute version of a much older problem. Indeed, it is helpful to remember that questions about value are not exclusive to the modern West: for instance, witness the profound value skepticism of the ancient Daoist classic, the Zhuangzi (Kjellberg and Ivanhoe 1996). Nevertheless, as expressed by the fact-value dichotomy, the problem of value becomes distinctly modern. How so? I suggest that the key difference has to do a shift in the predominant understanding of the place of subjectivity and related phenomena (e.g.,


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“secondary qualities”) in nature. As with the problem of consciousness, the modern tendency has been to mark off the problematically subjective status of value in dualistic terms, as if its very “mode of being” pertained to a different world apart from nature. This development is not quite the same as what Joas describes as the modern “shift toward subjectivity,” although it is, no doubt, closely related. Subjectivity was not discovered in the modern West, as some have claimed, but perhaps something nearly as momentous did occur: a radical “bifurcation” of nature that placed value and all other subjective phenomena on one side of a deep, ontological divide (Whitehead 1920/1971). Like philosophy of consciousness, modern philosophy of value is defined primarily in reference to this divide. Ironically, it seems that this way of characterizing the problem of value presents such a heavy burden for those who wish to maintain the “objective validity of value judgments” (see below) that questions about our experience of value—that is, about affect—are rarely even asked. This blind spot is indicated by the frequency with which otherwise sophisticated treatments of value commit the second of the three fallacies listed above. Here, for instance, is Joas’s description of the modern demarcation of value in contradistinction to both good and fact: Whereas the ‘good’ could, according to this [pre-modern] tradition, be accorded a status ascertainable either by rational contemplation of the cosmos or through divine revelation, and thus had a ‘being’—even a higher being than other existents—there is attached to the concept of ‘value’ an ineradicable reference to the valuing subject. The metaphysical unity of the true and the good is replaced in the philosophy of value by a dualism between ‘facticity’ and ‘validity,’ between a realm of verifiable facts and, opposed to this, another, peculiar mode of being, in which values and valuations are given. The [modern] philosophy of value does not fix this dualism, but is instead concerned, in its various forms, to bridge it. It is for this reason that the path from the merely subjective value-sensations to value judgments claiming an objective validity is for it so significant, as is the relation between value-sensations and value judgments on the one hand to factual claims on the other. To retreat behind valuation’s reference to subjectivity, however, strikes all representatives of the [modern] philosophy of value as a relapse into bad old metaphysics. (2000, p. 21)

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I have quoted this passage in full because it so clearly describes the dualistic mentality that underlies so many modern approaches to the problem of value even while it reinforces a fallacious notion of our experience of value. Notice that the modern separation of facts and values into separate realms or “modes of being” is presumed to correspond to distinct kinds of experience or states of mind. Granted, this passage is intended to be read as a description rather than an endorsement of the modern view of value. But I find it telling that Jonas does not question the assumption that value judgments are based on “merely subjective value-sensations,” which, it is implied, are somehow distinct from the kinds of sensations that support objective, factual knowledge. On this dualistic reading of experience, the problematic subjectivity of value has to do with the epistemic status of these so-called “value-sensations.” That is, “value-­ sensations” are presumed to be problematic not just because they are subjective but also because (it seems) they fail to be grounded in objectively verifiable conditions. Unlike other sensations (such as the red color of a rose), which we might also deem “merely subjective,” value-­sensations are wayward and idiosyncratic: some like chocolate, others do not. Thus, even while it clarifies certain aspects of the modern problem of value, Joas’s description perpetuates the second of the three fallacies listed above: the assumption that value shows up in experience as a distinct quality or sensation. This notion, that value belongs to a subjectively clear-­cut but objectively ungrounded realm of experience, is perhaps the most enduring legacy of the fact-value dichotomy, as it continues to inform our understanding of the problem of value long after the postmodern collapse of positivism. As we will see in the next chapter, even in philosophy there are those who defend the notion that feelings of value—especially as found in pleasure and pain—are constituted by distinct qualities. If there were such qualities, then the problem of value could be construed more or less along the same lines as other epistemological issues stemming from the modern divide between experience and nature. But if, as I and many others contend, there are no such “value-sensations” in experience, then the problem of value is much more complicated than this. Then again, if there really are no value-sensations, how is it possible that so few have noticed? This question is itself an important part of the problem of affect: we need to account for the features of experience


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that make this fallacy so widespread. In particular, we need to account for the apparent clarity and forcefulness of value in experience. How do we account for these features without distinct qualities or valuesensations? How do we perceive or judge value, if our feelings of value are so vague and elusive? We will return to these questions in the following chapter. Let us now turn to the third fallacy, the conflation of value and meaning. This fallacy is especially tricky, as value and meaning are often so closely intertwined in everyday experience that that it is nearly impossible to tease them apart. Because of this overlap, we often fail to notice when value is conflated with meaning within various philosophical and scientific treatments of affect. Even so, on closer inspection we find abundant evidence for the slippage, if not the separation, of affect and meaning. All of us have had the feeling that something is not quite right without being able to say what it is. In experimental settings, it has been demonstrated that it is possible for us to note a change of affect without being consciously aware of the eliciting stimulus (Sher and Winkielman 2009). It is also possible for us to misconstrue the meaning of our affective state—as when, for example, bad weather influences our perception of overall life satisfaction (Clore and Huntsinger 2007). Perhaps it is even possible to suffer without realizing it—as when, for example, we do not notice that we are disturbed by a noisy air conditioner until it has been turned off (Schwitzgebel 2008). Another common example of affective slippage is the phenomenon of taking enjoyment in sad music, perhaps the most powerful representative of the “paradox of tragedy” (see Introduction and Chap. 9). In such cases, the intensely gratifying nature of an aesthetic experience seems to be incongruous with its negative meaning. These and many other examples indicate that affect, though closely related to meaning, cannot be defined exclusively as special kind of meaning or information—it is not a “value signal.” Accordingly, our feeling of value cannot be reduced to any function that is solely concerned with the determination of meaning. To be clear, I am not denying that feelings of pleasure and pain function as signs of value. On the contrary, I admit that the cognitive and behavioral role of specially dedicated mechanisms of pleasure and pain (nociceptors, etc.) is just this: to produce feelings that

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tell the organism that something—a situation, state, thing, or whatever—is good or bad (Shiota et al. 2021). However, even in this functional capacity, feelings of value cannot be reduced to their function or meaning. To signify value in a way that can effectively modify behavior it is necessary to instantiate value in a way that is directly enjoyed or suffered. Value has no real force or impact on conduct except insofar as it is really felt as such. Thus, feelings of pleasure and pain cannot function as “learning signals” (Christensen 2017) unless they carry some value or disvalue that is directly experienced. Even in their representational capacity, then, feelings of value must be instances of value and not just signs. In other words, affective feelings “stand for” value only by “standing in” as values in their own right. This is a critical point with very wide implications for our understanding of learning and behavior. If mechanisms of “reward” and “punishment” are the basis of learning, all determinations of meaning are dependent on the feeling of value. The key point of the preceding discussion is that wherever the second and third fallacies are widely accepted, there is a tendency to acquiesce in specious explanations that reduce value to a kind of signal—positive or negative “feedback,” error correction, information about the current bodily state, etc. Pain is treated like a red warning light that tells us when things go wrong, while pleasure treated like a green light that indicates that all systems are running smoothly. Of course, no one actually describes affect in such simplistic terms. Nevertheless, I suggest that something like this picture is tacitly presumed by functionalist accounts of value.

The Sails of Theseus For some, the difference between the feeling of value and its signification is evident enough to need no further comment. Others may want more convincing. To clarify the issue, consider the following analogy to the legend of Theseus and the Minotaur. Before setting off to Crete to do battle with the Minotaur, Theseus tells his father, King Aegeus, that if successful he will return with a white sail raised on his ship, but if not, his ship will return (without him) with a black sail. Although Theseus defeats the Minotaur and returns


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triumphant, he forgets his promise. When King Aegeus sees the black sail, he despairs and throws himself into the sea. Now, are not the “value signals” of scientific accounts—all representations of reward and punishment—like the white and black sails of Theseus’s ship? They are no more than signs, although it is easy to mistake them for something more. As so often happens with signs, the sails of Theseus become identified with their meaning and, moreover, with their emotional impact. In King Aegeus’s mind, after brooding anxiously about Theseus’s return during many long months, the white sail comes to be identified with life and rejoicing, the black sail with death and despair. Even so, it is not the black sail or even its meaning that most directly causes King Aegeus to throw himself into the sea. Rather, it is the unbearable anguish that he feels at the thought of his son’s death, a feeling so painful that his desire to be rid of it is stronger than his desire to live. Perhaps some will bite the bullet and insist that somewhere in the brain of King Aegeus this anguish is constituted by signals that are functionally no different from the sails of Theseus’s ship. But I think it is evident that an adequate understanding of King Aegeus’s anguish as a cause of his behavior must resort to something more than a chain of signals. Indeed, I imagine that for some readers this point is so obvious that the analogy serves little purpose. Even so, its obviousness should serve as a warning to pay closer attention to value concepts in scientific explanation. Wherever scientific accounts of value traffic only in signals of value, they talking only of white and black sails. That is, they are talking of signs with no more than an arbitrary connection to the values they represent, but whose reference to matters of vital importance has made them appear as if they were freighted with feeling and emotion.

 Comparison of Köhler and Damasio A on the Problem of Value In this section, the specious nature of value concepts in contemporary scientific explanation is revealed by a comparison of two disparate perspectives: the Gestalt psychologist Wolfang Köhler, writing in 1944, and

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the neurologist and celebrated author Antonio Damasio, writing 65 years later (2010). I will first summarize Köhler’s penetrating analysis of the problem of value for psychology of his day, and then examine Damasio’s theory of “biological value” to show how this problem is elided by present-­day functionalist accounts. Köhler begins his essay, “Value and Fact,” with a general characterization of the problem of value in modern science, and then turns his attention to the ways in which psychologists of his time attempt to circumvent this problem (1944/1971). Then and today, psychology is uniquely challenged by value because, unlike other sciences, it cannot so easily pretend that value is excluded from its purview. It seems that this challenge was even more keenly felt in Köhler’s time, when motivation was “generally recognized as the central issue of psychological inquiry” (p. 361). Even so, Köhler observes that the problem of value is skirted by his contemporaries in two ways. The first is to resort to Darwinian forms of explanation that account for our distinctive “dispositions for value” as adaptations that were selected for in our evolutionary past. This remains a standard approach (see, e.g., Pinker 1997; Bloom 2010). The problem with such adaptationist explanations is that at most they only explain why we have certain value dispositions and not others, while the very nature of a disposition for value is glossed over so that its incongruity with standard scientific notions of “neutral facts” goes unnoticed. Köhler argues that if science accepts a strict dualism between fact and value, then the emergence of any disposition for value cannot be explained the same way as other adaptations like bipedal locomotion. In a “world of facts,” the experience of value is a very special kind of fact. The second way of skirting the issue acknowledges that a disposition for value is a basic property of the human mind but tries to avert or postpone the challenge presented to psychological explanation by lumping this property together with other problematically “subjective” phenomena and bracketing these phenomena for purposes of scientific explanation. This evasive maneuver also remains common today. Against this strategy, Köhler argues that our experience of value cannot be so easily swept aside: in addition to whatever qualities it may entail, it also has


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certain “structural,” “relational,” and “dynamic” features (pp. 366–368) that are essential to our understanding of behavior. In Köhler’s analysis of these features, his most penetrating insight is his observation that value is experienced as having a “demand character that belongs to its very nature”: The plus and the minus signs which are characteristic of all value do not solely indicate that value qualities as such lie in one direction or the opposite with regard to a neutral point. Rather the plus and minus also mean ‘to be accepted, reached, maintained, supported’ and ‘to be avoided, eliminated, changed in the positive direction.’ I am not acquainted with values of which this is not true. No value attribute seems to deserve its name if it has no such demand character. (p. 367)

According to Köhler, the demand character of value and the role that it plays in the determination of human thought and behavior should prevent psychologists from relegating value to the forlorn category of subjective qualities. Demand character is a phenomenal trait—it is ineluctably a felt demand—but it is not causally inert. Indeed, insofar as the feeling of value exerts influence on thought and behavior it can be measured (see Chap. 4). The exact nature of this influence is not discussed in detail by Köhler in this essay (but see his 1938/1976), although it is clear that he considers it to be of utmost importance. The causal efficacy of value is entailed by what he describes as its “structural,” “relational,” and “dynamic” character, which he then compares to certain causal interpretations of “fields” in physics (1944/1971, p.  373). The ground of the comparison is a relation that stems from a “source” and exerts an attractive or repulsive influence. History has not been kind to this approach. In the decades following the publication of this article, Köhler and other Gestalt theorists were derided for their seemingly simplistic application of physical field concepts to brain dynamics. As Köhler himself points out, however, physical concepts of “field” and “force” are not sufficient for describing the distinctive power of value. Another crucial aspect of demand character is that its forcefulness appears to us as “understandably” grounded in “the very nature” of whatever attribute constitutes the value of the object.

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That is to say, the “demand character” of value is not a vector force of attraction or repulsion that simply accompanies the most valued parts of feeling. This is a critical point that can easily be glossed over by the use of terms like positive and negative valence in reference to affect. Our experience of value cannot be reduced to opposing forces. Rather, affective valence bears some kind of “understandable” relationship to the object or attribute from which it arises. When we feel attracted to freshly baked bread or repulsed by a violent outburst, these things have an “objective” attractiveness and repulsiveness that acts as source and rational ground of our attraction or repulsion. Köhler suggests that this is an essential trait of all emotions: that they always “appear adequate with reference to the facts from which they derive” (p. 369). In other words, the “demand character” of value, however forceful, is never just a force: it always has a certain prima facie validity, even if this validity can be questioned. In his longer treatment of the place of value in nature Köhler explicates this validity as “fittingness” (1938/1976). In summary, Köhler’s argument is that a psychological account of value is not complete until it has found some way to explain how feelings of value can have inherently attractive or repulsive “structural” features that are “understandably” grounded in these very same feelings. As I hope to make clear in the following chapters, this is no easy task. And yet in recent years a copious literature concerning the “neuroscience of value” has proceeded as if this task did not even exist (Changeux et al. 2005; Fellows 2011; Grabenhorst and Rolls 2011; Brosch and Sander 2015). Most prominent among these is Antonio Damasio’s view of the biological basis of value in emotion and feeling (2010). Perhaps because of his long-standing interest in the relation between cognition and emotion (1994), Damasio is highly attentive to the fact that our experience is suffused with valuation and, as a result, among neuroscientists he is uniquely sensitive to the questions that are raised by this fact: “Where is the engine for the value systems? What is the biological primitive of value?” (2010, p. 48). Here we will focus on a critical chapter of The Self Comes to Mind (2010), where Damasio attempts to address these questions by developing a theory of “biological value.”


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Damasio’s theory of value is a version of the standard “functionalist-­ adaptationist” approach to biological explanation (see, e.g., Pinker 1997; Bloom 2010), and thus can be seen as a direct descendent of the adaptationist explanation of “value dispositions” critiqued by Köhler in 1944.1 Damasio’s adherence to adaptationism is evidenced by his claim that all biological value, including human value, “relates directly or indirectly to survival” (48). What is distinctive in Damasio’s presentation of this view is the meticulous way in which he deploys the logic of functionalist-adaptationist explanation to connect the mindless mechanisms of “life-regulation” in single-cell organisms to fully conscious feelings of pleasure and pain. His argument begins with the observation that even the simplest forms of life are wonders of self-maintaining biochemistry, governed by rules of homeostatic regulation that are, in turn, prescribed by their genes. In this way, all life can be described as “purposive” and “intentional” as it is driven by a fundamental “attitude” of self-preservation (2010, pp. 35–36). Damasio explains that by using these terms to describe single-cell life he does not mean to diminish consciousness; rather he means to “upgrade” nonconscious life and to suggest that “it constitutes the blueprint for the attitudes and intentions of conscious minds” (p. 36). As life branches outward to include multicellular organisms and animals capable of active movement, the same basic principles of homeostatic “life management” continue to hold sway. Complex, animate organisms must develop a “response policy” that allows for the pursuit of “homeostatic goals” within complexly variable circumstances, and to execute this policy it is necessary to develop incentive mechanisms that enable the organism to respond to urgent needs in a timely manner. At the preconscious level, incentive mechanisms are systems that measure the organism’s current “degree of need” through representations of “(1) the current state

 A functionalist-adaptationist approach explains a phenotypic trait (e.g., feelings of pleasure) in terms of their functional contribution to reproductive fitness in the ancestral environment in which this trait evolved. Adaptationism is the view that all traits can be explained as products of natural selection. 1

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of the living tissue, (2) the desirable state of the living tissue corresponding to the homeostatic goal, and (3) a simple comparison” (p. 53).2 For Damasio, the transition from these unconscious incentive mechanisms to conscious feelings of pleasure and pain is simply another step in the evolutionary process. Darwinian imperatives (survival and genetic transmission) plus basic chemical requirements for life lead to genetically controlled processes of homeostatic regulation, which are eventually elaborated into affective feelings: “optimal [homeostatic] ranges express themselves in the conscious mind as pleasurable feelings; dangerous ranges, as not-so-pleasant or even painful feelings” (55). For Damasio, because the existence of positive and negative feelings seems to be so well accounted for within this framework of adaptive “life regulation,” there does not seem to be anything left to explain: When one looks at most any aspect of brain functions through the filter of this idea—that a brain exists for managing life inside a body—the oddities and mysteries of some of the traditional categories of psychology (emotion, perception, memory, language, intelligence, and consciousness) become less odd and far less mysterious. In fact, they develop a transparent reasonableness, an inevitable and endearing logic. How could we be any different, those functions seem to be asking, given the job that needs to be done? (p. 60)

I suspect that the apparent cogency of this approach to affect has much to do with the self-evidently vital importance of affective regulation—the “job that needs to be done.” But just because we can easily think of good reasons why our behavior should be affectively regulated does not mean that we have thereby explained how this regulation works. Even so, it seems that many scientists are, like Damasio, so impressed with the clarity of their functional-adaptationist accounts that they do not notice the challenges indicated by Köhler. Against the adaptationist explanations of his time, Köhler argued that natural selection can only provide an account of why affective feelings tend to be channeled in certain ways—given the existence of affective  Here Damasio is describing the classic “set-point” theory of homeostasis, which has been sharply criticized by Kent Berridge in an important review of motivation concepts in neuroscience (2004). 2


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feelings, their influence on behavior, and the presence of selection pressures that would lead to their recruitment as incentive mechanisms. This approach effectively explains why we like sweet and fatty foods like cheesecake, for instance (Pinker 1997). However, liking itself remains totally sui generis. There is nothing in the standard adaptationist-­ functionalist framework that explains how affective feelings are achieved by physiological processes or how they came into existence. Now, when stated so baldly this explanatory limitation may seem too obvious to be worth mentioning: it is the familiar problem of consciousness that haunts all attempts at a full scientific explanation of mentality and behavior. But, in fact, this is not my main complaint about the functionalist explanations of affect given by Damasio and others. Let me explain. The most influential formulations of the problem of consciousness (Nagel 1974; Jackson 1986; Chalmers 1996) all grant the possibility—in principle—of giving a functionally or even causally complete account of mind that does not include conscious feelings of any kind. Indeed, this concession is essential to the demarcation of consciousness as a “hard problem” beyond the reach of scientific investigation. Complete knowledge of bat physiology would not give us access to what it is like to be a bat (Nagel 1974); likewise, complete knowledge of the neurophysiology of color vision would not give a colorblind scientist access to the color red (Jackson 1986). Or so the argument goes. The philosophical concept of zombies (Chalmers 1996)—a person who is physically and behaviorally identical to you but lacks consciousness—entails the possibility of a functionally complete account of mind that does not include consciousness. Accordingly, regardless of how these arguments were originally intended, their reception in scientific circles has reinforced the notion that feelings can be disregarded—at least for purposes of functional explanation. Now, insofar as Damasio is purporting to explain our experience of affect in functional terms, it may seem as if he is naïvely ignorant of the limits of functional explanation as set forth by Nagel, Chalmers, and others. I doubt that Damasio is unaware of these arguments or that he means to contravene them, but in any case my critique is different. I do not mean to suggest that Damasio believes that his homeostatic model explains how brain processes give rise to affective feelings. Rather, I am

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suggesting that Damasio’s confidence in the explanatory power of his functional approach is based on a false notion of how value is felt as well as a confusion of value with meaning (the second and third fallacies discussed above). Before we examine how Damasio’s approach falls short, it is important to recognize how far functionalist explanations are supposed to go within the limits established by present-day formulations of the “hard problem” of consciousness. Even if it cannot explain how affective feelings are produced, a functionalist theory of affect can be considered successful insofar as it fulfills two basic criteria: (1) it provides an adequate account of the role of affect in thought and behavior; (2) it corresponds systematically to experience (e.g., it achieves “structural coherence”; Chalmers 1996). I think a good case can be made that homeostatic models like Damasio’s do not adequately fulfill the first criterion. Although some kinds of pleasure and pain (e.g., thirst) are clearly related to basic homeostatic functions, many are not (e.g., enjoyment of music). It possible to deflect this criticism by expanding the homeostatic model so that it applies to any kind of goal-driven behavior. For this expanded model, whenever we experience some variety of pleasure or pain, some kind of homeostatic mechanism is at work and our experience of pleasure or pain is determined by the “ratio” between our current state and whatever goal-state is monitored by this mechanism (Elliot 2008). Although this expansion of homeostatic regulation to include all motivated behavior has been questioned (see Berridge 2004), let us set aside the particular limitations of homeostatic approaches and focus on how functionalist accounts of affect and motivation are supposed to correspond with experience. Admittedly, because the nature of affective experience is rarely specified by functionalist accounts, their correspondence with experience is difficult to evaluate. But given the prevalence of the second and third fallacies, I suspect that most scientists (and a great many philosophers) assume that affect shows up as a distinct quality that functions as a value signal. If so, a functionalist account entails the hypothesis that the function of affective regulation corresponds with the appearance of a special quality. Again, we cannot be sure that these special qualities are being assumed if they are not explicitly posited. But consider how functionalist explanations would work, if such qualities existed. If this were the case,


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the explanatory load of functionalist explanation would be considerably lightened, as affective feeling would be no different from any other “quale”: it would be epiphenomenal, as its appearance would not add anything to the functional role of affect in the determination of thought and behavior. Now let us consider what would happen if advocates of a functionalist approach were to recognize that special affective qualities do not exist. It may seem that functionalists can simply adjust their approach so that the function of affect is presumed to correspond with whatever phenomenal trait modifies experience so as to give it the character of affect and motivation. But the problem is deeper than this. If, as argued by Köhler, the kind of phenomenal trait that is left over by functionalist explanation is not a “merely subjective” quality but rather a dynamic, relational trait whose prima facie validity is essential to its influence on thought and behavior, then there can be no functional explanation of motivation that does not include and account for this trait. Thus, Köhler’s critique of the functionalist-adaptationist accounts of his day (ca. 1944) was very different from the position of most analytic philosophers after Nagel (1974), in that Köhler clearly did not accept the possibility of giving a functionally complete account of mentality without accounting for key traits of experience. This difference has much to do with his view of these traits as dynamic, relational features rather than inert qualities. These arguments may seem overly tenuous, hinging on speculation about how Damasio and other scientists understand the nature of affective feelings. In this regard, my allegation that they unwittingly commit the third fallacy is critical, as this fallacy allows for functionalist accounts of affect to leave its phenomenal character unspecified. It also means that my critique of these accounts does not rest on their having a well-defined view of the phenomenology of affect. Rather, my main criticism is this: functionalists presume that however affective feeling shows up—as a special quality or a more indistinct tone—the function of this feeling is to signify value. I have argued, however, that a mere sign of value does not do “the job that needs to be done”: it does not reward or punish. This inadequacy is easily overlooked because of the ease with which we conflate signs with their meaning and affective-emotional impact, as I tried to show with the sails of Theseus.

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This common conflation can be seen in Damasio’s construction of biological value. First, value is ascribed to mechanisms of life regulation that are essential to survival and reproduction, and then affect is explained as an elaborate form of this value-based life regulation. The first critical misstep in this framework is the way in which value is ascribed to functions whose execution does not depend on any understanding, let alone feeling, of value. Mechanisms of life regulation are not supposed to be intrinsically different from other chemical processes. Therefore, what seems to justify the ascription of value in their case is their close relationship to conditions necessary for life. So really what we are talking about, then, is a function that is vitally important for the organism and thus, in this respect, we can say that this function “has value for the organism.” But insofar as the function is a product of variation and natural section, this value need not be realized by the organism or any component process thereof. Indeed, this is the beauty of explanation by natural selection: in principle, we can understand how value is defined for an organism (in terms of survival) without requiring that the organism have any awareness of this value (Bedau 1998). As applied to homeostatic regulation, then, the term value is really a short-hand for the vitally important nature of these processes and the selection pressures that act on them. But it has nothing to do with how they work. As we transition to affective feelings, however, the way in which value is involved in the explanation changes radically—but this change is neither recognized nor accounted for. Damasio’s attempt to give a functionalist account of value and affect would not be worth examining in such detail if it were not indicative of a much wider pattern of thought among psychologists and neuroscientists (e.g., Bloom 2010; Rolls 2005). My contention is that the ease with which it is possible to give a perspicuous account of the function and adaptiveness of affective feelings encourages scientists to neglect the phenomenal character of these feelings as bearers of value. But, like Köhler, I believe that this phenomenal character is not a “purely subjective,” epiphenomenal trait. It is essential to the functioning of affective feelings as incentive mechanisms. For a mechanism of reward or punishment to work, it cannot just signal that something is good or bad; it must actually feel good or bad in a way that rewards or punishes. In other words, to perform its distinctive role in the regulation of behavior, value must be felt


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as such. Accordingly, as long as scientific explanations are confined to the logic of a functionalist-adaptationist framework, their use of the term value is superfluous and highly misleading.

The “Affective-Valuative Circle” If the preceding analysis is right, science faces a tough choice: purge all value concepts from its explanatory frameworks or face up to what it really means to invoke value as a cause of thought and behavior. Value cannot have any real explanatory power unless we are prepared to come to grips with its causal power as encountered in feelings of value—that is, as encountered in affect. Indeed, it seems that our failed efforts to define value and affect are closely connected, as our understanding of each depends on the other. This dependence is reflected by the fact that most attempts to define positive and negative affect are effectively if not literally circular, failing to lead outside of meanings already entailed by affect and value. For example, attempts to define “positive affect” typically rely on terms like “positive value,” “liking,” “desirable,” or “feeling good.” I do not mean to suggest that these terms are completely interchangeable. Rather my point is that most definitions of affect leave inquiry trapped within an “affective-­ valuative circle” of concepts. If part of the challenge of affect is to understand how it entails a pre-reflective feeling of value, any definition that simply rephrases this basic connection between affect and value does not move inquiry forward. Definitions that trade between various affective, valuative, and motivational terms are not much better than tautologies.

References Bedau, Mark. 1998. Where’s the Good in Teleology? In Nature’s Purposes: Analyses of Function and Design in Biology, ed. C. Allen, M. Bekoff, and M. Lauder, 261–291. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Berridge, Kent C. 2004. Motivation Concepts in Behavioral Neuroscience. Physiology & Behavior 81 (2): 179–209. Bloom, Paul. 2010. How Pleasure Works. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.

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Brosch, Tobias, and David Sander, eds. 2015. Handbook of Value: Perspectives from Economics, Neuroscience, Philosophy, Psychology and Sociology. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Chalmers, David J. 1996. The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Changeux, J.-P., A.R.  Damasio, W.  Singer, and Y.  Christen, eds. 2005. Neurobiology of Human Values. Heidelberg: Springer. Christensen, Julia F. 2017. Pleasure Junkies All Around! Why It Matters and Why ‘The Arts’ Might Be the Answer: A Biopsychological Perspective. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 284 (1854): 20162837. Clore, Gerald L., and Jeffrey R.  Huntsinger. 2007. How Emotions Inform Judgment and Regulate Thought. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 11 (9): 393–399. Damasio, Antonio. 1994. Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons. ———. 2010. The Self Comes to Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brain. New York: Pantheon. Elliot, Andrew J., ed. 2008. Handbook of Approach and Avoidance Motivation. New York: Routledge. Fellows, Lesley K. 2011. The Neurology of Value. In Neurobiology of Sensation and Reward, ed. Jay A. Gottfried, 351–369. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press. Grabenhorst, Fabian, and Edmund T. Rolls. 2011. Value, Pleasure and Choice in the Ventral Prefrontal Cortex. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 15 (2): 56–67. Jackson, Frank. 1986. What Mary Didn’t Know. The Journal of Philosophy 83 (5): 291–295. Joas, Hans. 2000. The Genesis of Values. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Kjellberg, Paul, and Philip J. Ivanhoe, eds. 1996. Essays on Skepticism, Relativism, and Ethics in the Zhuangzi. Albany: SUNY Press. Köhler, Wolfgang. 1938/1976. The Place of Value in a World of Facts. New York: Liveright. ———. 1944/1971. Value and Fact. In The Selected Papers of Wolfgang Köhler, ed. M. Henle, 356–375. New York: Liveright. Nagel, Thomas. 1974. What Is It Like to Be a Bat. Readings in Philosophy of Psychology 1: 159–168. Pinker, Steven. 1997. How the Mind Works. New York: W.W. Norton & Co. Putnam, Hilary. 2002. The Collapse of the Fact/Value Dichotomy and Other Essays. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Rolls, Edmund T. 2005. Emotion Explained. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


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Schwitzgebel, Eric. 2008. The Unreliability of Naive Introspection. Philosophical Review 117 (2): 245–273. Sher, S., and P. Winkielman. 2009. Emotion and Consciousness. In Encyclopedia of Consciousness: Volume 1, ed. W.P. Banks, 231–241. Amsterdam: Elsevier. Shiota, Michelle N., Esther K. Papies, Stephanie D. Preston, and Disa A. Sauter. 2021. Positive Affect and Behavior Change. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences 39: 222–228. Whitehead, Alfred N. 1920/1971. The Concept of Nature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

3 The Core Challenge

During the last century and a half, philosophers and psychologists who have undertaken careful examinations of our feelings of pleasure and pain have discovered them to be surprisingly obscure (Sidgwick 1874/1967; Broad 1930; Dunker 1941; Arnold 1960; Alston 1967; Gosling 1969; Feldman 1997; Frijda 2009; Labukt 2012; Aydede 2014; Katz 2016; Carruthers 2018). The intimate familiarity and unmistakable presence of these feelings lead us to believe that we know them by a common quality that clearly marks them as pleasant or painful. But, as pointed out by Charles Peirce, on closer inspection we find that “it is not the fact that any such common quality … is readily to be recognized” (1903/1998, p. 190). This absence of a distinct quality where we expect to find one is the core challenge of the problem of affect. In the Introduction I summarized this challenge as follows: Despite their unmistakable presence and power and their pervasive role in experience, affective feelings are nearly impossible to describe because they have no distinctive quality of their own.

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 N. F. Barrett, Enjoyment as Enriched Experience, Palgrave Perspectives on Process Philosophy, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-13790-7_3



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The purpose of this chapter is to articulate this core challenge as clearly as possible. First, to bring the phenomenological nature of the challenge into focus, I examine a common variety of alliesthesia (Cabanac 1971): the notable loss of pleasure caused by overeating. I then search out some of the reasons for the neglect of this challenge in consciousness studies, using the question of “affect zombies” to probe our assumptions about the connection between affect and consciousness. Finally, I survey the longstanding debate in analytic philosophy about the nature of pleasure and suggest some reasons for its failure to reach a decisive conclusion. Before we begin, let us clarify the scope of the present discussion. In both psychology and philosophy, affect refers to a diverse range of physiological, behavioral, and psychological phenomena involved in emotions, moods, sensory pleasures and physical pains (Fox 2008). Not all of these phenomena are directly involved in the experience of affect, however. In this book we are primarily interested in the affective nature of conscious experience and in this chapter we will be focusing on the affective trait of valence. As discussed here, valence is roughly equivalent to pleasantness and hedonic tone. It refers to the pre-reflective, immediately felt value of experience (as opposed to appraised or interpreted value). Valence is widely assumed to be a “fundamental, universal property of human experience,” such that “every person on the planet (barring illness) can tell good from bad, positive from negative, pleasure from displeasure” (Lindquist et al. 2016, p. 1910). It should be kept in mind, however, that affect includes more than valence. Indeed, in the next chapter, I will argue that we cannot understand valence without looking to other affective traits of experience, especially intensity. Moreover, despite its centrality, valence is not always readily accessible and easily discriminated. It can be pronounced or attenuated; it can unmistakably valenced or it can be neutral, mixed, or otherwise hard to determine; it can be the focus of awareness or it can recede into the background. For present purposes all that needs to be agreed upon is the fact that some feelings have a pronounced valence that is directly accessible and unmistakably identifiable as positive or negative.

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Alliesthesia and the Chocolate Experiment Most philosophers who have examined the issue agree that affective valence is not marked by any distinctive quality (see next section). Yet there are different ways of bringing this point to our attention, with different implications for our understanding of affect. The most common way is to recollect different kinds of pleasure and search for a common quality that marks them all as pleasant. The fact that no such quality “is readily to be recognized,” as Peirce observes, is commonly referred to as the “problem of heterogeneity” (Feldman 1997; Bramble 2013; Aydede 2014). In the next chapter I will discuss how this way of framing the problem of affect has led some philosophers to question the unity of affective valence (Solomon 2003; Labukt 2012). Here I take a different approach, as I believe that the problem of heterogeneity, though well worth considering, is not quite the crux of the matter. For even if we were to concede that valence is radically heterogeneous, its core challenge would only be multiplied, as it would still apply to each and every kind of valence taken separately. For this reason, my preferred way of illustrating the peculiar elusiveness of affect involves the phenomenon of alliesthesia (Cabanac 1971): a noticeable change in the valence or pleasantness of a stimulus, usually caused by a change of internal state such as a loss of appetite. Instead of comparing different kinds of pleasure, in cases of alliesthesia we can consider how a single kind of pleasure changes. Let us examine a commonplace example that has been the focus of an actual experimental study (see Small et al. 2001). Imagine that you are eating a large plate of chocolates. After each piece of chocolate, you take note of how good the chocolate tastes (pleasantness) and of how much you feel like having another (desire or motivation). If you are the kind of person that normally likes chocolate, your experience is likely to progress as follows: the first piece tastes very good and you have a strong desire for more, but with subsequent pieces both pleasure and desire fall off, and around the point of satiety you begin to feel that you don’t want any more and the taste of chocolate starts to become unpleasant.


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Now, the key question is this: How does our experience of eating chocolate change as it goes from being pleasant to unpleasant? We know that the overall experience changes notably, and we know that an important part of this change is a marked decline in pleasantness: affective valence changes from positive to negative. But what marks this decline? Does the taste of chocolate itself change? If not, what constitutes the difference between pleasant chocolate taste and unpleasant chocolate taste? No doubt answers to these questions will vary. There is no need to turn up anything clear and conclusive. On the contrary, it is the lack of any clear and conclusive result that is most significant: on closer inspection, we find it surprisingly difficult to pinpoint changes of affective valence in our experience. I challenge the reader to find any distinct qualitative basis for changes in pleasantness in this or any other similar example. And I suggest that it is this elusiveness together with self-evident change that makes the phenomenology of affect so peculiar. Pleasure is not just an aspect of feeling “which we cannot define but are perfectly acquainted with” (Broad 1930, p. 229; cited in Labukt 2012, p. 175)—one could say the same about many qualities. What makes pleasure so peculiar is the way in which it eludes introspection together with the way in which this elusiveness is belied by its apparent clarity and forcefulness. As in the chocolate example, pleasantness can seem to be felt as distinctly and forcefully as the yellow of a sunflower or the sweetness of sugar and yet, unlike these other feelings, pleasantness is impossible to locate within experience. The peculiar elusiveness of affect explains why the problem of affect so often escapes our notice. If no one is asking us, the pleasantness of chocolate seems to be right there, in the taste of chocolate itself (Bramble 2013; Helm 2002). Indeed, the fact that we normally do not distinguish affect from the perceptual content of experience is a critical feature of the problem of affect that needs to be accounted for. Many infer from this fact that pleasantness is a special transparent quality that somehow overlays, attaches to, or inheres in perceptual content like a “warm glow” or “shiny gloss.” But when we try to distinguish the pleasantness of chocolate, not only do we not find any such “glow” or “gloss,” inspection of pleasantness often causes it to vanish altogether, leaving behind the simple taste of chocolate, stripped of its affective allure. Moreover—and this is another

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critical point—the taste of chocolate seems to stay the same as pleasantness vanishes or declines.1 The peculiar elusiveness of affect is further clarified if we compare changes of pleasantness with the kinds of qualitative changes that would occur if successive pieces of chocolate contained different amounts of cocoa, sugar, or milk. In fact, depending on their degree, these qualitative differences can be harder to detect than differences of pleasantness, even though we usually know how to look for them. That is, for the most part, we know how to attend to specific qualities in feeling, and attending to them usually makes them more discriminable. If someone asks if we notice the taste of orange in the chocolate, we can look for this taste and it may turn up. In contrast, although we can attend to pleasure, this attention does not allow us to pick out pleasantness as a distinct quality within experience. The fact that valence does not pertain to any distinct quality can seem like a startling discovery if you have never considered this problem before. But note that its import is negative: the key evidence here is not a positive result of introspection but rather what does not turn up. This negative result was established almost a century ago by the ill-fated program of introspectionist psychology (see Arnold 1960; Frijda 2009, p.  100), although its significance seems to have largely gone unnoticed. Simply put, the upshot is just this: it is hard to describe how pleasure changes even when we know for sure that it does. I submit that this holds for the valence of all positive feelings. Every pleasurable experience from chess to sex can vary noticeably in respect of its distinctive pleasantness, and yet this variation cannot be pinpointed as a change in any distinctive quality. For this reason, valence is often represented by psychologists as a fundamental axis of experience that is independent of the qualitative contents of perception and thought (e.g., Cabanac 2002). Before moving on, the peculiar elusiveness of pleasure needs to be generalized to include negative valence. It might seem that negative feelings  The apparent constancy of sensation during changes of affect has been frequently observed by philosophers in their analysis of pleasure and pain (e.g., Feldman 1997) and is assumed by many psychologists as well (e.g., Cabanac 2002). However, it is not clear how this constancy is verified: how can we be sure that a present taste is exactly the same as a remembered taste except for a change in pleasantness? 1


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are much easier to pinpoint. For instance, in the chocolate experiment, does not the nausea that normally accompanies overeating include a clearly identifiable negative quality? This apparent difference is due to the fact that nausea, pain, and other strongly negative feelings typically include bodily sensations—for example, in the case of nausea, tightness in the throat—that are assumed to be inherently unpleasant. However, a wider view of the evidence shows that bodily sensations that are normally experienced as unpleasant or even painful can, in certain circumstances, be experienced with notably less negativity, without any negativity at all, or even as positive (Grahek 2007). In cases of physical pain, this phenomenon is sometimes referred to as “hedonic flipping” (Tracey 2016). Thus, on the negative side as well, valence turns out to be surprisingly elusive. And again, the most persuasive evidence for this elusiveness comes not from the heterogeneity of negative feelings but from changes of valence across successive instances of otherwise similar feelings. In fact, once we take note of the peculiar elusiveness of affect in cases of alliesthesia—especially in cases like the chocolate experiment, where the alteration of pleasantness seems most evident—the problem of heterogeneity actually loses some of its force as an argument against the unity of affective valence. The strongest version of the heterogeneity problem concludes that because different kinds of positive and negative feelings do not share any common quality, there can be no single, unified continuum of affective valence (Solomon 2003). But the chocolate experiment suggests that it is impossible to pinpoint and describe any kind of valence. On what grounds, then, can we argue that affect is radically heterogeneous? The main point of this example is not to dispute the heterogeneity problem, however, but to clarify the peculiar elusiveness of affective valence. Our seemingly direct and indubitable feeling of valence is not like perceptual awareness. We do not feel anything like the color blue when we have the blues. And yet we have no problem identifying the valence of experience and reporting it to others—indeed, we do it all the time. Valence seems to be one of those things that we can feel with Cartesian immediacy and certainty even though it fails to meet classic Cartesian epistemic standards of clarity and distinctness. In short, valence

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seems to be the quintessential example of something that “you just know when you feel it.” How could such a common and basic element of experience be so obscure? Is the feeling of affect an illusion? Some philosophers have come to this conclusion, but as I will discuss later on, the wholesale denial of affective feeling puts us in even greater difficulty. To avoid undue skepticism, I suggest that we try to hold together both the familiarity and the obscurity of affect in our characterization of the problem. Normally the obscurity of affect is hidden from us, making it doubly obscure. One could say that the peculiarly elusive nature of affect is like something that is “hidden in plain sight”—except that affect seems to be plainly “visible” except when we’re looking for it. Or, one could say that discovering the elusiveness of affect is like discovering that an intimate, life-long friend is not who we believed her to be—except that in this case we cannot help but continue to depend on affect as we would depend on our most trusted friend. If affect is an illusion, it is the kind that cannot be doubted (except on paper).

Affect Zombies Now, building on the previous discussion, I want to point out how the peculiar phenomenological challenge of affect is obscured by standard ways of framing the problem of consciousness. In the literature of analytic philosophy, the problem of consciousness is typically specified as an apparently unbridgeable gap between functional or causal descriptions of mental processes and subjective experience (Levine 1983). An especially influential formulation of this problem is presented as a thought experiment in Frank Jackson’s 1986 paper, “What Mary didn’t know.” Mary is a scientist who has lived all her life within a special environment where she is prevented from seeing colors but is able to acquire comprehensive scientific knowledge of color vision. Presumably, when Mary is finally released from her colorless prison she will discover something new from her first experience of red that she never could have known through scientific investigation: this is the gap that many philosophers claim will never be closed by science.


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It possible to find fault with way in which this framing of the problem involves a highly problematic notion of qualia, understood as “intrinsic, ineffable and inefficacious sensory states” (Crane 2019, p. 98). But in any case, the gap between first- and third-person perspectives is not the peculiar challenge presented by affect. Rather, the problem of affect stems from a peculiar gap within first-person experience: a lack of qualitative distinctness where we expect to find it. Red and other phenomenal qualities may be mysterious in their own way, but valence is not like any other phenomenal quality—indeed, perhaps it is not a quality at all!2 The peculiar challenge of affect—and our tendency to overlook it— can be further clarified by trying to substitute affect for red as the missing “quale” in Jackson’s thought experiment (cf. Carruthers 2018, p. 672). Could Mary learn everything there is to know about the science of affect but somehow be prevented from ever feeling pleasure or pain? Granted, this alteration stretches the thought experiment beyond the limits of credibility. As bizarre as the original experiment may be, it is at least conceivable that we could eliminate color from someone’s experience by confining that person to a specially controlled environment. To eliminate affect from someone’s experience, however, we would have to suppress all of the bodily processes that are responsible for pleasure and pain while leaving the rest of conscious experience intact. But even if such an intervention is not medically possible, it is worthwhile to consider whether it is conceivable to excise affect from consciousness. So let us rephrase the question in more general terms: Could there be such a thing as an affect zombie—a conscious being who has normal perceptual experience, thoughts, and memories but no pleasure or pain? Possible or not, it seems that many people readily accept the idea of an affect zombie. If so, this widespread acceptance of the idea of affect zombies warrants careful consideration, as it promises to help us to understand why the problem of affect remains hidden in the shadow of the problem of consciousness. The most popular examples of affect zombies  It depends on how one defines a “quality,” of course. I would say that affect belongs to Nagel’s concept of “what it is like” to be something, which some might take to be the most inclusive definition of a phenomenal quality. What I am pointing out is that there are important distinctions that can made within subjective experience that are glossed over by the tendency to focus on sense qualities or some concept thereof. 2

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come from science fiction, but before considering these I want to dispel the notion that medical history abounds with cases of affectless people. To be sure, cases of severely impaired affect are not hard to find. For example, some people are born without the ability to feel physical pain (congenital analgesia). Also, anhedonia is a common symptom of mental illnesses such as schizophrenia; and “shallow” or “flat” affect is widely regarded as one of the primary diagnostic criteria for psychopathy (Hare 1998). But we should not mistake these and similar cases for examples of real-life affect zombies. People who do not feel physical pain presumably experience the full range of psychological pain and suffering as well as all kinds of pleasure and enjoyment. The condition of anhedonia associated with schizophrenia is a selective impairment that reduces desire more than pleasure (Gard et al. 2007); it does not eliminate all positive affect. And the “flat affect” of psychopaths, though significant, is only a relative distinction and does not encapsulate the complex emotional profile of the typical psychopath. In sum, all known affective impairments, no matter how debilitating, are never total and complete. To my knowledge, there is no record of any person whose conscious experience was utterly void of affective valence, either positive or negative. Another possible reason for our acceptance of the idea of an affect zombie is our experience of “zero” or “neutral” affect during many everyday activities that are neither pleasant nor unpleasant—like tying our shoes, for example. Cannot an affect zombie be easily conceived as someone who feels like that all the time? The question of whether there really is such a thing as zero affect is very difficult to settle on purely phenomenological grounds; I will not try to argue against it here (see my discussion of the “affective baseline” in Chap. 8). Let it suffice to point out that while idea that experience includes neutral states or feelings may be fairly innocent, the idea that conscious experience may consist entirely of such states or feelings is not—it entails a number of problematic assumptions about the possibility of affectless learning, decision making, and behavior. With these points in mind, let us briefly consider affect zombies in science fiction. Probably the most pertinent example is Data, the android on the American television series Star Trek: The Next Generation that ran from 1987 to 1994. Data is described as a super-intelligent “synthetic life form” who does not feel any emotion or affect. His lack of emotion is


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emphasized more than his lack of affect, but it is clear that he lacks both and his struggle to understand these aspects of human experience is an important plotline of the series. Indeed, Data is representative of a common trope in science fiction: the super-intelligent machine without feeling. What makes the case of Data so pertinent to present discussion is the clarity with which it indicates how easy it is for us to take the possibility of affect zombies for granted. Now, to be considered a true affect zombie, Data must be conscious. Fans of the show will point out that the question of whether Data is conscious is explicitly raised and left unanswered in an acclaimed episode of the show’s second season (“The Measure of a Man”). However, later in the series, Data is presented with the opportunity to install an “emotion chip” that would allow him to experience affect and emotion, a possibility that strongly suggests an affective analogue of Mary the scientist. Arguably, for this development to make sense, we must assume that Data is an affect zombie—that he has consciousness without affect—as the premise of the “emotion chip” is that it gives him access to special kinds of feelings that he did not have previously, not to consciousness per se. Our fascination with Data and other sci-fi characters like him suggest that we find affect zombiehood to be not only possible but perhaps even likely, if artificial intelligence ever makes good on its promise. Although Data is a benevolent android, dearly beloved by fans of the series, affect zombiehood is more often presented as one of the more ominous prospects of artificial intelligence. Indeed, the super-intelligent but cold and unfeeling machine who turns against us is a favorite modern bugaboo. Notice that what makes this scenario so frightening is not intelligence without consciousness but rather conscious intelligence without affect. For example, in the popular Terminator films, an advanced form of artificial intelligence only becomes dangerous once it achieves self-­awareness, at which point it turns against us, coldly pursuing its own interests without feelings of empathy or remorse.3 This view of unfeeling artificial intelligence suggests an exaggerated form of psychopathy—although, as I have pointed out, real psychopaths are not affect zombies.  This may be a contradiction. I think we should question the idea that an affectless machine could have interests of any kind, including even an interest in its own survival. 3

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With this brief digression into popular science fiction, my intention is to raise awareness of the question of affect zombies and to make a simple point: our readiness to accept the possibility of affect zombies suggests that we commonly assume that the traits of intelligence, consciousness, and affect are not mutually entailing. Just as we assume that we can have intelligence without consciousness, we assume that we can have consciousness without affect. Admittedly, it is difficult to say whether scientists and philosophers support this popular view, because affect zombies are rarely if ever examined as a distinct possibility. In their discussions of zombies—duplicates of persons without consciousness—David Chalmers and other analytic philosophers are exploring questions about the place of consciousness in nature; they are not (directly) asking about the nature of consciousness itself. In contrast, the present exploration of the question of affect zombies is intended as a way to probe assumptions about the nature of affect and its relation to consciousness. In the Introduction I suggested that most theories of consciousness fail to exclude the possibility of affect zombies. But what reason do I have to believe this is the case, given that—as I have just admitted—affect zombies are rarely if ever discussed? At bottom, our present query is not the possibility of affect zombiehood, but the way in which this question can be used to uncover an important but rarely expressed presupposition about the relation between affect and consciousness. In brief, the possibility of affect zombiehood depends on thinking about affect as a special class of feeling. For if affect is presupposed to be a special kind of feeling, then in principle it should be possible to have consciousness without affect, just as it is possible to have consciousness without the color red. I believe that this notion of affect is widely presupposed but rarely stated, and this is why I believe that most theories of consciousness fail to exclude affect zombies. What reason do I have to believe that the notion of affect as a special class of feeling is so widely presupposed? First, because it is entailed by the common (but false) view that pleasure and pain are marked by distinct qualities. To think of affect as a distinct quality entails the idea of affect as a special class of feeling: if we can exclude this quality then affect is an eliminable feature of consciousness. But even where this view is repudiated, it is still possible to think of affect as a special class of feeling,


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or even—as in the case of “attitudinal” theories (see below)—as a special class of mental phenomena. For instance, if affect is thought of as a felt modification of conscious contents rather than a distinct quality, as in the “adverbial” theory of Murat Aydede (2014), affect might still belong only to certain conscious states. Finally, where affect is thought of in functional terms—for example, as a learning signal—it is strongly implied that it is a special class of feeling or mental state rather than an intrinsic trait of consciousness (see previous chapter). Of course, it is always possible to argue that affect is a special class of feeling (or other mental phenomenon) and that the possibility of affect zombies should not be excluded. For now, the main point of discussion is to indicate that these questions are usually decided by default, and that a more carefully considered approach would require that we face up to the challenge of affect. Moreover, although I will not argue the point any further, I do think that careful consideration of affect zombies will lead us to question the notion that affect is a special class of feeling. In turn, once that notion is questioned, it becomes clear that to develop an alternative understanding of affect we have to rethink the nature of consciousness. But I am getting ahead of myself.

Analytic Philosophy of Pleasure In this section we consider an ongoing debate concerning the nature of pleasure that can be taken as an indication of the “state of the field” with respect to the problem of affect in philosophy. This debate is constituted by a fairly well-circumscribed body of literature within the analytic tradition that can be traced back to the writings of Henry Sidgwick (1874/1967) and G.E.  Moore (1903/1968). Undoubtedly a wealth of insights could be gathered from other philosophical perspectives, especially phenomenology and pragmatism, but to my knowledge the analytic discussion of pleasure is the only strand of contemporary philosophy that directly confronts and grapples with the challenges discussed in previous sections of this chapter. Moreover, its failure to overcome these challenges is instructive.

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As I will explain below, my view of the current state of the debate is that it has settled into a stalemate, as each side continues to make good arguments but is unable to claim decisive victory. This stalemate is itself a noteworthy result that deserves much wider attention in consciousness studies and affective science, where the problem of affect is largely ignored. I take this stalemate to be an indication that progress requires a wider view of the relevant evidence (see next chapter). Accordingly, the purpose of this section is not only to clarify the core phenomenological challenge of affect but also to show that rigorous analysis, when confined to this challenge, can only take us so far. In their own surveys of the pleasure debate, analytic philosophers generally divide the field into two opposing camps: (1) those that embrace some kind of “felt quality theory,” i.e., those that insist that affect is somehow inherent to feeling; and (2) those that deny that affect has any basis in feeling and hold instead that affect is constituted by some kind of attitude or other intentional relation between the subject and feeling (e.g., a “pro-attitude” in the case of pleasure). These two camps can also be called “internalist” and “externalist” with respect to the relation between affect and feeling, although they are more commonly referred to as “felt-quality” and “attitudinal” theories (e.g., Feldman 1997; Aydede 2014). While this division of the field into two opposing camps serves well as a first approximation, it says little about the dynamics of the debate—the arguments that push and pull philosophers from one position to another. Also, on the side of “attitudinal” theories, many philosophers reject the purely “externalist” version of this position, admitting that affect is somehow grounded in feeling (e.g., Helm 2002). Meanwhile, on the other side, there is an important division between two varieties of the “felt-­ quality” approach— “distinctive feeling” and “hedonic tone”—of which only the latter is widely defended today. Accordingly, the following three-­ part division, which was set out by Franz Brentano more than a century ago (see Chisholm 1987), may serve better: 1. Pleasure and pain are distinct qualities or kinds of feeling (“distinctive feeling theories”) 2. Pleasure and pain are modes or dimensions of feeling that alter the “tone” of feeling in some way (“hedonic tone theories”)


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3. Pleasure and pain pertain to intentional relations of the subject toward feelings, or some other “psychical element” that is not feeling (“attitudinal theories”) Now, with respect to the basic phenomenological question one could say that (1) and (3) cover the two extremes while (2) lies somewhere in the middle. That is, while (1) asserts the existence of distinctive affective qualities, and (3) denies any affective feeling, (2) asserts that there is something affective in feeling but remains noncommittal about what it is. In light of our previous discussion, it should come as no surprise that strong criticisms are made against the extremes of (1) and (3), and that there is a tendency for philosophers to gravitate from these extremes toward some version of (2) that combines elements of “felt-quality” and “attitudinal” theories (see Helm 2002; Aydede 2014). However, as I will indicate below, all three positions remain on the table and none is able to reach a satisfactory conclusion, let alone claim victory. It seems that the debate is trapped in a dynamic stable state in which arguments have enough force to keep the debate going but not enough force to settle the matter—a stalemate, in other words. An interesting feature of this stalemate is the fact that extreme positions that seem to be clearly deficient with respect to our experience of affect nevertheless manage to stay in the game. For example, the first position, at least in its purest form, has been declared untenable and yet it is never wholly discarded (for recent defenses, see Smuts 2011; Bramble 2013). The philosopher to whom the position is most often attributed is G.E. Moore: in his Principia Ethica (1903/1968), he seems to endorse such a theory when he argues that pleasure, like goodness, is a simple, undefinable quality akin to the color red or yellow (p. 7). If this is really what he meant, the majority opinion of other philosophers is that he was wrong: there is no such quality (Sidgwick 1874/1967, p.  127; Peirce 1903/1998, pp. 190–191; Alston 1967, p. 341; Gosling 1969; Feldman 1997, pp. 449–452; Prinz 2004, p. 178; Aydede 2014). However, it is possible to give another reading of Moore’s argument that helps to explain why distinctive feeling theories cannot be defeated. By comparing pleasure to other “simples” like the colors of perception, Moore may have been trying to point out that feelings of pleasure act like

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sensations of color in that they are—at least in many cases—just as immediate, indubitable, and unanalyzable. Perhaps if confronted with the heterogeneity of pleasure and cases of alliesthesia (like the chocolate example), Moore would have admitted that there is no distinct quality that marks feelings of pleasure, but he still might have insisted, and with good reason, that pleasure often behaves as if it were like the color yellow. In his words, pleasure is like color perception because “though pleasure is absolutely indefinable, though pleasure is pleasure and nothing else whatever, yet we feel no difficulty in saying that we are pleased” (p. 13; italics added). In fact, the practical import of distinctive feeling theories is often admitted by philosophers who reject it on phenomenological grounds: it seems that we do have immediate access to affect and that we have little or no problem identifying affect in our own experience and reporting it to others. Accordingly, as long as these properties of direct access and indubitability are not adequately accounted for by any other position they will continue to provide a powerful warrant for distinctive feeling theories—the solid case against qualitative distinctness notwithstanding! Turning to the other extreme, we find attitudinal theories to be in a similar situation, although the key strengths and weaknesses are reversed. At first glance, attitudinal theories seem to handle various problematic aspects of affect such as the heterogeneity problem and the connection to motivation by defining affect in terms of the subject’s intentional attitude toward feeling (i.e., positive affect is defined by various “pro-attitudes” such as liking, wanting, etc.). The cost of this approach in its purely externalist form is that it must deny that anything actually feels good or bad in any way: any and all affective modification of feeling is strictly ruled out by externalism (Labukt 2012). Perhaps this denial has seemed acceptable because the evidence in support of internalist theories is incorrigibly vague—attempts to describe affective qualities always fail. But attitudinal theories are not necessarily on firmer ground. Let us briefly consider the evidence against them. Whether they are strictly externalist or not, attitudinal theories claim that affective states are determined by an intentional relation toward a feeling, object, or situation. The problem with this approach is that it seems to over-determine the connection between affective valence, motivation, and intention in a way that is contradicted by experimental


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evidence and common experience. It seems that we can have novel or unexpectedly pleasant feelings, as well as inexplicably pleasant and unpleasant feelings—as when something doesn’t feel quite right, but we cannot say what or why. It seems that we can have pleasant feelings—feelings of amusement, for example—without being motivated in any particular way by these feelings.4 We can be affected negatively by background noise without noticing it (Schwitzgebel 2008). Furthermore, a number of studies has shown that we often misattribute affective feelings (Sher and Winkielman 2009): for instance, when people are asked to rate their current “life satisfaction,” their judgment can be influenced by bad weather, but not if the bad weather is called to their attention (Clore and Huntsinger 2007). In such cases it would seem that attitudes, judgments, and motivations are determined by affective feelings, not the other way around. Or, at least, it would seem that affect, motivation, and other intentional attitudes can come apart.5 Especially when presented in such a cursory fashion, the evidence against attitudinal theories may not seem all that conclusive. More thorough discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of the attitudinal approach can be found in the literature (see especially Aydede 2014). My intention here is not to settle the issue—although I do come down squarely on the side of the “felt quality” camp—but rather to indicate that both sides of the pleasure debate have weaknesses that prevent the debate from reaching a satisfactory conclusion. At the same time, it should be recognized that philosophical discussions of affect have yielded a number of critical insights into the nature of the problem. Most importantly, they have helped to clarify reasons for the fundamental elusiveness of affect and its resistance to definition. The problem is not just the failure of introspection to turn up any distinctive quality that is common to all pleasures or pains. For even if we were to distinguish a quality whose appearance closely corresponded to feelings of  The experiment referred to in the chocolate example seems to confirm this: as subjects approached satiety, they usually report that their motivation has reached a neutral point even though the chocolate is still pleasant. 5  As discussed in the next chapter, recent studies have claimed empirical support for treating “motivational intensity” as a third dimension of affective feeling that can vary independently of valence (Gable and Harmon-Jones 2010). 4

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valence, it is inconceivable that a mere quality could account for affective properties such as valence or motivational force (Helm 2002; Aydede 2018). None of the other phenomenal qualities with which we are intimately acquainted—the color red, the taste of chocolate, etc.—seem to have any such properties when examined separately. But more importantly, what kind of quality, taken by itself, would be intrinsically positive or negative, intrinsically desirable or undesirable? What kind of quality would be intrinsically motivating? As pointed out by Murat Aydede, we find it difficult even to imagine the kind of phenomenal account that would suffice to explain affect: “We know that pleasantness is motivating and good, but we don’t know how it could be so if it is a kind of feeling that somehow ‘attaches’ to sensations” (2018, p. 243). I suggest that our inability even to conceive of an affective quality is a critically important finding that should be included along with the peculiar elusiveness of affect as part of the core challenge of affect. Taken together, then, the peculiar phenomenological difficulties that constitute the core of the problem of affect are: 1. The absence of any distinctive affective quality together with our seemingly immediate and indubitable discrimination of affective valence 2. The inconceivability of a quality that would have affective properties of valence and motivation Notice that (2) explains or justifies (1), albeit in a very limited sense. That is, if we are convinced of (2), we can be more confident that the situation described by (1) is not an accidental feature of our experience. In other words, it is not just that we happen to have a phenomenal gap where we expect to find a distinct quality: on closer examination, it seems that the nature of affect is such that it cannot present itself as a distinct quality. It cannot be otherwise. So, while it is perfectly acceptable in many contexts to describe sensory pleasure as a “warm glow,” a “rosy tint,” or a “shiny gloss” that is added to sensation, pleasure does not and cannot literally manifest itself as anything like these qualities. Notice also that this statement of the core challenge of affect does not rule out an externalist stance toward affect. Indeed, some might take it as


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support for externalism. My own view is that externalism is a cop-out with no real explanatory pay-off: it simply denies the phenomenological challenge of affect, and it yields no real advance in understanding (cf. Aydede 2014, 2018). The elusiveness of affect is certainly baffling. Nevertheless, I believe that the history of debate shows that we should not take the absence of any distinctive affective quality as grounds for rejecting any and all feelings of affect. Absence of proof is not proof of absence. Before moving on, one last position is deserving of special mention: the “adverbial approach” of Murat Aydede (2014, 2018; see Helm 2002 for a similar approach). To my mind, Aydede’s clear and even-handed way of presenting the problem of affect represents the culmination of the analytic debate so far. After carefully weighing the pros and cons of felt-­ quality and attitudinal theories, Aydede suggests that “we need to distinguish the phenomenology of sensations from the phenomenology of pleasantness that modifies or qualifies these sensations” (2018, p.  253, italics added). Moreover, affective modification is not just any modification: it modifies sensation so as to make it pleasant or unpleasant, “understood as inherently motivating and intrinsically good/bad” (p. 246). I believe that Aydede’s characterization of affect as an “adverbial” modification of experience is on the right track: it is a good indicator of the kind of theory we are looking for. However, in my view, Aydede’s own attempts to characterize affective modification fall short of the explanatory goals that he so clearly sets forth. He offers the analogy of the way the tempo of a dance (fast or slow) modifies the dance without changing its form as an example of the kind of modification that we are seeking, and claims that this analogy shows that the “peculiar phenomenology of sensory affect” is “nothing mysterious” (p. 256, n. 21). But Aydede’s analogy clearly falls short in two critically important respects (cf. Bramble 2013): (1) the dance tempo analogy remains confined to one or two modalities, whereas we need a general characterization of affective modification that applies across all sensory modalities; (2) the dance tempo analogy offers no way to explain how affective modification constitutes the felt value of sensory experience. Aydede does not claim that his tempo analogy sheds light on the nature of valence, but he offers us no clue as to what kind of modification would do the trick.

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In summary, except for the most hard-headed externalists, philosophers who have examined affect uphold the commonsense view that affective valence makes some difference to feeling, but at the same time they find themselves compelled by the evidence to be reticent about what this difference is. However unsatisfactory this stance may be, I believe that it is the right conclusion for the philosophical debate as it has been framed so far. And the lesson that I draw from this stalemate is that we cannot make further progress on the problem of affect as long as our consideration of relevant evidence is limited to the core phenomenological challenge explored in this chapter. Given all of the attention paid by philosophers to this side of the issue, it seems unlikely that they have overlooked a phenomenal distinction that could meet the explanatory demands of affect. Phenomenological analysis has not been entirely fruitless—on the contrary, as I have tried to show here, it has brought the problem of affect into focus—but it does not seem that such a narrow path of inquiry can lead to a solution.

References Alston, William P. 1967. Pleasure. In The Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Volume 6, ed. P. Edwards, 341–347. New York: Macmillan. Arnold, Magda. 1960. Emotion and Personality. New  York: Columbia University Press. Aydede, Murat. 2014. How to Unify Theories of Sensory Pleasure: An Adverbialist Proposal. Review of Philosophy and Psychology 5 (1): 119–133. ———. 2018. A Contemporary Account of Sensory Pleasure. In Pleasure: A History, ed. L. Shapiro, 239–266. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Bramble, Ben. 2013. The Distinctive Feeling Theory of Pleasure. Philosophical Studies 162 (2): 201–217. Broad, C.D. 1930. Five Types of Ethical Theory. New York: Harcourt, Brace, & Co. Cabanac, Michel. 1971. Physiological Role of Pleasure. Science 173 (4002): 1103–1107. ———. 2002. What Is Emotion? Behavioural Processes 60 (2): 69–83. Carruthers, Peter. 2018. Valence and Value. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 97: 658–680.


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Chisholm, Roderick M. 1987. Brentano’s Theory of Pleasure and Pain. Topoi 6: 59–64. Clore, Gerald L., and Jeffrey R.  Huntsinger. 2007. How Emotions Inform Judgment and Regulate Thought. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 11 (9): 393–399. Crane, Tim. 2019. A Short History of Philosophical Theories of Consciousness in the 20th Century. In Philosophy of Mind in the Twentieth and Twenty-first Centuries, ed. Amy Kind, 78–103. London: Routledge. Dunker, Karl. 1941. On Pleasure, Emotion, and Striving. Philosophical and Phenomenological Research 1: 391–430. Feldman, Fred. 1997. On the Intrinsic Value of Pleasures. Ethics 107: 448–466. Fox, Elaine. 2008. Emotion Science: Cognitive and Neuroscientific Approaches to Understanding Human Emotions. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Frijda, Nico. 2009. On the Nature and Function of Pleasure. In Pleasures of the Brain, ed. K.C.  Berridge and M.L.  Kringelbach, 99–112. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Gable, Philip A., and Eddie Harmon-Jones. 2010. The Motivational Dimensional Model of Affect: Implications for Breadth of Attention, Memory, and Cognitive Categorization. Cognition and Emotion 24 (2): 322–337. Gard, David E., Ann M. Kring, Marja Germans Gard, William P. Horan, and Michael F. Green. 2007. Anhedonia in Schizophrenia: Distinctions between Anticipatory and Consummatory Pleasure. Schizophrenia Research 93 (1–3): 253–260. Gosling, J.C.B. 1969. Pleasure and Desire: The Case for Hedonism Reviewed. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Grahek, Nikola. 2007. Feeling Pain and Being in Pain. 2nd ed. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Hare, Robert D. 1998. Psychopaths and Their Nature: Implications for the Mental Health and Criminal Justice Systems. In Psychopathy: Antisocial, Criminal, and Violent Behavior, ed. T. Millon, E. Simonsen, M. Birket-Smith, and R.D. Davis, 188–212. New York: The Guilford Press. Helm, Bennet W. 2002. Felt Evaluations: A Theory of Pleasure and Pain. American Philosophical Quarterly 39: 13–30. Katz, Leonard D. 2016. Pleasure. In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2016 Edition), ed. Edward N.  Zalta. https://plato.stanford.edu/ archives/win2016/entries/pleasure/. Labukt, Ivan. 2012. Hedonic Tone and the Heterogeneity of Pleasure. Utilitas 24 (2): 172–199.

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Levine, Joseph. 1983. Materialism and Qualia: The Explanatory Gap. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 64: 354–361. Lindquist, Kristen A., Ajay B. Satpute, Tor D. Wager, Jochen Weber, and Lisa Feldman Barrett. 2016. The Brain Basis of Positive and Negative Affect: Evidence from a Meta-analysis of the Human Neuroimaging Literature. Cerebral Cortex 26 (5): 1910–1922. Moore, G.E. 1903/1968. Principia Ethica. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Peirce, C.S. 1903/1998. The Seven Systems of Metaphysics. In The Essential Peirce: Selected Philosophical Writings: Volume 2, ed. The Peirce Edition Project, 179–195. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Prinz, Jesse. 2004. Gut Reactions: A Perceptual Theory of Emotions. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Schwitzgebel, Eric. 2008. The Unreliability of Naive Introspection. Philosophical Review 117 (2): 245–273. Sher, S., and P. Winkielman. 2009. Emotion and Consciousness. In Encyclopedia of Consciousness: Volume 1, ed. W.P. Banks, 231–241. Amsterdam: Elsevier. Sidgwick, Henry. 1874/1967. The Methods of Ethics. London: Macmillan. Small, Dana M., Robert J. Zatorre, Alain Dagher, Alan C. Evans, and Marilyn Jones-Gotman. 2001. Changes in Brain Activity Related to Eating Chocolate: From Pleasure to Aversion. Brain 124 (9): 1720–1733. Smuts, Aaron. 2011. The Feels Good Theory of Pleasure. Philosophical Studies 155 (2): 241–265. Solomon, Robert C. 2003. Not Passion’s Slave: Emotions and Choice. New York: Oxford University Press. Tracey, Irene. 2016. Finding the Hurt in Pain. In Cerebrum: The Dana Forum on Brain Science, vol. 2016. Dana Foundation.

4 Adding Pieces to the Puzzle

In this chapter we move outward from the core challenge of affect to take up a wider view that includes perspectives from affective science. The argument runs through a series of topics—six additional pieces of the puzzle—that I believe to be especially important for coming to grips with the systematic nature of the problem of affect: (1) the unity of affect; (2) intensity, arousal, and other dimensions of affect; (3) affect and motivation; (4) affect and emotion; (5) affect and information; and (6) affect and cognition. Although these topics cover a lot of ground, the aim of this chapter is not to provide a comprehensive survey of affective science. Rather, the aim is to show how the core challenge of affect—the unmistakable but elusive character of valence—is implicated in diverse areas of research. My sense of the field of affective science is that its many contributors proceed as if affect were like a large jigsaw puzzle in which the experience of affective valence constitutes a single, albeit central, piece. The strategy of most scientists is to work around this part, taking it largely for granted. The assumption underlying this strategy seems to be that when the puzzle is nearly complete and we have a better sense of the whole picture this last part will be easier to fill in. But I suggest that the puzzle of affect is more © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 N. F. Barrett, Enjoyment as Enriched Experience, Palgrave Perspectives on Process Philosophy, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-13790-7_4



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complicated than this. The experience of affective valence is what unifies all the different pieces of the puzzle as different dimensions of a single phenomenon. Accordingly, it may not be possible to advance toward a more complete and unified picture of affect while evading the problems raised by the fact that we do not know how to describe this experience. I am not saying that no progress can be made; obviously that is not the case. Moreover, my point cuts both ways: to advance our understanding of the experience of affect we also need to consider how this experience fits with other pieces of the affective puzzle. That is the purpose of this chapter.

The Data of Affective Science Let us begin with a brief survey of the different kinds of data collected by affective science. By my count, there are at least five main approaches to empirical investigation: 1. self-report studies (e.g. Russell 1980; Watson and Tellegen 1985; Kahneman 2000) 2. behavioral studies (e.g. Young 1959; Papini et al. 2015) 3. cognitive studies (e.g. Isen et al. 1987; Gable and Harmon-Jones 2010) 4. physiological studies, especially autonomic responses (e.g. Lang 1995; Kreibig 2010) 5. brain studies (e.g. Leknes and Tracy 2008; Berridge and Kringelbach 2013) These approaches are often combined within the same experimental set-up, and they may share the same standardized methods for the elicitation and measurement of affective responses (e.g., the International Affective Picture System, circumplex models, etc.). But, to my knowledge, the full range of affective data is rarely assembled into a composite picture, much less integrated by a single theoretical model. Even so, all of these approaches share the common presupposition that affective phenomena are organized by the fundamental axis of positive and negative valence. I call this a “presupposition,” because although there is plenty of evidence to be

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found in support of valence on the experiential side, in other dimensions it serves as the basic frame through which data is collected and interpreted. Indeed, one could say that in every dimension in which affective data is collected, one of the primary concerns of affective science is to figure out how to map this data onto the axis of positive and negative valence. For example: How do we divide behavioral responses into positive and negative categories (e.g., “approach” and “withdrawal”)? How do we distinguish positive from negative brain states? Even within the dimension of self-report studies, there are debates about how best to understand the relation between positive and negative feelings (see Barrett and Bliss-­ Moreau 2009, pp. 182–188) as well as the relation between valence and other affective dimensions such as arousal (Kuppens et al. 2013). This adherence to the fundamental status of affective valence is especially intriguing in light of the fact that refinements of empirical investigation in every modality are leading to progressively finer differentiations of affective phenomena. That is, from every angle from which affective responses are measured, the picture of affect that is emerging is ever more complex and variegated. Here are a few noteworthy examples. First, one of the most heralded advances in recent years is the distinction between “liking” and “wanting” developed by Kent Berridge and others (Berridge and Robinson 2003). This distinction is itself complex, as it involves differentiations of the neurotransmitter “reward system,” neuroanatomy, and behavior (not to mention phenomenology, where the distinction has long been recognized; see Dunker 1941). Second, studies of autonomic nervous system (ANS) activity and other physiological responses have revealed a complex repertoire rather than a single pattern of arousal (Kreibig 2010; Levenson 2014). Third, within the sphere of positive affect, which has typically been treated as less differentiated than negative affect, scientists are now beginning to tease apart a variety of “discrete” positive emotions based on data from multiple modalities (see Shiota et  al. 2017). And fourth, as discussed below, investigations of the influence of affect on cognition have turned up evidence for a third affective dimension, “motivational intensity,” in addition to valence and arousal (Gable and Harmon-­ Jones 2010).


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What is the upshot of this increased differentiation? Again, as I have just pointed out, valence continues to be upheld by scientists as the central axis of affect, regardless of the difficulty of verifying its existence in dimensions of affective measurement besides self-report. For instance, although a meta-analysis of neuroimaging studies of affective valence failed to find conclusive evidence for valence-specific brain systems (Lindquist et al. 2016), the authors maintain that affective valence is a “fundamental, universal property of human experience” (p.  1910). I agree, but I wonder how this view of affective valence is supposed to be squared with our increasingly complex picture of affective responses. Should not we expect this “fundamental, universal property” to show up across different dimensions of affective science? This critical question is sometimes obscured by lack of clarity and consistency in the definition of affective terms like valence and intensity (Colombetti 2005). But the very fact that these complications can be recognized and debated—that we can dispute the idea that anger is an essentially negative emotion, and we can reject the idea that positive valence neatly corresponds to approach behaviors—indicates that we have a fairly robust sense of how affective valence both differs from and extends across these other dimensions of affect. Yet without a more articulate understanding of what constitutes positive and negative affect in experience, it is difficult to see how we can move forward with this key question. At the same time, it is important to articulate the kind of understanding we are hoping to obtain from the data of affective science. Supposing we were to find a response pattern that neatly corresponds to valence, what would that tell us? For example, what would the discovery of the neural signature of affective valence tell us about the feeling of value and its influence on cognition and behavior? Lest I seem dismissive of a huge swath of neuroscience research, I should clarify that I do believe that the brain contains an elaborate suite of specialized mechanisms of affective regulation, and that neuroimaging studies have much to tell us about these mechanisms that is interesting and important. But if affect is integral to conscious experience, as I will argue in this book, it seems unlikely that mechanisms of affective regulation actually constitute affective valence. Perhaps all they can do is shape and direct it.

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To make knowledge of these neural mechanisms more illuminating, we need a comprehensive and well-integrated picture of the phenomena that are regulated by these mechanisms, including, especially, the affective dimension of conscious experience.

The Unity of Affect The question of unity can be raised from the perspective of experience, as we found in the last chapter. To recap, the qualitative heterogeneity of pleasures and pains is such that some philosophers have argued that affect is not a single, unified dimension of experience but rather a collection of distinct kinds of valence. The question of unity soon leads to the closely related question of commensurability: can different affective feelings be compared? For those who deny the unity of affect, pleasures and pains may not be “comparable at all” (Solomon 2003, p. 168; see also Charland 2005; Colombetti 2005; Labukt 2012). It should be noted, however, that there are different ways of posing the questions of unity and commensurability, some much stronger than others. I think we can rule out the kind of precise commensurability that is required by classic utilitarian notions of the “hedonic calculus” (Rachels 2004), but that still leaves other versions of the question open to dispute. From the perspective of neuroscience, the question of affective unity is raised with respect to the mechanisms and processes that are responsible for “processing” valence: do all pleasures and pains share a “common neurobiology” (Leknes and Tracy 2008)? From the perspective of psychology, the question has to do with the cognitive and behavioral import of affective feelings: do we not regularly make judgments and decisions based on combinations and comparisons of diverse kinds of positive and negative feeling? It certainly seems that we do, although the matter needs closer examination. As observed by Daniel Kahneman, the question of whether it is possible to “compare physical and emotional pain, or the thrills of food and of music, is ultimately empirical” (2000, p. 683). But how is it to be decided? It seems that all versions of the question of unity lead back to the problem of affect.


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The core phenomenological challenge of affect—the absence of any special affective quality—indicates that we do not have a clear qualitative index for gauging and comparing valence, and this finding may seem to provide grounds for skepticism about unity. On the other hand, for the very same reasons, affective unity cannot be ruled out either. Importantly, some of those who reject the unity of valence (e.g. Solomon 2003; Labukt 2012) do not deny the existence of positive and negative feelings per se: they only deny that these feelings belong to a single affective continuum. But as indicated by the chocolate experiment in the last chapter, we cannot “locate” the valence of any single kind of pleasure or pain taken separately. How then can we conclude that valence is plural? It can also be argued that the complete denial of affective comparability is self-contradictory. How can we say that positive feelings cannot be compared without already assuming a vague and broadly inclusive category of positive feeling? In order to claim that positive feelings are incomparable, something must allow us to identify positive feelings as such. One could take up a kind of nominalism with respect to affect, and argue that that the category of positive feeling derives from judgment rather any common quality, tone, or character. But experimental evidence indicates that valence is a nonconceptual, pre-reflective aspect of an experience that is determined prior to or independently of our conscious judgments about experience (see, e.g., Clore and Huntsinger 2007). Sometimes we feel that something is not quite right but we cannot say what it is; sometimes we misattribute affective feelings (Sher and Winkielman 2009); sometimes we are surprised by affect, as when we first try a bizarre-looking dish (e.g. percebes) and find that it tastes much better than it looks. And what to make of the fact that some kind of affective unity is widely assumed by affective science, as indicated by the popular “common currency” thesis? This is the view that a unified continuum of affective valence constitutes a fundamental basis for decision making (e.g. Cabanac 2002; Prinz 2004; Leknes and Tracey 2008; Barrett and Bliss-Moreau 2009; Grabenhorst and Rolls 2011; Berridge and Kringelbach 2013). In the words of psychologist Michel Cabanac: To prioritize the multiple motivations that compete for access to the behavioral final common path, the brain needs a common currency. … Pleasure

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serves as the common currency for the trade-offs that take place in the mind to rank priorities and ensure that the most urgent motivation has first access to the behavioral final common path. (2002, p. 74)

Of course, the fact that so many scientists support the common currency thesis does not by itself settle the question of affective unity. Again, as Kahneman pointed out, the question needs further investigation. I conclude this section by calling attention to the cognitive utility of affective unity, provided that it is not overly simplified. If affective phenomena were not somehow unified, we would regularly find ourselves incapacitated by a confused jumble of incommensurable responses and feelings. Many ordinary situations would leave us paralyzed like Buridan’s ass. On the other hand, I do not think we would be much better off if affective feelings were unified in such a way that decision-­making could be reduced to a hedonic calculus. Some situations are well served by complex and vacillating affective feelings, including strong feelings of ambivalence as well subtle feelings with vague affective import. These complex feelings are not necessarily incapacitating: on the contrary, they may be helpful guides for negotiating complex, delicate, or otherwise difficult situations that require careful attention and consideration. Thus it is easy to think of reasons why a complex repertoire of affective feelings constitutes a cognitive advantage, even if it does not always provide a smooth channel toward the “behavioral final common path.” Affective feelings should be just coherent enough to help us to search for that path, whether it comes easily or not. Notice, however, that this notion of affect as a complex and subtle “common currency” is intimately bound up with our experience of affect; it is difficult to see how it could apply to unconscious mechanisms of value “computation” (e.g. Grabenhorst and Rolls 2011).

Intensity and Other Dimensions of Affect In the last chapter it was briefly noted that valence is not the only dimension of affect that is studied by affective science. Psychologists have long recognized the existence of at least one or two other affective variables


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(see Barrett and Bliss-Moreau 2009, p. 169), although they do not agree on their definition or their relation to valence. Meanwhile, the philosophical discussions of pleasure reviewed in the last chapter largely ignore these other dimensions of affect. Unfortunately, even where they are recognized, the multiple dimensions of affect are currently underappreciated and undertheorized to the extent that they are often lumped together in a confused way. In this section I attempt an initial clarification of this issue by showing how the intensity of feeling can be differentiated into four distinct kinds of intensity, each of which can vary independently of the others. 1. Qualitative intensity: Qualitative intensity has to do with the strength of a discriminable quality in perception. Consider, for example, the intensity of flavors (saltiness, sweetness, etc.). Common experience as well as experimental evidence shows that the pleasantness of many flavors varies complexly with their intensity (e.g., Young 1959). For example, generally we like a little bit of saltiness in our food, but not too much. Also, the relationship between pleasantness and qualitative intensity can change depending on how intense qualities are combined. 2. Hedonic intensity: Hedonic intensity has to with the degree of affective valence, positive or negative, that is, how good or bad something feels. Precise levels of hedonic intensity may not be clearly discernible, but it seems that we can and do rank diverse experiences—anticipated and remembered—according to levels of positivity and negativity (Kahneman 2000). Discriminations of hedonic intensity are complicated by the way hedonic intensity combines with other kinds of intensity. A rollercoaster ride can be very intense in one sense (arousal) but only mildly positive; excessively intense flavors (e.g., cumin) can lower the overall pleasure of a dish; and feelings that are lacking in most kinds of intensity might still be very pleasurable (e.g., dozing on the sofa). It seems that our commonsense notion of hedonic intensity—i.e., “intense pleasures” and “intense pains”—is dominated by experiences that combine hedonic intensity with qualitative intensity. Nevertheless, I think we can easily verify in our experience that hedonic intensity is not strictly dependent on the other kinds of intensity described here.

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3. Arousal: Level of arousal is itself a complex, multidimensional variable. For scientists, arousal is a physiological process constituted primarily by activations of the autonomic nervous system, resulting in changes of heart rate, respiration, galvanic skin response, and so forth. These changes combine in different ways to constitute diverse kinds of arousal (see Kreibig 2010 for a comprehensive review). Importantly, it seems that different episodes of anger, fear, and other emotions can be accompanied by different kinds of autonomic arousal: there is not just one kind of “fear arousal.” Moreover, not all varieties of arousal measured by scientists show up as bodily feelings; the relationship between physiological arousal and felt arousal is unclear. Within psychological models of affective feeling, arousal is more commonly defined in broad phenomenological terms as level of “excitement” or “energy” (Russell 1980; Kuppens et al. 2013). This way of defining arousal can be misleading, as its relation to bodily feelings that can be attributed to autonomic arousal—not to mention qualitative and motivational intensity—is usually left unspecified. But even if arousal is defined vaguely as level of excitement, it seems to represent a particular kind of intensity that can vary independently of the others (qualitative, hedonic, and motivational; see Gamble and Harmon-Jones 2010). 4. Motivational intensity: Motivational intensity has to do with the strength of the attractiveness or repulsiveness of stimuli, and/or the strength of the impulse to carry out some action (“action readiness”). Especially among psychologists who follow after Kurt Lewin and other gestalt theorists, motivational intensity is often described as if it were a kind of force, i.e. “motivational force” (e.g. Higgins 2006). There can be no question that motivational intensity is a critical piece of the affective puzzle, and that the difficulty of explaining motivational intensity is closely related to the challenges presented by affective valence. As will be discussed shortly, some have even argued for a reduction of affect to motivational intensity. A quick look at the other kinds of intensity defined here should indicate why this does not work. Before moving on, I want to highlight the question of how these different dimensions of affect are interrelated. Many psychologists assume a strict independence of different affective dimensions, as if they were


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orthogonal axes (Russell 1980; Cabanac 2002). However, a systematic review of the relation between valence and arousal as measured by various models finds, on average, a symmetric, “V”-shaped correlation between high levels of arousal and valence (Kuppens et al. 2013). On the other hand, as discussed by Giovanna Colombetti and Peter Kuppens in an unpublished paper, the problem with this data is that it is based on measurements that do not clearly define arousal, and thus fail to differentiate between various kinds of intensity, hedonic and non-hedonic. But without greater clarity about the nature of affective valence, how can we be sure that any of these varieties of intensity are strictly non-hedonic?

Affect and Motivation The close relationship between affect and motivation is indicated by the observation that all feelings of pleasure and pain are “inherently motivating” (Aydede 2018, pp. 243–246). The motivational character of affect is what constitutes its force-like influence or power; it is what Wolfgang Köhler and other gestalt psychologists called “demand character” or “invitation character” (Aufforderungscharakter). If motivation belongs to the nature of affect, perhaps by turning to the former concept we can learn something about the latter. But what exactly is motivation? Is it possible to develop an adequate concept of motivation that circumvents the core phenomenological challenge of affect? Many seem to think so: the view that motivation should be prioritized as the more basic phenomenon is widespread in both philosophy and psychology. It shows up in attitudinal approaches to pleasure as well as a large family of theories that define affect in terms of goal acquisition, conation, or desire (e.g., Carver et  al. 2014; see also Dunker 1941; Spinoza 1677/2000). Some of these theories attempt to circumvent the problem of affect via a “conceptual reduction” of affect to motivation. The success of this reduction depends on being able to define an adequate concept of motivation that excludes all reference to feelings of affective valence (Labukt 2012). In the last chapter, we discussed problems with attempts to reduce affect to an attitudinal concept of motivation. Here

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we will explore the possibility of circumventing the core challenge of affect by turning to a behavioral concept of motivation.1 Behavioral concepts of motivation have the distinct advantage of being readily operationalized, as indicated by the large and still-growing body of experimental work devoted to the study of motivation in animal behavior (e.g., Young 1959; Papini et al. 2015). There can be little question that these studies have made significant contributions to scientific understanding of behavior; nor can it be questioned that behavior is a critical piece of the puzzle of affect. Again, my present concern is not to review this literature but to consider the extent to which behavioral approaches can escape from the experiential dimension in which motivation is inextricably tied to affect. For the behaviorist reduction of affective valence to work, we need a purely behavioral definition of valence that is adequate to the complexity and variability of motivated behavior. A common approach defines positive and negative valence in terms of behavioral patterns of approach and avoidance, respectively (Elliot 2008). An even more parsimonious version of this definition comes from the philosopher Jesse Prinz, who suggests that valence simply urges “more of this!” or “less of this!” (2004, p. 174). The problem with the first definition is that negative affect is associated with certain kinds of approach behavior, as when anger leads to violent confrontation, or when addiction causes compulsive approach behavior that is largely devoid of pleasure. As for Prinz’s definition, it is doubtful that positive affect always urges “more of this.” From both phenomenological and behavioral standpoints, it seems that indefinite prolongation and repetition are inconsistent with many pleasures, if not the very nature of pleasure.2 According to Morten Kringelbach and Kent Berridge,  This paragraph blurs together several motivational approaches to affect that should be distinguished. Some approaches do not deny the existence of affective feelings like pleasure; they merely insist that these feelings are a function of desire (we feel pleasure when we are getting what we want). Other approaches reduce affective feelings to other kinds of mental phenomena such as “intentional attitudes” which have motivational content but allegedly are not felt. Finally, classical behaviorist approaches try to minimize reference to mental phenomena of all kinds and attempt to define motivation solely in terms of observable patterns of behavior. 2  Failure to recognize this point was at least partly responsible for a long-standing misidentification of certain areas of the brain as “pleasure centers” following a series of influential behavioral experiments (e.g., Olds 1956). Laboratory rats who were able to directly self-stimulate these centers by pushing a lever were observed to do so thousands of times—a compulsive behavior that scientists 1


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e­ xperiences of pleasure typically develop through cycles, passing through phases of anticipation, consummation, and satiety (Berridge and Kringelbach 2015). Presumably all phases of the pleasure cycle are pleasurable in some way, while the urge for more goes to zero as we reach satiety— as demonstrated in the chocolate experiment discussed earlier in Chap. 3. Thus, even if they are not always ready to admit the role of feeling in their description of motivation, scientists have found it necessary to move beyond purely behavioral definitions, as evidenced by the various theoretical models of motivation that have been developed over the years (Kleinginna and Kleinginna 1981; Toates 1986; Heckhausen 1991; Berridge 2004, 2018). Here I wish only to point out the difficulty of constructing a model that captures the complexity of motivated behavior without resorting to feeling. For example, to illustrate the complex relationship between motivational states, stimulus strength, and behavior, Konrad Lorenz devised a “hydro-mechanic” model of motivation in which an elaborate system of weights and valves controls the release of water from a large tank (1950). With this model Lorenz was not, of course, trying to describe the mechanisms of motivation; rather he was trying to show how motivated behavior can be understood as the product of a complex system of interacting forces. More recently, scientists have tended to think of motivated behavior in strictly homeostatic terms— that is, not just homeostatic-like, but actually driven by homeostatic mechanisms (see Berridge 2004). In Chap. 2 I critiqued Antonio Damasio’s use of a homeostatic model to explain the feeling of affect. But even if we set feelings aside, it can be argued that homeostatic models are inadequate to the complexities of motivated behavior, as not all behaviors can be explained as attempts to restore the animal to a healthy state. What about play, for instance? Obviously, such a cursory discussion cannot do justice to such a huge field of research. My point is merely to indicate that affect and motivation are entangled in a way that does not allow for easy escape. Indeed, just the nature of their entanglement is difficult to articulate. Here is a brief attempt. interpreted as intense pleasure. More recently, neural mechanisms for “wanting” have been distinguished from those for “liking” and, based on this distinction, scientists have suggested that the rats’ compulsive behavior was probably not so pleasant after all (Kringelbach and Berridge 2012).

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The feeling of wanting includes a force-like inclination to act, but it is not just a force that pulls or pushes: like affect, it also includes some sense of value and this sense is intrinsic to its forcefulness. Thus, like affect, motivational feelings can be positive or negative, but this valence does not correspond to categories of behavior like approach and avoidance. The very same inclination to act can be felt as positive or negative. Think, for instance, of the mixed feelings that accompany compulsive behavior and addiction, or the sudden reversal of valence that occurs when desire is thwarted. For these reasons, it is impossible to reduce motivation to behavior or to a system of interacting forces (for further discussion, see Barrett 2020). Affective feeling must enter into the account. But affective valence is not sufficient to account for motivation, as many varieties of positive and negative feeling (e.g., consummation pleasure, or the pleasure of satiety) lack the inclination to act that characterizes motivation.

Affect and Emotion By now, the pattern of argumentation in this chapter should be clear: in each section, the aim is to examine how the core challenge of affect is implicated by recurring questions within various areas of affective science. Here, confronted with the vast and highly contested field of emotion, our interest shall be confined to the following question: what does this field have to say about affective valence? Surprisingly, in the literature on emotion I have found a scarcity of evidence and argumentation that bears directly on the core challenge of affect as defined in this book. This lacuna is especially striking if one comes to debates about the nature of emotion from the perspective of the philosophy of pleasure (see Chap. 3). Even philosophers who write about emotion rarely take notice of valence. In a review of the literature, Louis Charland notes that while philosophical interest in valence is growing, “little is said about it in analytic philosophy of emotion” (2009, p. 261). And even when the challenge posed by valence is noticed, its full scope and import are not recognized. Here are a couple of noteworthy examples. Among philosophers of emotion, Robert Solomon stands out for his arguments “against valence”


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(2003): that is, while he acknowledges the existence of diverse positive and negative feelings, he argues against the existence of a single continuum of affective valence that underlies all emotional phenomena. As I pointed out above and in the previous chapter, however, he does not seem to be aware that the elusiveness of affective valence also applies to each and every instance of positive or negative feeling, including all sensory pleasures and physical pains. In response to Solomon, Jesse Prinz defends the existence of a unified system of “valence markers” (2004, 2010), but concludes from his own introspective analysis of a few examples that feelings of positive and negative valence are not found in experiences of emotion (2004, p. 178). But again, he fails to realize the full implications of this discovery. Distinct markers of valence are absent in all feelings, including even the most self-evidently positive feelings of sensory pleasure and the most selfevidently negative feelings of physical pain. Therefore, to be consistent, Prinz must adopt an externalist view of valence—which he may do, of course, and find himself in good company. But it does not seem that he grasps the full burden of this position, especially with respect to sensory pleasures and physical pain. It is one thing to conclude from introspection of a few negative emotions that we have no clear feelings of valence in these cases; it is quite another to maintain this position across the board. Meanwhile, in the science of emotion, evasion of the core challenge is even more pervasive. Taking a broad view, it seems that every major theoretical approach includes valence as one of the main ingredients of emotion. A recent article observes that despite continuing debates about the nature of emotion “the idea that affect forms the foundation of emotions and is characterized by two such fundamental properties—valence and arousal—has had substantial staying power in the literature” (Bliss-­ Moreau et al. 2020, p. 993). Furthermore, unlike philosophers, neuroscientists and psychologists almost unanimously accept the commonsense view that valence is felt: Every person on the planet … can tell good from bad, positive from negative, pleasure from displeasure. The basic ability to experience pleasant or unpleasant feelings and represent objects as positive or negative, or as pleasing or displeasing, is known as hedonic ‘valence.’ Valence is thought to be a fundamental, universal property of human experience. (Lindquist et al. 2016, p. 1910)

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One would think that the fundamental importance of valence for the science of emotion (not to mention other fields) would lead to closer scrutiny of its peculiar phenomenology. But, with a few notable exceptions—especially the work of Magda Arnold (1960) and Nico Frijda (2009)—the core challenge is not discussed in the scientific literature. It seems that the operative assumption is that as long as subjects have no difficulty reporting valence scientists need not concern themselves with the difficulty of describing this feeling. Yet when scientists attempt to explain the fundamental role of affect in emotion and other dimensions of experience, they almost invariably make claims about the nature of affective feelings that run up against the core challenge. Especially telling in this respect is the work of neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett, one of the leading proponents of a constructivist approach to emotion that treats affect as a basic ingredient of emotion and a “fundamental aspect of consciousness” (2017, p. 73). According to Barrett, affect is grounded in interoception, “your brain’s representation of all sensations from your internal organs and tissues, the hormones in your blood, and your immune system” (p. 56). More succinctly, interoception is the brain’s way of representing the body’s current metabolic demand or “body budget.” Although Barrett is careful not to claim that the mechanisms of interoception actually produce affective feelings—she calls the latter “one of the great mysteries of science” (p. 73)—she does claim that “affective feelings of pleasure and displeasure … are simple summaries of your budgetary state” (p. 72). Taken at face value, this view of affect does not square with our experience. It implies that affective feelings are signs of good and bad states rather than something directly enjoyed and suffered. It also overlooks the fact that a representation of our metabolic state (or of anything else) can be neither intrinsically valuable nor fundamental to consciousness. If affect were a distinct kind of feeling that signaled our metabolic needs, we would have to learn to distinguish between positive and negative feelings and, however necessary they might be to our survival, they would not be a basic trait of consciousness. To be clear, I do not think that Barrett means to claim all of these things about affect. I merely wish to point out that when scientists attempt to ground affect in vital processes they tend, unwittingly, to


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ascribe to it traits that its peculiar phenomenology will not bear. Barrett can safely retreat from her claim about the representative nature of affect and still hold that interoception is an important determinant of affect. But to do so would require that she acknowledges that our inability to describe the nature of affect constitutes a critical gap in the science of emotion. Given that affect is a basic ingredient in all emotion, it seems that we cannot understand emotion without understanding how affect is determined and how it relates to the determination of other ingredients. Along these lines, an especially important question is the relation between the affective valence of an emotion and its categorization as a particular type. A broad distinction between positive and negative emotions is widely assumed in the literature on emotion but rarely specified by precise definitions (Colombetti 2005). In general, it seems that emotions are distinguished as positive or negative because our experience of them is typically marked by pronounced positive or negative valence. That is, emotions like sadness, disgust, fear, shame, and anger are regarded as negative because they typically feel bad, while emotions like joy, contentment, and amusement are regarded as positive because they typically feel good. It is important to keep the qualifier “typically” in mind, however. As is often pointed out, anger can feel good, as in episodes of righteous indignation. Moreover, it seems that most if not all negative emotions can be pleasurable when experienced through music, film, and other artistic media. Music, in particular, can induce intensely gratifying experiences of negative emotions—especially sadness. The apparent paradox of “enjoyable sadness” has been recognized at least since Aristotle, and in recent years philosophers and psychologists have offered a variety of explanations for this phenomenon in music (Kivy 1990; Huron 2011; Garrido and Schubert 2011; Vuoskoski et al. 2012; Kawakami et al. 2013; Taruffi and Koelsch 2014; Levinson 2014; Sachs et al. 2015; Barrett and Schulkin 2017). I discuss my own approach to this problem in the Introduction and again in Chap. 9. Here I wish simply to call attention to the way in which various approaches to this paradox reveal important assumptions about valence and emotion. For example, some argue that when we enjoy sad music sadness is perceived in the music but not actually felt (Kivy 1990; Garrido and Schubert 2011; Kawakami et al. 2013), presumably in part because they assume that felt sadness is essentially negative.

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Affect and Information In this section the argument changes tack, entering into territory that is not normally considered part of affective science—informational theories of consciousness. Much more will be said about the relation between affect and consciousness in subsequent parts of the book. In this section, we briefly explore the limitations of informational concepts with respect to the problem of affect. In particular, we examine philosopher David Chalmers’ well-known proposal to use information as a “bridge concept” to connect the phenomenal properties of consciousness with its functional aspects (2010). In the background of Chalmers’s informational approach is his “principle of structural coherence” (p.  21). According to this principle, we should expect our best descriptions of the phenomenal characteristics of consciousness to cohere systematically with our best descriptions of its functional structure and dynamics. For instance, we expect to be able to show that our experience of color makes sense given what we know about the dynamics of tri-color opponent processing, and vice versa. We should not expect every phenomenal detail to be registered on the functional side, however. To guide our search for coherence, Chalmers proposes that we focus on “functional awareness”: aspects of consciousness that are directly available for global control of behavior and verbal report (pp. 20–21). As just defined, the principle of structural coherence can be adopted by a variety of theoretical approaches to consciousness (cf. Cosmelli et al. 2007). Chalmers’s own informational approach specifies the principle of structural coherence as follows: (1) he uses information as a “bridge concept” to connect properties of functional awareness with phenomenal properties, and (2) the phenomenal properties on which he focuses most are sense qualities or qualia. According to Chalmers, perceptual contents and dynamical states of consciousness can be both thought of as information states within an abstract “information space” defined by difference relations between its elements (pp. 25–26). So, for example, if it can be shown that colors and visual processing dynamics instantiate the same “information space,” then the principle of structural coherence can be realized in a precise manner.


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Now, how should we expect the principle of structural coherence to apply to affect? Despite all that I have said about the absence of distinct affective qualities, it is clear that affective valence counts as a discriminable feature of consciousness that is available for global behavioral control and verbal report. But, as we have seen, affect is not discriminable in the manner of sense qualities like color, and I suggest that this lack of qualitative discreteness is problematic for those who wish to use information as a bridge concept. Perhaps the apparent limitation of Chalmers’s informational approach with respect to affect depends on a particular understanding of information. In what sense, then, should we think of affect as information? From the perspective of brain science, affect is frequently treated as a learning signal, suggesting that it operates as a distinct informational variable (Shiota et al. 2021; Christensen 2017). However, regardless of what neuroscientists claim about the existence of these variables at the level of unconscious “information processing,” given the absence of affective qualities, it seems that affect does not add any special informational content to experience (cf. Aydede 2018, p. 254). But then again, as I have just pointed out, it is hard to deny that affect is among the most important kinds of information made available to awareness for purposes of behavioral control. Surely, in some sense, our thought and behavior are deeply informed by affect: affect is undoubtedly “a difference that makes a difference.” But what kind of difference is it, and how does it make a difference? How is it possible to modify the informational contents of experience without adding information and still make a difference to behavior? Thus, although it seems that the principle of structural coherence should apply to affect, it runs into special difficulties when it is specified by an informational approach. My claim is not that the application of information concepts to consciousness is totally misguided, only that these concepts may have limitations that make them inadequate to affect. The limitations of a purely informational approach can be indicated another way. Especially when information is treated as a universal property with a phenomenal dimension (as in Chalmer’s “double-aspect theory”), informational theories fail to exclude the possibility of having drastically simplified feelings that are utterly unlike our conscious

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experience. More specifically, they fail to exclude: (1) simple conscious feelings of just one or two distinct qualia and nothing more; (2) a limited variety of conscious feelings, constituted from a limited and fixed repertoire of qualia/informational states; and (3) “affect zombies” (see Chap. 3). Some may think that these are real possibilities that should not be excluded by a theory of consciousness. Others will take them as a kind of reductio ad absurdum that indicates that the informational approach needs to be amended. Either way, they should be carefully considered, and they should lead us to question the qualia-based picture of consciousness to which many informational theories are attached. A basic problem with the qualia-based picture of consciousness is the way in which it tends to obscure or omit relational and dynamic features of consciousness, including especially temporal features (see Chap. 6 for further discussion). Against this perspective, many phenomenological perspectives attest to the critical importance of the “specious present” and the continuous stream-like flow of experience (James 1890/1983). Moreover, we know that the course taken by the stream of consciousness is anything but haphazard: it corresponds closely to the course of thought and behavior. As Chalmers points out, the principle of structural coherence implies that “consciousness and cognition do not float free from one another but cohere in an intimate way” (2010, p. 22). We also know that affect is a fundamental determinant of thought and behavior. Although we have not yet considered the literature on affect and cognition in any detail, the discussion up to this point suggests that this may be the best place to look for structural coherence.

Affect and Cognition At least until recently, the scientific view of affective influence on cognition has been fairly easy to describe. In a number of studies conducted over several decades by Alice Isen, Barbara Fredrickson, and others, psychologists have found that the experience of positive emotions corresponds to an overall “broadening effect” on cognition that includes the expansion of “momentary thought-action repertoires” and a relatively wide attentional field, while negative emotions correspond to an overall


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“narrowing effect” on cognition and a relatively narrow attentional field (Isen et al. 1987; Fredrickson and Branigan 2005). The particular effects are various but can be summarized as broadening and narrowing of “cognitive scope.” This pattern has been revealed by experiments that present standardized affective stimuli (pictures, videos, music, words, and bodily postures) to elicit a positive or negative emotion and then ask the subject to perform simple task that can be used to measure broadening and narrowing effects. For example, the Kimchi and Palmer task (1982) requires subjects to look at three figures, each of which has a “global” shape comprised of smaller, “local” elements (e.g., a triangle made up of smaller triangles or squares) and then decide which two figures are most similar. Similarity judgments based on the shape of the figures are considered to represent a global bias, while similarity judgments based on the shape of the elements are considered to represent a local bias. For many such studies, the overall pattern of affective influence is clear: the experience of positive emotion corresponds to increased global bias, while the experience of negative emotion corresponds to increased local bias. In other words, it seems that positive affect inclines us to look at the forest, while negative affect inclines us to look at the trees. As we will discuss in a moment, this picture of affect and cognition may be incomplete. But first let us consider the implications of this basic broadening/narrowing pattern for the problem of affect. What kind of structural coherence between cognitive and phenomenological aspects of affect does this pattern suggest? On the cognitive side, it has been suggested that the narrowing effect of negative affect makes sense insofar as the narrowing of attention is generally conducive to making decisions and taking action when confronted by a threatening situation. Likewise, the broadening effect of positive affect makes sense in low-risk situations where a more “open-minded” approach allows us to explore and take advantage of new opportunities. Thus the pattern of affective influence on cognition can be summarized as follows: Negative emotions narrow our attention to the source of the threat and mobilize us for fight and flight. Negative emotions prepare us for zero-sum games in which there is a winner and a loser. … Positive emotions broaden

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our attention so we become aware of the wider physical and social environment. This broadened attention prepares us to be open to new ideas and practices and to be more creative than usual. (Carr 2011, p. 12)

On the phenomenological side, do we find a corresponding pattern within our experience of affect? Does positive affect include a “broadening” feeling and does negative affect include a “narrowing” feeling? In some cases, at least, we do find at least the suggestion of such a pattern. On the positive side, relaxation and contentment do seem to be accompanied by a broadening of awareness and activity. Perhaps we can say that, in general, positive affect is expansive rather than restrictive (see Chaps. 7 and 8 for further discussion). Meanwhile, on the negative side, various states of anxiety and stress can cause us to be inattentive or otherwise closed to our surroundings and this disposition also seems to show up in experience. For example, anger and stress can be experienced as a kind of tunnel vision. Pain seems to present the clearest instances of narrowing: during severe physical pain it seems as if consciousness is constricted around or even reduced to the feeling of pain (see Chap. 8), and when we suffer from chronic pain our sense of self as well as our outlook on life can be notably restricted. However, as far as I can tell, expansive and constrictive dimensions of affective feelings do not manifest themselves literally as feelings of bodily expansion and constriction. It does not seem that we know “where to look” for such feelings, that is, how to make them the focus of attention. In retrospect we might describe these feelings as a sense of increased expansiveness, fullness, or richness of experience—or the opposite—but we cannot pinpoint this modification while it is occurring.3 At best, then, it seems that the basic pattern of broadening and narrowing is suggested by some experiences of affect, but only vaguely. We would like to have more clear-cut phenomenological support for the broadening/narrowing effect—although, on the other hand, this vagueness squares with peculiar elusiveness of affect.  See Arnold (1960) for discussion of feelings of expansion and constriction in early twentieth century research on affect. Some psychologists claim to have isolated a quasi-bodily feeling (“bright pressure”) that marked these feelings but, as Arnold points out, these feelings were only discriminated by specially trained subjects, and so cannot be assumed to constitute affective valence per se. 3


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But supposing the correspondence between cognitive scope and affective valence were more clearly evidenced, could we define the entirety of positive and negative affect in these terms? If affect could be so defined, that would constitute a fairly well-defined pattern of structural coherence: perhaps a solution to the problem of affect would be within reach. Unfortunately, upon closer examination, this promise of a neat and tidy solution to the problem of affect begins to unravel. On the cognitive side, there is evidence that the influence of affect on cognition is not as simple as we have just described. In a series of publications that argue for a critical revision of the broadening/narrowing cognitive model of affect, the psychologists Philip Gable and Eddie Harmon-Jones present evidence that some kinds of positive emotion correlate with increased local bias and that some kinds of negative emotions correlate with increased global bias (2010; Harmon-Jones et al. 2013). Furthermore, they suggest that the pattern of broadening/narrowing effects is better explained by another affective dimension, which they call “motivational intensity,” and which can vary independently of both valence and arousal. According to their model, positive and negative emotions with low motivational intensity (e.g., amusement and sadness) result in the broadening effect, while positive and negative emotions with high motivational intensity (e.g., desire and disgust) result in the narrowing effect. Although their picture of the relation between affect and cognition may need further refinement, I find that Gable and Harmon-Jones’s main point rings true. It does seem that positive appetitive states as well as many intense sensory pleasures have a distinctly narrow feel and impact on attention. The characterization of sadness as a state of low motivational intensity also makes sense, even if its broadening effect needs to be further differentiated from that of amusement. In short, while we may continue to hold that some kinds of positive affect are characterized by broadening and some kinds of negative affect are characterized by narrowing, it does not seem that we can understand valence, the primary axis of affect, as a single continuum defined by broadness/narrowness of cognitive scope. To sum up, in studies of affect and cognition, we seem tantalizingly close to finding a way forward: we have suggestions of structural

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coherence and hints of an intuitive fit with our experience of affect. But it doesn’t pan out. The clearest structural feature of affective influence on cognition, the broadening/narrowing of cognitive scope, does not correspond well enough with affective valence. Moreover, even if positivity did correspond better to broadening, it is not clear how that would amount to a significant advance with respect to the problem of affect. In short, while studies of affect and cognition indicate that the principle of coherence can indeed be applied to affect, they fall short of providing a unified theory.

References Arnold, Magda. 1960. Emotion and Personality. New  York: Columbia University Press. Aydede, Murat. 2018. A Contemporary Account of Sensory Pleasure. In Pleasure: A History, ed. L. Shapiro, 239–266. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Barrett, Lisa Feldman. 2017. How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Barrett, Nathaniel F. 2020. On the Nature and Origins of Cognition as a Form of Motivated Activity. Adaptive Behavior 28 (2): 89–103. Barrett, Lisa Feldman, and Eliza Bliss-Moreau. 2009. Affect as a Psychological Primitive. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology 41: 167–218. Barrett, Nathaniel F., and Jay Schulkin. 2017. A Neurodynamic Perspective on Musical Enjoyment: The Role of Emotional Granularity. Frontiers in Psychology 8: 2187. Berridge, Kent C. 2004. Motivation Concepts in Behavioral Neuroscience. Physiology & Behavior 81 (2): 179–209. ———. 2018. Evolving Concepts of Emotion and Motivation. Frontiers in Psychology 9: Article 1647. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01647. Berridge, Kent C., and Morten L. Kringelbach. 2013. Neuroscience of Affect: Brain Mechanisms of Pleasure and Displeasure. Current Opinion in Neurobiology 23 (3): 294–303. ———. 2015. Pleasure Systems in the Brain. Neuron 86 (3): 646–664. Berridge, Kent C., and Terry E.  Robinson. 2003. Parsing Reward. Trends in Neurosciences 26 (9): 507–513.


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Bliss-Moreau, Eliza, Lisa A. Williams, and Anthony C. Santistevan. 2020. The Immutability of Valence and Arousal in the Foundation of Emotion. Emotion 20 (6): 993. Cabanac, Michel. 2002. What Is Emotion? Behavioural Processes 60 (2): 69–83. Carr, Alan. 2011. Positive Psychology: The Science of Happiness and Human Strengths. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge. Carver, Charles S., Michael F. Scheier, and Sheri L. Johnson. 2014. Origins and Functions of Positive Affect. In Positive Emotion: Integrating the Light Sides and Dark Sides, ed. J.  Gruber and J.T.  Moskowitz, 34–51. Oxford University Press. Chalmers, David J. 2010. The Character of Consciousness. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Charland, Louis C. 2005. The Heat of Emotion: Valence and the Demarcation Problem. Journal of Consciousness Studies 12 (8–9): 82–102. ———. 2009. Emotion, Philosophical Perspectives. In The Oxford Companion to Consciousness, ed. T.  Bayne, A.  Cleeremans, and P.  Wilken, 259–262. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Christensen, Julia F. 2017. Pleasure Junkies All Around! Why It Matters and Why ‘The Arts’ Might be the Answer: A Biopsychological Perspective. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 284 (1854): 20162837. Clore, Gerald L., and Jeffrey R.  Huntsinger. 2007. How Emotions Inform Judgment and Regulate Thought. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 11 (9): 393–399. Colombetti, Giovanna. 2005. Appraising Valence. Journal of Consciousness Studies 12 (8–9): 103–126. Cosmelli, D., J. Lachaux, and E. Thompson. 2007. Neurodynamics of Consciousness. In The Cambridge Handbook of Consciousness, ed. P.D. Zelazo, M. Moscovitch, and E. Thompson, 731–752. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Dunker, Karl. 1941. On Pleasure, Emotion, and Striving. Philosophical and Phenomenological Research 1: 391–430. Elliot, Andrew J. (2008). Approach and Avoidance Motivation. In Handbook of Approach and Avoidance Motivation, ed. A. J. Elliot, 3–14. New York: Psychology Press. Fredrickson, Barbara L., and Christine Branigan. 2005. Positive Emotions Broaden the Scope of Attention and Thought-Action Repertoires. Cognition & Emotion 19 (3): 313–332.

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Frijda, Nico. 2009. On the Nature and Function of Pleasure. In Pleasures of the Brain, ed. K.C.  Berridge and M.L.  Kringelbach, 99–112. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Gable, Philip A., and Eddie Harmon-Jones. 2010. The Motivational Dimensional Model of Affect: Implications for Breadth of Attention, Memory, and Cognitive Categorization. Cognition and Emotion 24 (2): 322–337. Garrido, Sandra, and Emery Schubert. 2011. Individual Differences in the Enjoyment of Negative Emotion in Music: A Literature Review and Experiment. Music Perception 28 (3): 279–296. Grabenhorst, Fabian, and Edmund T. Rolls. 2011. Value, Pleasure and Choice in the Ventral Prefrontal Cortex. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 15 (2): 56–67. Harmon-Jones, Eddie, Philip A. Gable, and Tom F. Price. 2013. Does Negative Affect Always Narrow and Positive Affect Always Broaden the Mind? Considering the Influence of Motivational Intensity on Cognitive Scope. Current Directions in Psychological Science 22 (4): 301–307. Heckhausen, Heinz. 1991. Motivation and Action. Trans. P.K.  Leppmann. Berlin: Springer-Verlag. Higgins, E.  Tory. 2006. Value from Hedonic Experience and Engagement. Psychological Review 113 (3): 439–460. Huron, David. 2011. Why Is Sad Music Pleasurable? A Possible Role for Prolactin. Musicae Scientiae 15 (2): 146–158. Isen, Alice M., Kimberly A.  Daubman, and Gary P.  Nowicki. 1987. Positive Affect Facilitates Creative Problem Solving. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 52 (6): 1122–1131. James, William. 1890/1983. The Principles of Psychology. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Kahneman, Daniel. 2000. Experienced Utility and Objective Happiness: A Moment-Based Approach. In Choices, values, and frames, ed. D. Kahneman and A. Tversky, 673–692. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Kawakami, Ai, Kiyoshi Furukawa, Kentaro Katahira, and Kazuo Okanoya. 2013. Sad Music Induces Pleasant Emotion. Frontiers in Psychology 4: 311. Kimchi, Ruth, and Stephen E. Palmer. 1982. Form and Texture in Hierarchically Constructed Patterns. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance 8 (4): 521. Kivy, Peter. 1990. Music Alone: Philosophical Reflections on the Purely Musical Experience. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.


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Kleinginna, Paul R., and Anne M.  Kleinginna. 1981. A Categorized List of Motivation Definitions, with a Suggestion for a Consensual Definition. Motivation and Emotion 5 (3): 263–291. Kreibig, Sylvia D. 2010. Autonomic Nervous System Activity in Emotion: A Review. Biological Psychology 84 (3): 394–421. Kringelbach, Morten L., and Kent C. Berridge. 2012. The Joyful Mind. Scientific American 307 (2): 40–45. Kuppens, Peter, Francis Tuerlinckx, James A. Russell, and Lisa Feldman Barrett. 2013. The Relation Between Valence and Arousal in Subjective Experience. Psychological Bulletin 139 (4): 917–940. Labukt, Ivan. 2012. Hedonic Tone and the Heterogeneity of Pleasure. Utilitas 24 (2): 172–199. Lang, Peter J. 1995. The Emotion Probe: Studies of Motivation and Attention. American Psychologist 50 (5): 372–385. Leknes, Siri, and Irene Tracey. 2008. A Common Neurobiology for Pain and Pleasure. Nature Reviews Neuroscience 9 (4): 314–320. Levenson, Robert W. 2014. The Autonomic Nervous System and Emotion. Emotion Review 6 (2): 100–112. Levinson, Jerrold. 2014. Suffering Art Gladly: The Paradox of Negative Emotion in Art. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Lindquist, Kristen A., Ajay B. Satpute, Tor D. Wager, Jochen Weber, and Lisa Feldman Barrett. 2016. The Brain Basis of Positive and Negative Affect: Evidence from a Meta-analysis of the Human Neuroimaging Literature. Cerebral Cortex 26 (5): 1910–1922. Lorenz, Konrad. 1950. The Comparative Method in Studying Innate Behavior Patterns. Symposia of the Society for Experimental Biology 4: 221–254. Olds, James. 1956. Pleasure Centers in the Brain. Scientific American 195 (4): 105–117. Papini, Mauricio R., Perry N.  Fuchs, and Carmen Torres. 2015. Behavioral Neuroscience of Psychological Pain. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews 48: 53–69. Prinz, Jesse. 2004. Gut Reactions: A Perceptual Theory of Emotions. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ———. 2010. For Valence. Emotion Review 2 (1): 5–13. Rachels, Stuart. 2004. Six Theses about Pleasure. Philosophical Perspectives 18: 247–267. Russell, James A. 1980. A Circumplex Model of Affect. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 39 (6): 1161–1178.

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Sachs, Matthew E., Antonio Damasio, and Assal Habibi. 2015. The Pleasures of Sad Music: A Systematic Review. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 9: 404. Sher, S., and P. Winkielman. 2009. Emotion and Consciousness. In Encyclopedia of Consciousness: Volume 1, ed. W.P. Banks, 231–241. Amsterdam: Elsevier. Shiota, Michelle N., Belinda Campos, Christopher Oveis, Matthew J. Hertenstein, Emiliana Simon-Thomas, and Dacher Keltner. 2017. Beyond Happiness: Building a Science of Discrete Positive Emotions. American Psychologist 72 (7): 617. Shiota, Michelle N., Esther K. Papies, Stephanie D. Preston, and Disa A. Sauter. 2021. Positive Affect and Behavior Change. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences 39: 222–228. Solomon, Robert C. 2003. Not Passion’s Slave: Emotions and Choice. New York: Oxford University Press. Spinoza, Baruch. 1677/2000. Ethics. Trans. G.H.R. Parkinson. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Taruffi, Liila, and Stefan Koelsch. 2014. The Paradox of Music-Evoked Sadness: An Online Survey. PLoS One 9 (10): e110490. Toates, Frederick M. 1986. Motivational Systems. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Vuoskoski, Jonna K., and Tuomas Eerola. 2012. Can Sad Music Really Make You Sad? Indirect Measures of Affective States Induced by Music and Autobiographical Memories. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts 6 (3): 204. Watson, David, and Auke Tellegen. 1985. Toward a Consensual Structure of Mood. Psychological Bulletin 98 (2): 219–235. Young, Paul Thomas. 1959. The Role of Affective Processes in Learning And Motivation. Psychological Review 66 (2): 104–125.

Desiderata for a Theory of Affect

A theory of affect should be able to account for the following features: §1 How affect is felt: A theory of affect should account for the peculiar elusiveness of affective feelings together with their unmistakable presence and immediate accessibility. §2 Intrinsic connection to value: A theory of affect should be able to address the intrinsic value of affect—how it is that an experience is felt as intrinsically good or bad, rewarding or punishing. §3 Intimate but variable relation to the content of consciousness: A theory of affect should address the fact that affective tone suffuses the content of consciousness and yet affective tone can change while content seems to remain the same. §4 Causal power: A theory of affect should address the force-like influence of affective feelings while recognizing the inherent persuasiveness, or prima facie validity, of this influence—its inherent “demand character.” §5 Relation to motivation and action: A theory of affect should clarify the complex relation between desire and pleasure (wanting and liking) and it should explain how affective valence plays a key role in action while allowing for the fact that not all affective feelings incline us to act. §6 Bipolarity of valence: A theory of affect should explain the difference between positive and negative feeling as well as their continuity.


§7 Relation between valence and other dimensions: A theory of affect should be able to parse affect into its several dimensions—valence, arousal, motivational intensity, etc.—and show how these are related. §8 Unity and variety: A theory of affect should account for the unity of affective feelings—as evidenced by our ability to recognize a wide variety of positive and negative feelings as such and to treat them as if they belonged to a “common currency”—while at the same time registering their heterogeneity and the difficulty of making precise comparisons. §9 Relation between affect and consciousness: A theory of affect should specify the relationship between affect and consciousness: Is affect necessary for consciousness and/or vice versa? Are affect zombies possible? Can trees feel pain or pleasure? Why or why not? §10 Relation between affect and meaning: A theory of affect should account for the close connection between the meaning and affective tone of experience as well as the many instances in which these two basic aspects of experience “come apart” (as in the enjoyment of sad music). §11 Role in other aspects of experience: A theory of affect should help to elucidate the role of affect in perception, cognition, and learning. §12 Differentiation and explanation of various types of affective experience: a theory of affect should help us to differentiate between basic types of affective tone, if such exist, while explaining how they are related (e.g., as regions of a single continuum). It should also be able to shed light on subtle, complex, or perplexing aspects of affective experience such as dissonant feelings and the enjoyment of tragedy. N.B.: These desiderata are restricted to the experiential nature of affect and, accordingly, they do not constitute a comprehensive set of criteria for a theory of affect. Nothing is said here about the physiology of affect, for example. Still, insofar as experience is essential to affect, these desiderata should be considered as essential criteria for any complete theory.

Part II The Harmonic Theory of Affect

The chapters of Part II present an “abbreviated” systematic approach to the problem of affect. Its goal is to think together causation, feeling, and value so as to advance our understanding of affect and its role in experience. The main theory to be developed in Part II can be stated succinctly as follows: affect is a non-perceptual feeling of the changing differentiated-­ ness of experience as indexed by changes of harmonic intensity. As pointed out in the Introduction, however, this theory is difficult to understand without further explanation. The task of the following chapters is, first, to articulate the concepts needed to understand the harmonic theory and second, to elaborate this theory in relation to other basic traits of consciousness and various kinds of affective experience. Chapter 5, “Affect as a feeling of harmonic intensity,” develops the concepts needed to understand the harmonic theory of affect: contrast, harmonic intensity, non-perceptual feeling, differentiated-ness, and the conscious repertoire. The first section defines contrast and harmonic intensity as basic features of experience and indicates their connection to the feeling of value. The key claim of this section is that perceptual feelings marked by high levels of harmonic intensity are generally—though not always— felt as positive. Because the kind of harmonic intensity that we find in perceptual feeling is too subtle to account for most affective feelings, I propose that affect is best understood as a non-perceptual feeling of harmonic intensity as it pertains to the causal enrichment of conscious


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contents. In support of this approach, the second section constructs a “bridge argument” that connects the concepts of contrast and harmonic intensity with the causal dynamics of consciousness. The key claim of this section is that states of consciousness are contrastively determined, or differentiated, in relation to other states within the conscious repertoire. Thus, as the conscious repertoire changes, so does the differentiated-ness of conscious feeling. With these concepts in hand, the third section returns to explain the main thesis and the fourth section explores emerging evidence in support of this thesis. Chapter 6, “Affect and Consciousness,” uses the harmonic theory to show how affect is integral to consciousness, such that there can be no consciousness without affect (no affect zombies), and there can be no affective awareness without consciousness (no happy trees). The key claim of this chapter is that consciousness is an affectively self-regulating stream of feeling. As might be expected, the argument in support of this claim depends heavily on William James’s famous description of the “stream of thought” in his Principles of Psychology (1890). I first show how it is possible to incorporate affect into James’s view of consciousness by glossing the central feature of “interest” in terms of harmonic intensity. Then, with this affective reading of the Jamesian stream in hand, I proceed to analyze the interrelation of affect and two other basic traits of consciousness: flow, or awareness of change, and meaning. Another basic trait, self-awareness, is the focus of the next chapter. Chapter 7, “Affect and the Feeling Self,” explores the apparently intimate connection between affect and self-awareness. After an examination of the relationship between self-awareness and consciousness in writings of William James and Dan Zahavi, I suggest that what is lacking in these perspectives is an account of affective self-interest or self-concern. The rest of the chapter is dedicated to showing how it is possible to understand affective self-interest as an essential feature of consciousness without positing a substantial self. Toward this end, I explore feelings of non-objectifying self-enjoyment found in dance, music, and sport, paying special attention to feelings of expansiveness. The key claim of this chapter is that a basic form of affective self-awareness is constituted by awareness of our changing capacity to feel as manifested by these feelings of expansiveness (and their opposite, feelings of constriction) and that a

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correspondingly basic form of conscious selfhood is constituted by our unique conscious repertoire. Chapter 8, “The Affective Continuum,” explores the application of the harmonic theory to different types of affective experience. First, however, it is necessary to argue for the existence of an affective baseline: a resting level of harmonic intensity somewhere above the threshold of consciousness that establishes the affectively “neutral zone” that divides positive from negative feeling. Then, in the rest of the chapter, I present a rough model of the affective continuum and discuss how various kinds of positive and negative feeling can be located within this model, including strong or “narrow” feelings of pleasure and pain, feelings of dissonance, “wide” feelings of relaxation and depression, and “narrow” feelings of motivation. Chapter 9, “Enjoyment,” returns to the central theme of enrichment, and shows how the harmonic theory can be used to distinguish between two broad categories of positive, enriched feeling: pleasure and enjoyment. After considering various ways of marking this distinction, I argue that enjoyment is best defined as a positive experience that persists through change and that the essential condition for enjoyment is enriched flow. This treatment of enjoyment draws from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of “flow” and John Dewey’s concept of “rhythm” and shows how both can be elaborated in terms of the harmonic theory. The final sections of the chapter are devoted to the uniquely human propensity for the enjoyment of meaning. The key claim of this part is that any meaning can be enjoyed insofar as it can be experienced in enriched form. In support of this claim, I return to consider the enjoyment of sadness in music, and I close with a consideration of the “existential enjoyment” found in the arts and religious practice. Chapter 10, “Conclusion,” returns to the desiderata listed at the close of Part I and shows how each has been met by the theory developed in Part II. The rest of the chapter is devoted to the exploration of various unresolved questions and other loose ends in an effort to show how the harmonic theory of affect is situated within a wider context of inquiry.

5 Affect as a Feeling of Harmonic Intensity

Harmonic Intensity and Contrast The following theoretical approach to affect builds upon the ideas of Alfred North Whitehead, especially his concepts of intensity and contrast (1978; Neville 1989; Grange 1997; Jones 1998). As discussed in the introduction, the main task of this book is to use these concepts to develop the idea of affect as enrichment into a theory that applies to all affective feelings, positive and negative, and illuminates the essential role of affect in all conscious experience. Behind this approach is the basic intuition that enrichment should be understood as the increase of a harmonic trait—harmonic intensity—that belongs to the whole of conscious activity. Although we cannot enter into a detailed discussion of the precedents of this idea, it is worth noting its connection to discussions of the value of harmony that can be traced back to the origins of philosophy in ancient Greece and China (Li 2008). Roughly speaking, harmonic concepts of value are closely related to the classic idea of beauty as unity-in-diversity. Notice that unity and diversity are not essentially affective or valuative terms. This suggests that their application to the problem of affect could © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 N. F. Barrett, Enjoyment as Enriched Experience, Palgrave Perspectives on Process Philosophy, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-13790-7_5



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allow inquiry to escape the “affective-valuative circle” (see end of Chap. 2). Indeed, once this possibility is raised, we have reason to ask why the classic concept of harmony as unity-in-diversity is not more widely considered as a possible solution to the problem of affect. The main obstacle to a harmonic approach is the same as that faced by all versions of the enrichment approach: it is seemingly impossible to define harmony so that it applies to all good feelings. For instance, consider the sweet taste of candy or the soothing sound of the ocean: neither of these feelings seem to exhibit unity-in-diversity, and yet they can be very pleasing. It seems, therefore, that affect does not correlate with harmony qua unity-in-diversity, at least insofar as the latter shows up as a discernible feature of experience. At most, concepts of harmony can be used to define certain kinds of good feelings (especially certain kinds of aesthetic enjoyment), but they cannot be used to define pleasure per se. This problem will be discussed in more detail below, after I have defined the particular concept of harmony that constitutes the mainstay of the present approach. Let us now turn to that task. For a Whiteheadian perspective, the value of harmony lies not in the sheer diversity of what it contains, nor in the mere compatibility or absence of conflict that is required for having diverse things together. Rather, the value of harmony lies in the way in which diverse things are enhanced or enriched by their togetherness. In the case of experience, the value of harmony has to do with the way in which diverse qualities are enriched by their combination within a single feeling. This enrichment is what I call harmonic intensity.1 Perhaps the clearest examples of harmonic intensity are found in the ways in which certain colors, when juxtaposed, mutually intensify or otherwise “set off” one another in a contrast that is striking and often pleasing to the eye. Think of the lively contrast made by violet and yellow flowers in a bouquet. Another common manifestation is the contrast of flavors typically found in our favorite foods. The overall aesthetic effect of  As mentioned in the introduction, Whitehead’s term for this feature of harmony is simply intensity (see 1978, passim; 1933/1967, pp. 252–253). Throughout this book, I use harmonic intensity to avoid confusion with certain kinds of intense feelings, especially intense pleasures and pains. The relation between harmonic intensity and these other kinds of intensity will be clarified in subsequent chapters. 1

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such combinations of colors or flavors, especially when they serve to enrich, intensify, or otherwise enhance our experience, are paradigmatic instances of harmonic intensity. But again, as I have just pointed out, the problem is that this harmonic effect seems to be limited to a certain class of good feelings. The goal of this chapter is to develop from these instances a more general concept of harmonic intensity that can apply to all feelings. Something of the generality of harmonic intensity is already suggested by the examples just given, which draw upon our ability to recognize a common aesthetic character in vivid contrasts of qualities across different sense modalities. We intuitively grasp the idea that vivid contrasts of color are somehow like vivid contrasts of flavor. The aesthetic value of harmonic intensity and its applicability across modalities are brilliantly exploited by a key scene in the popular animated film Ratatouille (Bird 2007). The entire plot of this film revolves around the special culinary genius of the protagonist, a rat named Remy. To show this genius to the audience, the animators depict Remy’s experience of cheese and strawberry as a kind of synesthesia using swirls and throbs of colors and strands of music. First, as he tastes the cheese and strawberry separately, the two tastes are represented as distinct patterns of moving colors, each accompanied by a different musical theme. Then, when he tastes the cheese and strawberry together, the colors and music combine together in more energetic, intensified form. For present purposes, what makes this scene so revealing is the way it exploits our intuitive understanding of harmonic intensity as a cross-­ modal characteristic of sensory enjoyment. The scene works as a narrative device because we intuitively grasp the connection between our experience of music and color and Remy’s experience of cheese and strawberry. And by grasping this connection, we are able to appreciate Remy’s genius: we understand that if our taste experience were like the vivid sounds and colors that we are hearing and seeing, we would be gifted with a remarkably sensitive palate and a heightened capacity for gustatory enjoyment. To drive this point home, the film also presents a synesthetic representation of Remy’s brother’s experience of the same cheese and strawberry. Because the brother does not have Remy’s refined palate, his taste experience is represented by dull, lifeless colors.


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This sequence is a marvelous illustration of harmonic intensity; I encourage readers to seek it out online and see it for themselves.2 However, for the purposes of understanding the role of harmonic intensity in affect it is a bit misleading. The problem is that the synesthetic representation of Remy’s gustatory experience depicts the pleasure of harmonic intensity as a purely perceptual phenomenon, that is, as a discernible enhancement of the qualities that make up the content of experience. To be sure, the implied connection between increased harmonic intensity and enjoyment is central to my theory; I will argue that this connection is the basis of all affect. What is misleading is the suggestion that harmonic intensification always shows up as an explicit feature of perceptual content. As I will explain below, this cannot be the case. Thus, the import of this example must be carefully qualified. I do not mean to claim that all positive feelings are like Remy’s taste of strawberry and cheese. Rather, I am using this example of explicit sensory enhancement to point out the feature of harmonic intensity so that it can be subjected to analysis and then applied to other feelings. The term that I will use for the analysis of harmonic intensity is contrast. Along with harmonic intensity, to which it is closely related, contrast is the most important concept for the present approach. In the next section I will use it as a “bridge” to connect experience with a dynamical description of its causal context. First, however, it must be defined as a basic feature of experience. The simplest kinds of contrasts are strikingly different magnitudes of a common quality or character, such as a bright moon against a dark sky. But we also experience contrasts of different qualities (yellow and blue, cheese and strawberry) as well as contrasts of different qualities belonging to distinct modalities—for instance, a scene of domestic tranquility accompanied by eerie music. In these examples, contrast refers not just to the combination of different qualities, and not just to the accentuation of difference that results from this combination. In many cases, it also refers to the intensification and individuation of component qualities. When a  To create the synesthetic tasting sequence, Pixar specially commissioned the Canadian animator Michel Gagné; the sequence can be viewed on his YouTube channel. Notice that Remy describes the separate tastes of strawberry and cheese as “totally unique,” suggesting a connection between pleasure and differentiated-ness of feeling (see Chap. 8 for further discussion) 2

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pale yellow is paired with blue its yellowness is intensified by the contrast: it becomes more yellow. Notice also that contrasts have a holistic, unitary quality that is not found in any of their components: a scene of domestic tranquility accompanied by eerie music has a tension that is not found in either the scene or the music taken separately. These accentuations, intensifications, individuations, and holistic qualities are the various qualitative effects achieved by contrasts. Usually, we reserve the term contrast for the most striking of these effects. That is, we say that blue and yellow make a contrast but not two similar shades of blue. However, insofar as two shades of blue can be distinguished, their combination within a single feeling always achieves some qualitative effect. Thus, I propose to define contrast in a very general way that applies to all combinations of qualities. In this general sense, contrast is defined as whatever effect is achieved by the interrelation of two or more qualities within a single feeling (cf. James 1890/1983, pp. 662–678). Let us make a few observations about this general concept of contrast. First, the qualitative effect achieved by any contrast in feeling is necessarily complex: it includes the overall quality of the contrast as a whole, as well as alterations of the component qualities by virtue of their participation in the contrast. Second, the effect of contrast seems to be irreducible, or “non-decomposable,” as we cannot analyze a contrast into its component qualities without subtly changing them. The cheese flavor in a cheese-and-strawberry contrast is not the same as the cheese tasted by itself; it is also different from the same cheese in a different contrast, say, as combined with chocolate. Likewise, the overall quality of a contrast cannot be considered separately from its components. The qualitative effect of a contrast is therefore inherent to the “gestalt” made by the togetherness of diverse qualities within a single feeling. Insofar as any feeling includes any kind of qualitative multiplicity, ipso facto it achieves some kind of contrast. Therefore, if all conscious feelings contain at least some qualitative multiplicity, all conscious feelings must achieve some kind of contrast. Now let us apply this general notion of contrast to the concept of harmonic intensity. It should be apparent that harmonic intensity belongs to the overall character of feeling produced by contrast and that more contrast yields more harmonic intensity. However, there are two different


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ways in which contrast can vary, and harmonic intensity, when precisely defined, varies in relation to both. Let us call these two kinds of contrastive variation the two principal dimensions of contrast, with the critical caveat that these dimensions are not orthogonal. The first dimension is strength of contrast, or what Whitehead termed “narrowness” (1978, pp. 111–114). Strength of contrast is more than just contrasting magnitudes of the same quality (e.g., sharp contrasts of light and dark). A more general notion of strength can be defined as follows: a strong contrast entails qualities that are (1) clearly identifiable and distinguishable from one another and, in some cases, (2) distinctly individuated.3 Thus in a strong contrast of strawberry and cheese flavors, the two flavors are clearly distinguishable and each flavor is highly distinctive: what we taste is not just a cheesy flavor contrasted with a strawberry-ish flavor, but this cheese flavor together with this strawberry flavor. It seems possible to have the first kind of strength without the second, but not vice versa—how could two highly distinctive components of feeling not be distinguishable from one another? Strength of contrast is closely related to the power of a feeling: its ability to capture our attention and influence our thought and behavior. This power is indicated by our tendency, present from birth, to take interest in images and patterns marked by strong contrast. The power of strong contrast in perceptual content is easily eclipsed, however. The strong contrast of bright colors in a flower garden may be notably more powerful and attractive than a grey and dreary sky, but it pales next to the power of strong physical pain. More on this point later on. The second dimension is diversity of contrast, or what Whitehead termed “width” (pp. 111–114). Diversity of contrast refers to the number of distinct qualities that are present within a single feeling. At first glance, it may seem that diversity of contrast is a straightforward aspect of feeling that is fairly easy to gauge—for example, it could refer to the different colored shapes presented by a patterned quilt or tapestry. But in most cases the diversity of contrast within a single feeling is not so easily enumerated. Rather, diversity shows up as the overall texture constituted by  This definition echoes Peirce’s definitions of clarity and distinctness (see his seminal essay, “How to Make Our Ideas Clear”; 1878/1992) but is not meant to follow them exactly. 3

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the co-presence in feeling of some kind of multiplicity. Moreover, the texture of feeling is determined not just by sheer multiplicity but also by the way in which this multiplicity is arranged. Most feelings present a foreground of relatively clear and distinct qualities embedded within a background of qualities that are less distinct but still present. Indeed, most feelings are highly complex, embedding diversity within diversity. For example, a taste of a sauce that contains tomato along with a dozen other ingredients includes the distinctive flavor of tomato within a complex contrast that includes other more subtle flavors. Moreover, the flavor of tomato is itself a complex quality, including sweetness and acidity and a “symphony” of more subtle flavor notes that cannot be discriminated but nevertheless contribute to the overall tomato flavor. According to a scientific study, this barely detectable diversity is what makes the difference between tasty and bland tomatoes (Chang 2017). Insofar diversity of contrast pertains to a single feeling of limited duration, it does not seem that we can enumerate this diversity by “picking out” different qualities from the same feeling—as if it were possible to hold a feeling before the mind and examine it carefully. For instance, when connoisseurs list the different flavors that they detect in a taste of wine, they are not subjecting a single feeling to a process of introspection; rather, they are undergoing an intentionally directed sequence of feelings in an attempt to distinguish different flavors by rotating through them as distinct foci of conscious attention (and moving the wine over the tongue, etc.). Nevertheless, even if diversity of contrast is not so easy to gauge with precision, it can be recognized as a basic variable of experience. We can and do distinguish between different textures of feeling. Some feelings are relatively simple, others are confusedly mixed, and still others vividly complex. Compare, for example, the sound of a single oboe, the chaotic sound of an orchestra tuning up before a performance, and the complex sound of the same orchestra playing a symphony. Diversity is responsible for feelings marked by richness (see discussion in later chapters), and it does seem that we can compare feelings in this respect. Now we are ready to define harmonic intensity in terms of contrast. Harmonic intensity is the total contrast achieved by the togetherness of diverse qualities in a single feeling, where total contrast is strength of contrast


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compounded by diversity. According to this definition, a feeling can be said to have high harmonic intensity only if it combines relatively high degrees of both strength and diversity of contrast. In Whiteheadian terms, harmonic intensity is achieved by the combination of “narrowness and width.” The relationship between harmonic intensity and the two dimensions of contrast is indicated in Fig. 5.1. This figure is a geometric expression of a hypothesis: it is not intended as a demonstration of any incontrovertible facts about feeling or the relationship between strength and diversity. Its most important feature is the suggestion that the two extremes of high strength/low diversity and low strength/high diversity have similarly low levels of harmonic intensity, and that harmonic intensity peaks within a region of high strength and diversity. More specifically, the key claims represented by this figure are as follows: (1) high levels of harmonic intensity cannot be achieved by high strength or high diversity of contrast alone; (2) extremes of high strength and high diversity tend to belong to regions of low harmonic intensity; (3) increases of strength can result in losses of diversity and overall losses of harmonic intensity (and vice versa); (4) different combinations of strength and diversity can be equivalent in terms of harmonic intensity. The trade-off between strength and diversity of contrast is a crucial feature of harmonic intensity that should make intuitive sense. In many cases, we find that diversity of contrast cannot be multiplied indefinitely without reducing strength of contrast, while the strongest possible

Fig. 5.1  Harmonic intensity as a function of strength and diversity of contrast

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contrasts seem to be accompanied by a reduction of diversity. For example, consider how the different flavors in a dish or the different instruments in a musical ensemble cannot be multiplied indefinitely without losing their distinctness. It does not seem possible to prove that a tradeoff between strength and diversity is necessary or that it imposes an upper limit on harmonic intensity. But it does seem that such trade-offs are a common feature of experience and, as I will explain later on, this feature is essential to my theory of affect. Although we seldom do so intentionally, it is possible to compare feelings in respect of harmonic intensity and to take notice of its variation. The synesthetic representation of Remy’s taste experience in Ratatouille is an unusually clear instance of harmonic intensification; the increased intensity achieved by most aesthetic experiences is not nearly as noticeable. And even when it is noticeable, we do not usually pay much attention to harmonic intensity per se. Even when we experiment with various combinations of tastes, colors, or sounds, generally it is not harmonic intensity per se that is being explored, but rather the various overall qualities achieved by the whole. For example, a record producer who plays with various arrangements and mixes of a song is not seeking harmonic intensity per se but rather a particular sound or mood.4 Moreover, even when it figures prominently in experience, harmonic intensity is difficult, perhaps impossible, to grasp as an object of experience. Even when we are examining the synesthetic sequence in Ratatouille as an example of harmonic intensity, what we perceive are the lively colors and music. Harmonic intensity describes a way of feeling/appearing rather than what is felt/appears. It pertains to the “contrastive-ness” of the qualities that constitute objects of perception and thus cannot be separated out as an object in its own right. In this respect, at least, harmonic intensity seems to fit with the “adverbial” view of affect (Aydede 2014; see Chap. 3). One of the main challenges of this book is to describe how harmonic intensity marks our experience in the powerful manner of affect without showing up as a distinctly discernible feature of experience. To meet this  As discussed later in Chap. 6, the search for a particular sound quality or meaning is driven by increases of harmonic intensity within certain parameters. 4


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challenge we will need to consider how conscious feelings are determined within their causal context; this is the task of the next section. But first I need to clarify the connection between affect and harmonic intensity as it has been discussed so far. Notice that strong or intense feeling can have relatively low harmonic intensity. This diverges from our commonsense notion of intense feelings. The feelings that we normally think of as being especially strong or intense are found in the upper left region of the figure above, where high strength pairs with low diversity. Later on, I will claim that intense pains do in fact belong to this region and I will try to explain the negativity of pain and other strong, bad feelings in terms of their relatively low level of harmonic intensity. However, I am not claiming that affect is perceived as harmonic intensity. This point bears repeating, as it is easy to interpret my proposal as an attempt to explain affect in terms of the harmonic intensity of the qualitative contrasts that make up the discriminable content of experience. But I do not think that the problem of affect can be explained this way. Ironically, if affect were constituted only by the harmonic intensity of perceptual feelings—if it were a change that we could perceive like the lively colors of the synesthesia sequence in Ratatouille—it would actually be much harder to gauge and report, as most changes of harmonic intensity in perceptual contents are actually quite subtle. On the other hand, I do mean to claim that harmonic intensity is a basic, universal feature of perceptual feelings and that it can be discerned, at least in some cases. Moreover, I do mean to claim that there is an intuitive connection between these discernible changes of harmonic intensity and the feeling of value. Indeed, my entire theory rests on this intuitive connection. Again, consider Remy’s taste of strawberry and cheese. What makes this example so telling is not just what the animated sequence is supposed to represent about Remy’s experience, but rather the way in which this sequence actually works in our experience, drawing on our own direct enjoyment of harmonic intensity in the colors and music of the film. I propose that the reason this sequence works is because, in general, we find perceptual experiences that are marked by higher levels of harmonic intensity to be relatively pleasant.

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The intrinsic value of harmonic intensity is thus a fundamental phenomenological claim for the present approach to affect. If we cannot find any intuitive appeal in harmonic intensity, then it will be very difficult to justify the more tenuous claims to be made later on. Once again, my claim is not that all pleasant experiences are explicitly marked by perceived increases of harmonic intensity, or even that all experiences that include a perceived increase of harmonic intensity are necessarily pleasant. The more modest but still critical claim is that harmonic intensity has intrinsic appeal such that, all else being equal, perceived increases of harmonic intensity are pleasing. What kind of claim is this? First and foremost, it is a claim about experience. Accordingly, we should be able to look to our own experience and see whether it holds. And, insofar as it does hold, we have a found a way for inquiry to escape the circle in which so much thinking about affect and value has been trapped. We can now proceed to investigate our feelings of value in relation to diversity and strength of contrast. But even if this first step is granted, we might still ask: Why are these traits essential to our experience of value? Even if we can just “see” their connection to value, does this relation make sense? Can we think of reasons for this alleged connection between value and harmonic intensity, or does it seem arbitrary and contingent? Might other creatures be acquainted with a different kind of enjoyment that has nothing to do with harmonic intensity? These questions point toward metaphysical issues about the nature of value or goodness that cannot be pursued here.5 For present purposes, I hope that readers will find enough experiential warrant for what I have said so far to be able to follow the next stage of the argument. Those who remain dubious may be reassured by the following caveat: what we can ascertain through our direct acquaintance with harmonic intensity in perceptual experience is not enough to explain affect. Once the relevant evidence is called to our attention, it should be fairly easy to see why. For one, as I have pointed out, there are many instances of pleasure that are not marked by any noticeable increase in the harmonic intensity of sense perception. The taste of sugar may not qualify as high cuisine,  See Neville (2019) and Barrett (2020) for extended treatments of goodness and its relation to intensity. 5


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but it certainly counts as pleasant. How can we explain the simple pleasure of sweetness in terms of harmonic intensity? Also, no doubt readers have already thought of numerous perceptual experiences of low harmonic intensity that can be very pleasing—subdued colors, the sound of ocean waves, and so forth. Sometimes a simple but intense feeling, such as the taste of fresh mint, or the vivid blue of clear sky, can be very pleasant. Even some kinds of aesthetic enjoyment—as found, for example, in the minimalist paintings of Mark Rothko—seem to be conspicuously lacking in harmonic intensity. Thus, it seems, even if some pleasant experiences are marked by harmonic intensity, or even if harmonic intensity generally coincides with enjoyment, nevertheless a substantial range of affective experiences are not well explained in terms of harmonic intensity. Moreover, as discussed so far, harmony intensity fails to meet several of the basic criteria for a theory of affect that were established by previous chapters (see Desiderata). First, although harmonic intensity can be discerned—at least in some cases, once it has been drawn to our attention—it is not an easily discernible feature of most experiences. It is not readily available for self-report. In the overwhelming majority of experiences, it is not noticed at all. Think how difficult it would be to answer the question “How are you feeling?” if it required you to judge the harmonic intensity of your present perceptual experience. Thus, it seems, harmonic intensity is not conspicuous or discriminable enough to serve as our primary feeling of affect. Second, even when we do notice changes of harmonic intensity, these changes do not have the power or impact that affect often has. This lack of forcefulness is made evident by the fact that it is possible to observe such changes impassively (we can look at the Ratatouille example and feel nothing). I have claimed that increases of harmonic intensity tend to be pleasing, all else being equal; I have not claimed that they are necessarily pleasing. But if harmonic intensifications of sense qualities were the essence of affect, it would not be possible to notice them without being affected. Finally, even if harmonic intensity does have an intrinsic connection to value, because it is always non-negative, it does not readily account for our experience of affective valence as bipolar, that is, as positive and negative. Negative valence can only be explained as a relative lack of harmonic

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intensity. Is there a threshold of harmonic intensity that divides positive from negative feeling? But how could such a threshold be established in a non-arbitrary way? And why should less of a good thing be felt as bad? To sum up, here are the most important pros and cons of a theory of affect based on harmonic intensity (as discussed so far): Pros: 1. Harmonic intensity qualifies as a basic “adverbial” feature of experience (Aydede 2014): it modifies qualities across all modalities of experience 2. Its role in certain experiences of aesthetic enjoyment and its generally pleasing effect suggest an intrinsic connection to value Cons: 1. Not all positive feelings are marked by harmonic intensity of perceptual content 2. Harmonic intensity of perceptual content is not readily discernable or reportable 3. When harmonic intensity is discerned, it is not forceful or unmistakably positive 4. Harmonic intensity cannot be negative

The pros indicate that the concept of harmonic intensity constitutes an important step forward, but the cons suggest that we still have a long way to go. To explain affect, I propose that we need to take several more steps beyond what we can discern through examinations of perceptual experience. The first and most important step is to entertain the possibility that conscious experience includes “non-perceptual feelings.” This step constitutes another major turning point of the argument, which now enters into more speculative territory. It is motivated, on the one hand, by the conviction that affect is something felt and, on the other hand, by the failure—after at least a century of concerted efforts by psychologists and philosophers—to locate what is felt within perceptual content. But how should we understand these non-perceptual feelings, and what other justification do we have for their inclusion in our concept of experience?


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The strongest support for the existence of non-perceptual feelings is found in our experience of affect. As I have pointed out repeatedly in previous chapters, we regularly identify and discriminate good and bad feelings: affective states are readily available for self-report. It is only when we try to “locate” these feelings within perceptual content that we find that we are unable to discriminate them. Philosophers who jump to the conclusion that affect is not felt at all—that it is, instead, an intentional attitude—seem to have overlooked the possibility that consciousness includes feelings that are non-perceptual but also, on occasion, quite powerful. Once this possibility is admitted, the evidence that we do have such feelings is found to be extensive and robust, and affective feelings are the primary case in point. Second, I suggest that whatever non-perceptual feelings we might reasonably suppose ourselves to have should be understood in relation to the causal determination of the perceptual contents of conscious experience, i.e., the “causal context” of consciousness. This means that candidate theories for non-perceptual feeling should be developed in close conversation with theories of the physical correlates of conscious experience. Accordingly, in the next part of this chapter, I move toward a theory of the non-perceptual feeling of affect by making a rough sketch of the causal dynamics of consciousness. I suspect that for many readers this last move needs further justification. We are so accustomed to separating causation from feeling that the proposal to connect them can seem entirely ad hoc. But if we suppose that conscious experience is a natural phenomenon that depends on certain causal conditions, then our understanding of these conditions, such as it is, should constitute an important resource and constraint for thinking about the nature of non-perceptual feelings. If consciousness belongs to nature, nothing can enter into conscious feeling that does not enter into its causal determination. And if this is the case, then the following should also be true: whatever enters into to the causal determination of conscious feeling may contribute in some way to its phenomenal character. This last statement does not give us free license to posit any kind of non-­perceptual feeling whatsoever. Evidently, most of the physical correlate of consciousness does not show up in any remotely discriminable way (we do not have feelings of neural firings). The identification of causation and feeling is a vague

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initial hypothesis, a starting point for inquiry: it does not clear a path toward the articulation of affect as non-perceptual feeling. Nevertheless, in the next section I will try to show that efforts to understand the causal constitution of conscious states can provide us with important clues.

Causal Contrasts and Nonlinear Dynamics In this section, the phenomenal concept of contrast will be made into a “bridge concept” that connects experience with the complex nonlinear dynamics of neural activity associated with consciousness. The overarching purpose of this section is to lay the groundwork for the thesis that affect is a non-perceptual feeling of causal enrichment. Toward this end, I will argue that non-perceptual feelings of the causal determination of conscious states can be characterized by the very same contrastive features of strength, diversity, and harmonic intensity that we find in the perceptual contents of feeling. To avoid confusion, contrasts belonging to the causal determination of conscious states will be referred to hereafter as causal contrasts, while the qualitative contrasts examined in the previous section will be referred to hereafter as presentational contrasts. As I have just stated above, a basic premise of this approach is that conscious feeling can include non-perceptual features related to its causal determination. To make the case that these additional features are contrastive, I will first sketch the outlines of a contrastive concept of causal determination and then proceed to the main bridge-building task of this section: the argument that the macrostates of complex nonlinear dynamical systems—such as those associated with consciousness—are contrastively determined.

Causal Events Let us begin with some general remarks about the nature of causal events. The theory of experience to be developed in this book involves a distinctive way of thinking about causation, in keeping with my initial proposal that to understand affect it is necessary to think together feeling, value, and causation. As explained in the Introduction, this way of thinking


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about causation falls short of a full-fledged theory, and the cosmological context from which it derives is largely skipped over. However, so that the following discussion does not seem entirely ad-hoc, some orientation is needed. I suspect that much of our thinking about causation is guided by “metaphysical smallism” (Coleman 2006). This is the presupposition that real causal power belongs to the smallest determinable components of any phenomenon. In other words, smallism assumes that microscale determines macroscale (cf. Hoel 2017) so that complex phenomena—including the brain states that correspond to consciousness—are causally determined by their most basic constituent processes “bit by bit.” Today this notion seems firmly grounded in widely accepted views of the fundamental nature of the microscale entities and events described by physics. But it is also supported by our commonsense understanding of everyday occurrences as chains of discrete causal events determined in a particular order. Consider how a tennis match is determined point by point until a winner is determined, and think how strange it would be if points of the first set remained undetermined until the match was concluded. Indeed, it seems only logical to assume that microscale events are strictly determined in the order in which they occur—and thus that microscale determines macroscale. However, it is not hard to find examples of creative activity in which the idea of the whole comes first, or in which pieces are adjusted to an evolving whole, so that macroscale somehow takes precedent over microscale. Most kinds of writing are created in this way, as are most works of art and music. Consider a story: although the finished product is always a precisely determined sequence of words (microscale) that makes up a coherent narrative (macroscale), the actual writing of a story can happen in many different ways. It is not unusual for an author to start with an idea of the entire plot, or to write the ending first. It is also possible for a story to be written bit by bit without any view of the whole. For instance, a story may be written by a chain of different authors, each adding a single word to the text (following the rules of grammar and the dictates of logic). Thus, when presented with a finished and complete story, we may not be able to tell for sure how it has been written: bit by bit working steadily from beginning to end, starting at the end and working backwards, or by

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a process of continual revision in which the entire story coalesces as a whole. I am not saying that there is no discernible difference between one kind of story and another. I only mean to point out that the precisely determined order of a finished story could be the product of different processes of writing. The point of this metaphor is to suggest that our intuition of smallism is not necessarily justified by the complexly ordered texture of reality described by physics. Just because all phenomena can (in principle) be broken down into tinier and tinier bits, all fitting together in precisely determined ways, does not mean that nature is always and everywhere determined bit by bit. Some complex phenomena might be determined word by word, so to speak, while others might be determined in bigger chunks—sentence by sentence, or even whole paragraphs at time—but always with the same complex and minutely determined structure as the end result. The fact that the fabric of reality is so tightly woven does not dictate how it is woven together. Thus, I suggest that it is possible for all things in nature to be made of the same “stuff” at the microscale and yet constituted by different kinds of causal events. Accordingly, I propose to think about causation as follows. First, let us think of a causal event as a co-determined multiplicity: a bunch of things determined in relation to one another. The things—elements, entities, or events—that make up the components of a causal event can be left undefined, with the critical stipulation that they must be the sort of things that can be co-determined or, at least, mutually conditioned. In terms of the writing metaphor, a causal event is like the process in which a text or some portion thereof is written and revised as a whole. Once the writing process is finished, the words of the text are all determined and arranged in a particular order. Likewise, once a causal event is finished, the states of its component multiplicity are fully determined and arranged in a particular spatiotemporal order. Moreover, like processes of writing, causal events can come in different “sizes,” spanning different temporal and spatial scales according to the extensiveness of their constituent multiplicities. Whatever its “size,” every causal event produces a whole “chunk” of reality—it is a “real fact in the making” (James 1902/1982, p. 501). What is included within the event depends on its constituent relations of co-determination.


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This idea of causal events as co-determined multiplicities of varying spatiotemporal scope is foundational for the following argument, and shall be stipulated here as the first of four postulates about causation to be laid out in this chapter and the next: First Postulate: Causal events are co-determined multiplicities and can vary in spatiotemporal scope.

Again, this view of causation is very far from a complete theory. But for present purposes, many of its missing pieces can be glossed over or jerry-rigged to fit the phenomenon of interest: the complex neural dynamics associated with consciousness. For instance, we need not specify how temporal and spatial dimensions of causal scope are related and the range over which they can vary, provided we allow that they can extend to the timescale of conscious thoughts (about 200 milliseconds) and span the activity of billions of interconnected neurons. As for what decides the scope of a causal event—why some events are bigger than others—we can assume that it has something to do with whatever kind of complexity distinguishes the dynamics of conscious brains (there are many hypotheses, but the question is still unsettled). On this view, causal events are irreducible wholes that cannot be broken down into aggregates or chains of smaller causal events. The irreducibility of causal events is entailed by the relations of co-determination that constitute causal events as such. However, these constitutive relations of co-determination and corresponding differences of causal scope may not be readily apparent from an observer’s standpoint. Just like all finished stories are made up of precisely ordered sequences of words no matter how they are written, all natural processes may be composed of the same precisely determined components at the microscale level. But by lifting the restriction of smallism, we can consider the possibility that conscious activity of the brain is distinguished not so much by its component processes but by the scope of its constitutive causal events.6

 On the other hand, as I have just pointed out, the scope of conscious events likely depends on the distinctive complexity of brain dynamics, a focus of active scientific investigation. 6

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The Contrastive Determination of Causal Events Now let us explore the implications of this idea of causation for thinking causation and feeling together, beginning with the implication that every causal event has a unitary character that belongs to the way its diverse components are determined together. The unitary character of a causal event is not something determined over and above the determination of its constituents, but neither is it simply the aggregate of their variously determined states. Given that the constituents of a causal event really are co-determined—as stipulated above—a casual event is uniquely characterized by the way in which its component states are co-determined together. If events did not have this unitary character, there would be no real difference between events of different sizes (although, again, from the perspective of an observer, such differences may not be readily detectable). This notion of the unitary character of co-determined elements should sound familiar. Recall that in the first part of this chapter contrast was defined as “whatever effect is achieved by the interrelation of different qualities in a single feeling.” This effect includes the individuation of component qualities that results from their mutual conditioning—that is, from their co-determination—as well as a unique holistic quality pertaining to the contrast as a whole. The contrastive nature of the qualities of feeling thus presents a prototypical example of the kind of unitary character that results from the co-determination of multiple components within a single causal event. Now comes a crucial step in the bridge argument: what if we suppose that the contrastive co-determination that we find among the qualities of conscious feeling is somehow representative of all causal relations? What if all causation is contrastive? The idea that all causation is contrastive will be stipulated below as a second postulate. But first it is necessary to be as clear as possible about what this postulate entails—there are several hypotheses that need to be distinguished. To begin, although the fact that the qualities of conscious feeling are contrastively determined is a key piece of evidence, the hypothesis under consideration concerns the contrastive nature of causal events, not their qualitative nature. While I do think that the extension of qualities to all


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causal events is worth exploring (see Conclusion for further discussion), our primary task in this section is to consider the extension of contrast to all causal events and to all aspects of causation. Toward this end, in a moment I will show how it is possible to abstract a general concept of contrastive relation from the qualitative contrasts of conscious feeling. Another key point is the distinction between the contrastive determination found within the qualitative contents of conscious feeling and the contrastive determination of these contents in relation to other possible contents. The former are presentational contrasts and the latter are causal contrasts. Both presentational and causal contrasts participate in the contrastive determination of conscious states, but they do so in different ways that must be clearly distinguished. For example, in a taste of strawberry and cheese, the strawberry flavor participates in the contrastive determination of the cheese flavor by “presenting” to consciousness as part of the contents of feeling. The contrastive role of strawberry is thus “presentational.” The hypothesis to be argued here asserts that other possible qualities also participate in the contrastive determination of our taste of strawberry and cheese, even though they do not “present” or appear to consciousness as part of the content of feeling. Of course, when we taste strawberry do not actually taste other possible flavors like chocolate and mint. Nevertheless, the hypothesis asserts that insofar as we could taste these other flavors they contribute as causal contrasts to our taste of strawberry. As I will explain below, causal contrasts are made by qualities and other features of the dynamic repertoire within which the contents of present feeling are determined. The contrastive role of these other possible contents is termed “causal” to distinguish it from the contrasts that actually “present” to consciousness. To be sure, the hypothesis that the content of conscious feelings is determined by contrasts with other possible contents goes well beyond what we can directly verify in experience. And it is this hypothesis, concerning the causal contrasts of feeling, that is to be elaborated by the present bridge argument. Still, to construct this bridge we have to begin with presentational contrasts, as these are the only kinds of contrast that we can examine directly. The next step is to define a general concept of contrastive determination that prescinds from the qualitative nature of the presentational

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contrasts of conscious feeling while retaining their key features: unitary character, mutual conditioning, strength, and diversity. Let us review these features as they are found in the presentational contrasts of experience. The unitary character of contrasts is indicated by the irreducibility of qualitative contrasts into their component qualities. Even in cases where components are easily picked out—as in the contrast of strawberry and cheese—the overall quality of a contrast cannot be understood as an aggregate of its components. It has a unique quality of its own that cannot be found in any of the component qualities taken by themselves. An important reason for this irreducibility is the way in which component qualities are co-determined or mutually conditioned by their participation in a contrast: the taste of a strawberry when combined with cheese is slightly different from the same strawberry tasted by itself or combined with chocolate. Indeed, it seems that organic unity and mutual conditioning are the same feature viewed from different perspectives: the former refers to the whole, while the latter refers to the parts. The other two key features are the contrastive dimensions of strength, which refers to the distinctness of individual qualities within a single feeling, and diversity, which refers to the number of distinct component qualities. Strength and diversity are the two most important features for characterizing contrasts as such: contrasts can be high- or low-strength and high- or low-diversity. Experience suggests that strength and diversity of contrast are not quite opposites, but neither are they strictly orthogonal. Although combinations of high strength and high diversity are possible, trade-offs are more common. To capture this tendency without making it into a rule, one might say that the relationship between strength and diversity is tensile rather than antagonistic. We can now define a more general concept of contrast by abstracting these key features from their original, experiential context. I propose that any relation can be treated as contrastive if its relata are mutually conditioned and if this mutual conditioning exhibits the features of strength and diversity and their distinctive tensile relationship. With this general definition in hand, we can pose the following question: besides the qualities of experience, what other kinds of relata can be treated as contrastive?


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For the systematic philosophy that constitutes the background of this book, all relations are contrastive (Whitehead 1978). As discussed in the Introduction, it is this application of contrast to relation that allows us to think value and relation together. The idea that all relations are contrastive is a prime example of a metaphysical hypothesis that has been abstracted from experience (Neville 1989). Here we are especially interested to explore the somewhat more specific hypothesis that causal relations are contrastive, as expressed by the following postulate: Second Postulate: Every causal event is an occasion of contrastive determination that results in a presentational contrast and a causal contrast, and together these contrasts achieve a measure of harmonic intensity.

This postulate is one of the main cornerstones for the theory of affect to be developed in the rest of this book. In the remainder of this chapter, it will be elaborated in relation to the causal dynamics of complex nonlinear dynamical systems and then applied to conscious states. According to this postulate, all aspects of a causal event are contrastively determined and all the various contrasts entailed by an event contribute to the harmonic intensity achieved by that event. More specifically, the postulate claims that the total contrast of a causal event comprises two closely related but distinct kinds of contrast: presentational and causal. The presentational contrast of a causal event pertains to whatever state of affairs results from the way in which its component multiplicity is co-­ determined. In the case of conscious feelings, the presentational contrast is a qualitative contrast (e.g., the contrast of strawberry and cheese). More generally, we can think of a presentational contrast as the collective state resulting from the co-determination of component states. So, for example, if a causal event consists in the co-determination of two components, each of which can be determined in one of two ways (e.g., UP or DOWN), the presentational contrast determined by that event is the collective state constituted by the two co-determined components (e.g., UP-DOWN; see Section “Contrastive States: A More Formal Account” for an illustration of this point). But here is the tricky part. Insofar as the components of an event might have been determined differently (e.g., UP-UP instead of UP-DOWN),

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another set of causal relations obtains between the actual states of these components as presently co-determined and other possible states. According to the second postulate, these causal relations are also contrastive and, as such, they also contribute to the overall harmonic intensity achieved by the causal event. These additional causal relations are the causal contrasts made by an event. Again, according to the present view, causal contrasts are not the only causal determinants of an event: presentational contrasts are also determinative. But causal contrasts have a certain priority insofar as they constitute the space of relevant possibilities—the causal context—within which a causal event is determined. One could say that the space of possibilities that constitutes the causal context of an event is a contrast space, such that the determination of an event always makes contrast between its actualized state and other possible states. This concept of causal contrast can be clarified by a brief consideration of how it relates to what some philosophers call the “contrastivity” of causation (Schaffer 2005). The latter refers to the way in which a causal event contrasts with counterfactual states of affairs: for example, the fact that I ordered fish rather than chicken is responsible for me now being sick rather than well. Although this counterfactual dimension of causation is not excluded by the present approach, the concept of causal contrast being developed here is much more than a counterfactual relation. It entails that actual states of affairs are causally conditioned by alternative states in the manner of contrastive relations described above. To be sure, this kind of causal contrast is not a part of our normal, commonsense understanding of causation, and it does not seem to apply to many events as we observe and describe them. For instance, the fact that the traffic light is now green does not seem to be conditioned by the fact that it could be yellow or red: if the yellow and red lights were broken, would not the green light work the same? The present objective is not to demonstrate that all natural phenomena are actually contrastively determined or to detail how this is so. Nevertheless, it should be clarified that contrastive determination applies only to actual causal events as defined above. Most of what we commonly regard as a single “causal event” (such as getting sick from spoiled fish) is actually a chain or aggregate of causal events in this more precise sense. The difficulty of knowing when and where contrastive determination


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applies is thus closely related to the difficulty of identifying causal events as such: it entails knowing how to carve nature at its joints. Still, as impractical as it may seem, I believe that in many cases we are empirically justified in believing that a phenomenon of interest is contrastively determined. In a moment I will begin making the argument— central to my theory of affect—that collective states of complex nonlinear dynamical systems are appropriately viewed as contrastive. As a first step, I suggest that we have reason to believe that a phenomenon is contrastively determined if we find that its possible states are non-additive, that is, if we find that possible states cannot be added or subtracted without changing all the others. For instance, imagine that when the red light of a traffic light stopped working the other two lights did change color: that would be a sign that some kind of contrastive determination is at work. To reiterate, the key point of the second postulate is this. Wherever contrastive determination obtains, actualized states constitute causal contrasts with alternative states. Moreover, the alternative states that make up a causal contrast are not just counterfactuals: they must be real possibilities pertaining to some alternative way in which the causal event could be presently determined. This means that the fact that present affairs could have been different if some past event had been determined differently in the past is not part of the causal contrast made by present affairs (however important it may be for explanatory purposes). At least to some degree, a causal contrast is part of what is determined in the present. Thus, like the actualized state, one could even say that causal contrast belongs to the outcome of a causal event, not its antecedents. However, it is important to remember that although the causal contrast conditions the actualized state, the actualized state is the only part of the causal event that is presented to the world as its final outcome (thus the term “presentational contrast”). A number of important points follow from this view of causation. First, as I have already noted, if the alternative states that make up the causal contrast change, so must the actualized state of affairs. Second, the greater the number of alternative states, the more complex the causal contrast. And third, by virtue of the strength and diversity of its causal contrast, every causal event achieves a measure of harmonic intensity

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beyond whatever harmonic intensity is achieved by its presentational contrast. Thus the harmonic intensity of a causal event is always a function of its actualized state and the way in which this state is determined within its causal context. Admittedly, at first blush, this view of causal events is likely to seem totally divorced from commonsense notions of causation. In particular, I have neglected to explain how the contrastive determination of present states is constrained by past states, which is what most people expect a theory of causation to do. The idea of contrastive determination can be used to account for the causal connection between past and present (see, e.g., Neville 1989). Our current objective, however, is not to explain why one state follows another but rather to think feeling, value, and causation together in a way that allows us to consider how the affective tone of conscious feelings is constituted by their causal determination. But before turning to conscious dynamics, let us consider how contrastive determination applies more broadly.

Nonlinear Dynamical Systems and Contrastive States Our experience of how individuals in nature and society are interrelated suggests that contrastive relations are widespread. Nevertheless, the dominant tendency in modern scientific thought has been to assume that causal relations are external and non-contrastive, as this allows (in principle) for phenomena to be fully analyzable into their components. This tendency may soon pass, however, as scientists and philosophers increasingly think about complex natural phenomena using the concepts and tools of nonlinear dynamical systems (Hooker 2011). The task of this section is to explore the possibility that the states of a nonlinear dynamical system can be described as contrastive. First, let us clarify the meaning of nonlinearity as this term is used in science. In mathematics, nonlinearity refers to functions for which changes of output values are not proportional to changes of input (e.g., exponential functions are nonlinear). A second, closely related concept of nonlinearity applies to physical systems and refers to the way in which


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the continual change of a variable leads to an abrupt and qualitative change of behavior. These two basic senses of nonlinearity—mathematical and physical/behavioral—are united in models that describe the behavior of a system as the output of one or more nonlinear functions (for examples, see Janson 2012). Nonlinearity is also frequently used to describe systems whose behavior is difficult or impossible to predict from knowledge of components, interactions, and initial conditions. Nevertheless, whenever behavior is described as nonlinear it is suggested that it resembles some variety of nonlinearity that can be described in mathematical terms and thus that some kind of mathematical approximation is possible, at least in principle. In subsequent discussion we will be focusing on examples of behavioral nonlinearity, although mathematical and geometric concepts will be used for purposes of clarification. As discussed so far, there is no apparent connection between nonlinearity and contrastive determination. The possible relevance of contrastive determination only emerges when we consider the kinds of interactive dynamics that give rise to nonlinear behavior. Before continuing, however, let us be clear about the kind of bridge-building being undertaken here. As just defined, nonlinearity is first and foremost a mathematical concept, and secondarily a physical/behavioral concept about how variables change in relation to one another in time. In short, nonlinearity is a dynamical concept. Meanwhile, contrastive determination is a philosophical concept of causation—some would say a metaphysical concept—that derives from experience. These are very different kinds of concepts, and one cannot simply be made to “fall out” of an elaboration of the other. Rather, the aim of following discussion is to show how at least certain kinds of complex, nonlinear behavior lend themselves to being interpreted in contrastive terms. Now, returning to nonlinearity, it should be evident that nonlinear behavior is ubiquitous in nature. But it is especially prominent in far-­ from-­equilibrium systems in which a constant flow of energy drives interactions between many components, resulting in “self-organizing” patterns of collective or coordinative behavior (Kelso and Engstrøm 2006). This kind of nonlinearity—arising from the interactive dynamics of many components in a non-equilibrium system—is sometimes distinguished as

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complex nonlinear dynamics. All living systems satisfy these conditions, which explains why biological behavior is characterized by complex nonlinearity at multiple timescales and levels of organization (Goldbeter 2018), from the most basic processes of metabolic regulation to the dynamics of perception and cognition (Spivey 2006). Perhaps all nonlinear behavior in nature is a collective phenomenon arising from complex interactions at some level. Whatever the case may be, in the present context we are especially interested to understand nonlinear behavior as a collective phenomenon generated by complex systems of many heterogeneous interacting components, as this is the form of nonlinearity that is most relevant to the science of consciousness. Especially relevant to current discussion, proponents of a nonlinear dynamical approach to the study of cognition have argued that “interaction dominant” dynamics and “non-decomposability” are key characteristics of the various nested systems involved in cognitive behavior (Chemero and Silberstein 2008; Stepp et al. 2011; Anderson et al. 2012; Silberstein and Chemero 2013; Di Paolo et al. 2017). The connection between interaction dominance, non-decomposability, and nonlinearity has to do with the way in which complex interactions at the component level—e.g., multiple positive and negative feedback loops—give rise to sudden qualitative changes of behavior at the system level. In neural systems, one of the consequences of interaction dominance is the multifunctionality of system components, insofar as the functional contributions of neural elements (cells, networks, etc.) depends on the changing context of dynamic interaction (Kelso 2012; Anderson 2014). This dependence of function on interaction dynamics suggests that the states of neural systems are mutually conditioned and thus non-additive. However, although this is an important clue, it is not sufficient to establish that these states are contrastively determined. What about the contrastive dimensions of strength and diversity and their characteristic tensile relation? In the next stage of my argument, I will try to show how these features can be registered within a nonlinear dynamical systems context with the concepts of stability, constraint, and dynamic repertoire. Let us get acquainted with these concepts one by one.


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Stability In the most general and basic sense, stability is the tendency to move towards and maintain a qualitatively distinct state (e.g., a form of behavior). A stable state is most clearly indicated by resistance to perturbation but, as we shall see, this characteristic may not be essential. In most systems, stability is a matter of degree and its description depends on the determination of relevant variables and timescale. But insofar as it can be described, stability is essential to the characterization of nonlinear behavior as such and can be used to construct dynamic models of this behavior even when mathematical descriptions are unavailable (e.g., see Thelen and Smith 2006). That is, we can give an approximate dynamic characterization of a system if we can identify and describe the relatively stable states of that system in relation to changes of one or more parameters. Roughly speaking, the stable states of a nonlinear system correspond to qualitatively distinct forms of behavior divided by regions of instability. Thus, the telltale sign of nonlinear behavior—an abrupt and qualitative change of behavior—is understood as a change of stability.7 Indeed, going further, stability is arguably essential to defining the states of a nonlinear system in a nonarbitrary way that is meaningful for the system itself. At the most abstract level, a system described by n variables has an n-dimensional state space in which each point corresponds to a state. But in what sense are these states meaningful for the system? How are they distinguished from one another? Although points in a state space can be stable states, most are not, and it is likely that many neighboring points in a state space are indistinguishable from one another at the level of macroscopic behavior. For a gas at equilibrium, every single configuration of molecules could be described as a different state, but this description would be somewhat arbitrary, as such states are nearly indistinguishable from one another. To make meaningful, non-arbitrary distinctions within the state space of a system, stability is key. Where differences of stability can be observed, they allow for us to partition the  “Abrupt” and “qualitative” are admittedly fuzzy terms in need of further definition. They are certainly relative to scale but whether they are completely arbitrary and observer-dependent is a more complicated issue. 7

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state space of a system into a lower-dimensional space of macrostates characterized by qualitatively distinct kinds of behavior. Furthermore, when dynamical descriptions are possible, stable macrostates can be delimited as attractors. An attractor is a set of states toward which the system tends to evolve within a bounded region of the state space called the basin of attraction. A common example of attractor-like behavior is the way a marble settles into the bottom of a bowl. The attractors of a state space constitute a geometric representation of differences of stability within that space, allowing us to picture these differences as contours of an “attractor landscape.” These representations are an important tool for defining, modeling, and thinking about nonlinear system states in terms of stability. It should be kept in mind that just because a system is in a stable state does not mean that it is not changing in some way. For example, if the system in question is an animal, its characteristic forms of behavior— feeding, sleeping, playing, etc.—can be thought of as stable states. Sometimes it is possible to model behaviors as attractors within the state space of a nonlinear dynamical system: for instance, the gaits of a horse (walk, trot, gallop, etc.) can be modeled this way (Hoyt and Taylor 1981; Schöner and Kelso 1988). As a horse changes speeds, it changes from one preferred gait, or stable state, to another (e.g., from trot to gallop); these changes of stability are called bifurcations. Bifurcations are essential to understanding how nonlinear systems change from one state to another and, moreover, they can be used to explain how the various possible stable states of a nonlinear dynamical system (the attractors of its state space) change over time. This latter change is especially important for understanding the behavior of systems characterized by multistability—the existence of more than one stable state for the same parameter value.8 Finally, it needs to be emphasized that in living systems and other far-­ from-­equilibrium systems (sometimes called dissipative systems), stable states are not “resting states” or states of minimum energy. Rather, all stable states depend on a constant flow of energy; indeed, they might be better thought of as “stable flows.” Typically we don’t think of the various  For example, a child who switches from running to skipping and back again while maintaining the same speed demonstrates the possibility of multistable gaits. 8


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states of an organism as flows of energy; rather, we tend to think of them as products of a single flow of energy constituted by the organism’s metabolism. But this is a gross oversimplification: it treats movements and other dynamic states as if they were mere discharges of energy, which is especially misleading in the context of the neural dynamics responsible for the organization of animal behavior. In these systems, the stabilization of diverse macrostates has been shown to be directly related to energy expenditure and the production of entropy (e.g., Guevarra Erra et al. 2016). Thus, while thermodynamics often remains in the background of discussions of nonlinear behavior in living systems, it is essential to understanding why stability occurs at all, as well as why certain stabilities rather than others are preferred.

Constraints The preceding discussion has focused on stability as a key trait of nonlinear dynamical systems. The macrostates of a system can be defined as stable regions or attractors within the larger state space of the system, and changes between macrostates can be understood as changes of stability, or bifurcations. But what accounts for differences and changes of stability? Generally speaking, differences of stability are generated by the various constraints that are operative within a system (Hooker 2013, p. 759). To understand the constraints of a particular system requires that we enter into details of its material instantiation, specifying system components and their mechanisms of interaction. For present purposes, however, we can prescind from these details and consider constraints as general features of complex nonlinear dynamical systems. When thinking about constraints in general, we should take care to guard against our tendency to picture constraints as externally imposed limitations on movement (e.g., shackles on limbs). Some constraints are like this, but not all. More generally, I think we should guard against the tendency to think of constraints in purely negative terms. Although constraints can be defined as a reduction of a system’s degrees of freedom—the variables that describe system behavior—this definition says nothing about how the reduction occurs. For example, the way the smell of freshly

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baked chocolate-chip cookies stimulates our appetite may be thought of as a constraint insofar as it effectively “reduces our freedom” even though it does not prevent us from doing anything. Generally speaking, constraints may function either to increase or decrease the stability of certain tendencies or states relative to others. Furthermore, it is important to distinguish between kinds of constraint in respect of their externality/internality to the dynamics they constrain. By my count there are three basic ways in which constraints may be considered external or internal; all are matters of degree. The first kind of externality/internality has to do with asymmetry of influence, i.e., the degree to which constraints affect the dynamics of a system without being affected in return (Moreno and Mossio 2015, p. 11). For instance, the dynamics of a marble rolling inside a bowl is constrained by the bowl’s surface but for all practical purposes has no effect on this surface or its shape. The caveat “for all practical purposes” should be kept in mind, and it is important to recognize how differently this kind of externality applies to the constraints of various systems. In car engines and other machines, constraints on energy flow are gradually broken down by heat and friction. Meanwhile, in organisms, constraints on energy flow may be regulated or even maintained by mechanisms that are powered by this very same flow. Generally speaking, living systems are distinguished by their capacity to do work on their own constraints (Hooker 2013). The second kind of externality/internality has to do with the degree to which constraints and dynamics share the same components and mechanisms of interaction. Here again it is possible to draw a broad distinction between machines and organisms: in machines, constraints and functional dynamics generally pertain to separable components and mechanisms of the system, while in organisms constraints and dynamics tend to overlap in complicated ways. Importantly, in the case of complex systems composed of many interacting components—the kind of system that most interests us here—some constraints are features of the very same interactions that constitute the system and its behavior. Constraints of this kind are often distinguished as “internal” (Hooker 2013, p. 760).


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The relation of internal constraints to dynamics is easily confused by common ways of talking about these features as “top-down causes.” As an example of how internal constraints relate to interaction dynamics, consider a meandering conversation between friends. The current subject of conversation acts as a constraint without existing outside or above the conversation; rather, it is a feature of the conversation itself. Moreover, note that although the subject of conversation can change, sometimes quite rapidly, it never changes quite as fast as the words it constrains. Thus, what makes internally generated constraints of dynamic interaction appear to be somehow “above” the dynamics they constrain is the different timescale at which they are constituted. This is the third and most subtle kind of externality/internality: although constraints do change, their rate of change is always slower than the dynamics they constrain (Moreno and Mossio 2015, p. 12). Once again, a broad distinction can be drawn between machines, for which the difference of timescale between constraints and dynamics is usually designed to be as large as possible, and organisms, in which the difference may shrink to a minimum (Kelso and Engstrøm 2006, p. 114). This convergence of timescale is especially important for considerations of conscious dynamics, as we will see later on. The picture of constraints and dynamics that emerges from these considerations is a complex one. In the words of physicist and philosopher Cliff Hooker: Constraints, external or internal, specify context, the dynamical context in which interaction dynamics takes place. But in this role constraints often do not stand aloof from interaction dynamics. … Context and content are intimately interwoven. (2013, p. 761)

Especially in living systems, where complex interactive dynamics are constituted by many heterogeneous component processes, we find that constraints and dynamics are nested in elaborate hierarchies or heterarchies. The constraints at one level of organization or timescale can be viewed as dynamics at another level, and in some cases the roles of constraint and dynamic, or “context and content,” may be constantly shifting.

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The Dynamic Repertoire We are now ready to introduce the most critical concept for latter discussion: the concept of dynamic repertoire. The dynamic repertoire of a complex nonlinear dynamical system is the set of possible macrostates generated by all of its constraints. The payoff of the preceding discussion of stability, constraints, and nonlinear dynamics is that we should now have a better grasp of the complexity and fluidity of dynamic repertoires, that is, the fact that dynamic repertoires are complexly nested and can change at multiple timescales. As we have just pointed out, living systems are composed of elaborately nested systems of constraints and dynamics evolving at different timescales. As the constraints of a dynamical system change, so does its dynamic repertoire. Moreover, the dynamic repertoire can be altered by the dynamics that it specifies: dynamic repertoires and dynamics are “intimately interwoven.” The concept of dynamical repertoire can be applied at different timescales and to different components of behavior—whatever can be considered as a complex nonlinear dynamical system. For example, under some dynamical description, all of the possible behaviors of a horse (or any organism) belong to a single dynamic repertoire. Under another description, the various gaits of a horse can be considered as stable states of a single dynamical repertoire that changes on the timescale of the horse’s lifespan in relation to overall health, muscle strength, etc. On the timescale of behavior, yet another dynamical repertoire applies to the changing stabilities of these gaits in relation to speed, as discussed above. A horse racing at 40 mph has just one state in its current repertoire: full gallop. All these repertoires are closely related, and all are changed by the actual behavior of the horse. In some cases it is possible to represent the dynamical repertoire of a system and its changes in geometric form, as in the “potential landscapes” or “attractor landscapes” shown in Fig. 5.2 below (from Kelso 1994). Stable states are indicated by solid dots in valleys (fixed point attractors), while unstable states are indicated by empty dots on peaks (fixed point repellers). In keeping with intuition, degree of instability/stability corresponds to the steepness of the peaks and valleys. In this case, φ is a


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Fig. 5.2  Changes of potential or attractor landscapes in relation to control parameters of interaction (b/a) and heterogeneity of components (Δω). Behavior is described by the coordination variable φ, relative phase (−π and π are equivalent states). (From Kelso 1994, p. 396)

coordination variable—relative phase—that describes a collective pattern of oscillatory behavior generated by interacting components (e.g., two pendulums). In the top left we see two stable states of coordination, one at in-phase (φ = 0) and another at anti-phase (φ=± π). In this scenario, the system is bistable. Moving from left to right, we see how stabilities change in relation to a parameter of interaction b/a (strength of interaction), and moving from top to bottom we see how stabilities change in relation to heterogeneity of components Δω (different size pendulums). Thus, these potential landscapes show how changes of constraint lead to changes of stability, which in turn lead to changes of the dynamic repertoire. Notice that while constraints, stability, and dynamic repertoires are closely related features they are not the same: different constraints can give rise to similar patterns of stability, and different patterns of stability can give rise to roughly the same dynamic repertoire. Because of this

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overlap, dynamic repertoires can change in two ways: number of states and relative stability of states. For example, in the first row above, as the control parameter decreases from 1 to 0, the system changes from bistable to monostable and the number of states in the dynamic repertoire shrinks from two states to one. Within this continuum, if we compare the first and second landscapes, we also see that the relative stability of the two states changes as the anti-­ phase state (φ=± π) becomes less stable than the in-phase state (φ = 0). These two changes—number of stable states and relative stability—are clearly related in this example, but they should not be conflated: two systems (or the same system in different contexts) can have seemingly identical dynamical repertoires from a behavioral standpoint and yet the underlying stabilities may be different. Why is this point about changes of relative stability so important? Recall that the main objective of this bridge argument is to show how the concept of contrastive determination applies to the states of nonlinear dynamical systems. Now, at last, we have found that the dynamic repertoires of complex nonlinear dynamical systems vary in two ways that are analogous to strength and diversity. In short, I propose that strength of contrast corresponds to relative stability, and diversity corresponds to number of stable states. Put another way, strength corresponds to the stable differentiability of states, and diversity corresponds to the number of stably differentiable states. The latter phrasing accentuates the close connection between strength and diversity, and even manages to suggest something of their tensile relationship. Looking around nature, we do seem to find that the number and stability of states in a dynamic repertoire tend to vary inversely: the states of massively multistable systems tend to be less stably differentiable than those of systems with only one or two states.9 In a dissipative system whose stable states depend on a constant flow of energy, an increase in the number of stably differentiable macrostates in a repertoire should require that each state is less stably differentiated—unless the flow of energy through the system is increased. Thus, it does seem that the dynamic  Later we will discuss metastability as a key feature of the multistable dynamics of consciousness.



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repertoires of real systems change in ways that resemble the tensile relation between strength and diversity. For present purposes, however, we need more than resemblance. The following argument hinges on the strong claim that causal events really are contrastively determined, so that causal contrasts can be included within our account of non-perceptual feeling. We have come to another critical juncture in the building of our bridge between contrast and dynamics, as it is time to specify how this claim applies to phenomena described by complex nonlinear dynamics. In this next stage we will continue to use the dynamical concepts developed by preceding discussion, but the argument now turns back to metaphysical questions regarding the nature of causal events. First let us consider how internal constraints might constitute a basic condition for contrastive determination. Recall that internal constraints are those generated by the very same interaction dynamics—same components and same mechanisms of interaction—that they function to constrain. These kinds of internally generated constraints are ubiquitous in nature. Benárd convection cells are the textbook example; above we considered the subject of a conversation as an example of an emergent, internally generated constraint. When constraints are internally generated, the dynamic repertoire—the set of possible macrostates—that is constituted by these constraints is a product of the very same interaction dynamics responsible for the determination of actual macrostates. Thus, it seems that we can say that every presently actualized macrostate of the system is determined as such in relation to all the other possible macrostates that make up the dynamic repertoire. This is more than just a counterfactual relation, or so I wish to claim. It is a causal relation of a certain kind: a relation of mutual differentiation. Moreover, we can say that this relation has the contrastive features of strength and diversity, insofar as each macrostate is stably differentiated from a definite number of alternative states and with a definite degree of stable differentiability with respect to these other states. For the same reason, the dynamic repertoire as a whole can be more or less differentiated in the same way. Differentiated-­ ness is a characteristic both of the individual states and the entire dynamic repertoire in which states are specified.

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In theory, these claims can be tested by seeing how systems respond to changes of components and parameters of interaction. Recall that one of the telltale signs that states are contrastively determined is that states cannot be added or subtracted to the repertoire without changing the others. However, changes of relative stability may not be readily apparent from an observer’s point of view, because the same dynamic repertoire can be realized by different stability conditions. Normally we do not “see” how the current state of a system is stably differentiated from other states in its repertoire. Contrastive determination has to do with how states are determined “from the inside”—that is, from the perspective of the causal event actually responsible for determining the present state of affairs. This last point reveals an important caveat: internal constraints may be a necessary condition for the contrastive determination of system states, but they may not be sufficient. Strictly speaking, causal contrasts belong to causal events. At the beginning of this section, causal events were defined as having a definite spatiotemporal scope within which everything is determined together. Now, as discussed above, the essential difference between internal constraints and the dynamics they constraint is a difference of timescale. Insofar as dynamic repertoires are generated by these same constraints, they too are distinguished from dynamics by a difference of timescale. Therefore, if the causal event responsible for determining the present actual state does not include any change of dynamic repertoire within its scope, in what sense can we say that the present state is actually contrastively determined? Admittedly, as this is a metaphysical question about the nature of causal events, we should not expect it to have a clear and straightforward answer. Nevertheless, it is important to highlight the possibility that states are contrastively determined only insofar as dynamical repertoires and actual states are co-determined within the same causal event. Now, given what we have just said about the essential difference of timescale between dynamical repertoires and dynamics, is not this possibility excluded? How could changes at different timescales—one constrained by the other—both be determined within the scope of the same causal event? To answer this question we return to the first postulate: the possibility that the spatiotemporal scope of causal events can vary. If the scope of a


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causal event includes the co-determination of the present state and the dynamical repertoire within which this present state is specified in relation to other possible states, then the condition of contrastive determination is satisfied. This may happen because the difference of timescale between dynamic repertoire and state dynamics is sufficiently small and/ or because the scope of causal events is sufficiently large. Again, given the highly speculative nature of these questions, we should not expect to be able to come to a firm conclusion about the conditions and limits of contrastive determination. Rather, my goal is to specify how complex causal contrasts might be realized by systems characterized by “interaction dominant” dynamics and, in particular, to articulate the possibility of contrastive determination that includes changes of both dynamic repertoire and state dynamics. In light of the fact that the dynamic repertoires of living systems are so complexly nested, perhaps contrastive determination is a highly variable phenomenon that varies along a continuum. We have assumed that causal events have well-defined spatiotemporal boundaries, establishing a firm cut-off for what is included within the contrastive determination of an event, but that might be an oversimplification. For now, the important thing is to gain some familiarity with the idea that the states of some complex systems are contrastively determined in a way that includes the co-determination of the present state and the dynamical repertoire that serves as its causal context.

Contrastive States: A More Formal Account For those who need a bit more clarity about the contrastive determination of dynamical states, this section provides a semi-formal account of causal contrasts using a simple toy model of interacting components. The purpose of this model is not to provide a “proof of concept”—it does not aspire to that level of rigor—but to summarize preceding arguments and illustrate how both presentational contrasts and causal contrasts apply to the states of a complex system. Consider a simple system, System X, composed of two interacting components, x and y (Fig. 5.3). The macrostates of System X are composed of the combined microstates of components x and y. These

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Fig. 5.3  Representation of a simple system composed of two interacting components

components are bistable—x can switch between states xi and xii and y can switch between states yi and yii—so that the state space of the system as a whole is comprised of four possible macrostates. However, suppose that within certain parameters we observe that only two macrostates are stable—xiyi and xiiyii—so that the dynamic repertoire (dynamic repertoire-1) is effectively reduced to two states. Using borders and shading to indicate stability, the figure presents a scenario in which two of the four possible collective states are unstable (contrast space-1). We can use this simple model to clarify how states of a dynamic system make contrasts of various kinds. Suppose that the system is currently in state xiyi. If we suppose further that states xi and yi are mutually conditioned by their joint participation in this macrostate—a feature that does not show up in this model—then this state constitutes a simple presentational contrast. In addition, the macrostate xiyi makes a causal contrast with three other possible macrostates. In the first scenario, xiyi contrasts weakly with xiyii and xiiyi and strongly with xiiyii (contrast space-1).


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Whereas in the second scenario (contrast space-2), xiyi contrasts strongly with all three alternative states. Thus, depending on the contrast space in which it is determined, the same presentational contrast may combine with different causal contrasts. Furthermore, we can say that the same state achieves more contrast in the second scenario. We can also use this model to clarify the difference between dynamic repertoire, contrast space, and state space. In this example, the state space is a two-dimensional set of four states, while the dynamic repertoire in the first scenario contains only two states. Mediating between these is the contrast space, comprising all the different causal contrasts, strong and weak, between all possible states of the system. The contrast space and the dynamic repertoire of a system are closely related but not quite the same, as the former may include contrasts that are too weak to support stable differentiation of a macrostate. The contrast space of system corresponds most closely to the patterns of stability that underlie the dynamic repertoire: it is the set of causal contrasts achieved by available states in virtue of their relations of stable differentiability. Finally, the model indicates the existence of nested causal contrasts at three different levels: component states, macrostates, and contrast space. Previously we have focused on causal contrasts at the level of macrostates (xiyi, xiyii, xiiyi, and xiiyii). Nested within these causal contrasts are causal contrasts made by the component states (xi/xii, yi/yii). In addition, at a longer timescale, the system can make higher-order causal contrasts between contrast spaces. For instance, if system X undergoes a bifurcation, switching from dynamic repertoire-1 to dynamic repertoire-2, its actualization of a particular state may include a higher-order causal contrast between its current contrast space (contrast space-2) and its earlier contrast space (contrast space-1). As discussed earlier, this higher-order causal contrast may depend on the contrast space and current state being determined together within a single causal event. The “bridge argument” that makes up the middle section of this chapter is now drawing to a close. In anticipation of the next stage, let us consider how the concept of dynamic repertoire might be applied to the neural dynamics of the conscious brain. The brain is perhaps the paramount example of a complex system whose states are generated by the continual interactions of a vast

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multitude of heterogeneous components, with elaborate networks of internal and external constraints changing at multiple timescales. At longer timescales the constraints of neural interaction are constituted by slower-­changing networks of structural connectivity—the intricate physical “wiring” of the brain—while faster-changing constraints at shorter timescales are indicated by shifting patterns of functional connectivity, or temporally coordinated activity. At all timescales the constraints of neural interaction are modified by the very same interactions that they constrain. The dynamic repertoire of the brain is the set of global macrostates generated by these changing constraints. Some aspects of this repertoire emerge early in development and remain largely unchanged over the lifespan of the animal. At the other extreme, some aspects of the brain’s repertoire change almost as quickly as the dynamic states associated with consciousness. This latter, fast-changing repertoire will be referred to hereafter as the conscious repertoire. Although the full repertoire of consciousness is constrained by nested systems of brain, body, and environment, what distinguishes the conscious repertoire as such is the way in which its changing differentiated-ness contributes directly to experience. Specifically, it is the changing differentiated-ness of the conscious repertoire that determines the affective tone of experience.

F eelings of Causal Contrast: The Harmonic Theory of Affect The bridge argument is now finished. Before we reconsider its implications for the harmonic theory of affect, let us glance over the work leading up to this point. The first part of this chapter identified harmonic intensity and its component dimensions, strength and diversity of contrast, as basic features of experience with an inherent connection to value. However, we concluded that insofar as these features can be discerned in the qualitative content of conscious feeling they are inadequate to the full diversity and power of affect (see pros and cons listed above). The next part began with the proposal that “whatever enters into to the causal determination of conscious feeling may contribute in some way to its


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phenomenal character.” We then used the concept of contrast to construct a theoretical bridge that connects experience with dynamics; the goal of that argument was to show how the states of complex nonlinear dynamical systems can be understood as contrastively determined. Now we shall use our newly constructed bridge to turn back from dynamics to experience. The purpose of the preceding bridge argument is to help us explore the possibility that conscious feelings include causal contrasts as well as presentational contrasts and that the former are the primary determinants of affect. But we have yet to say anything about how conscious feeling is affected by its causal contrasts; that is the main task to be undertaken in the remainder of this book. To begin, let us return to consider the central thesis of the harmonic theory of affect as it was first presented in the Introduction: Affect is a non-perceptual feeling of the changing differentiated-ness of experience as indexed by changes of harmonic intensity.

If the work of previous sections has served its purpose, this thesis should now be easier to understand. Although harmonic intensity was not the focus of discussion during the middle “bridge building” stage of this chapter, it was included in the second postulate presented above: Every causal event is an occasion of contrastive determination that results in a presentational contrast and a causal contrast, and together these contrasts achieve a measure of harmonic intensity. Most importantly, because differentiated-­ness can now be specified as strength and diversity of causal contrast, we should now have a better grasp of how harmonic intensity changes as a function of the changing differentiated-ness of conscious contents. Adding causal contrast to the total harmonic intensity of conscious feeling is perhaps what most distinguishes the present view of affect from other proponents of the enrichment approach (Whitehead 1978; Dewey 1934/1980; Neville 1981). Although this move does not immediately resolve all of the challenges listed above, it opens up possibilities that will be explored at length in subsequent chapters—possibilities that were obscured when harmonic intensity was understood only as a feature of

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perceptual content. In the remainder of this chapter, our task is to clarify the central thesis and explore its relation to recent work in the science of consciousness. First, let us consider how the term “non-perceptual feeling” has been sharpened by previous discussion. When first introduced, it may have seemed as if this term referred to a special modality of feeling with its own special content (akin to extra-sensory perception, if such a thing exists). But by now it should be clear that because feelings of causal contrast belong to the determination of conscious content they cannot have any discriminable content of their own. This lack of content also helps to explain why affective feelings of causal contrast cannot be separated out from the contents of consciousness. Rather, affect is felt as a tone that suffuses the contents of feeling. Second, note that the thesis states that harmonic intensity is an index of differentiated-ness. This part of the theory needs careful qualification. What the theory claims, first and foremost, is that affect is a feeling of how harmonic intensity is changing. But insofar as harmonic intensity is constituted by causal contrast, it is directly related to the differentiated-­ ness of conscious feeling. This direct relation between harmonic intensity and differentiated-ness constitutes an index, whether or not it is taken as such. Moreover, it establishes a connection between affective tone and other aspects of consciousness—especially our changing conscious repertoire and our changing capacity for feeling—that are also directly related to the differentiated-ness of present feeling. Much more will be said about these connections in later chapters. For now, in anticipation of those arguments, it may help to clarify how feelings of causal contrast can carry with them a vague sense of how the conscious repertoire is changing. Again, this feeling cannot convey any specific information about the contents of the conscious repertoire. Rather, it is a feeling of the contrast space of the conscious repertoire in relation to present feeling. This feeling of the contrast space within which present content is determined is not unlike the way the reverberations of a sound tell us something about the physical space within which a sound is made. Thus one could say that a feeling of causal contrast is a feeling of how present content “reverberates” within the dynamic repertoire of


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consciousness—as long as it is remembered that this “reverberation” is part of the causal determination of this content; it is not an echo that is added after the fact. Third, it should be kept in mind that harmonic intensity is a complex, vector-like quantity with components of strength and diversity. Accordingly, to describe harmonic intensity as “total contrast” may be misleading insofar as it suggests that different causal contrasts with equivalent overall levels of harmonic intensity are indistinguishable from one another. On the contrary, a critical feature of the present theory—to be elaborated at length in Chap. 8—is that different combinations of strength and diversity give rise to noticeably different kinds of affective tone. These differences of affective tone can serve as indications of how differentiated-ness is changing without reporting anything specific about this change (addition and subtraction of states, changes of stability, etc.). Another point that needs emphasis is the connection between harmonic intensity and value. Accounting for the feeling of value is perhaps the most difficult challenge for any theory of affect. It is a challenge just to be clear about the kind of explanation that we are seeking. The present claim about the harmonic nature of our feeling of value leaves many questions unanswered. Why should changes of harmonic intensity determine our feelings of value? Why should higher levels of harmonic intensity feel good, and lower levels feel bad? For now, the best answer I can give is to point again to the apparently close connection between the harmonic intensity of qualitative content and aesthetic enjoyment. Insofar as we can verify that there is an inherent connection between explicit harmonic intensity and enjoyment, we have reason to believe that a similar connection could hold for the harmonic intensity of causal contrast, although we cannot verify this latter connection directly. This initial answer may not be very convincing, but I hope it is substantially better than nothing. A final clarification has to do with the comparative nature of most affective feelings. Although affect may not be purely relative (see Chap. 8), it is most pronounced when harmonic intensity changes. If harmonic intensity never changed, it would be like a constant level of illumination or a constant level of background noise and would be impossible to detect. In the next chapter I will argue that subtle changes of harmonic

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intensity play an important role in the ongoing constitution of conscious experience. However, as important as these more subtle changes may be, it seems that we only take notice of the most dramatic changes of harmonic intensity—these are the changes that actually show up as good and bad feelings. Another reason for the comparative nature of affective feeling is that harmonic intensity is always positive (i.e., greater than zero), so that the present level of harmonic intensity cannot be good or bad except in comparison (see Chap. 8 for further discussion of bipolarity). Let us briefly consider an example. How might we use the harmonic theory to account for the simple pleasure of looking up at a clear blue sky? The pleasant sensation of blue, especially if it fills our visual field, cannot be attributed to any richness of presentational contrast. To be felt with harmonic intensity, a sensation of blue must be a richly differentiated feeling, that is, a feeling of a strong and diverse causal contrast. Its harmonic intensity is a function of the strength with which the vivid sensation of blue contrasts with a vast number of alternative perceptual feelings. As long as the pleasure lasts, we may be vaguely aware of the differentiated-­ness of this sensation as such—as not just any blue, but this richly saturated and vibrant hue. And we may remark to ourselves that this blue is an especially pleasant color. According to the harmonic theory, however, what pleases us is not some intrinsic essence but the way this color “resonates” within our present repertoire of feeling. On the other hand, this feature of “resonance” is inherent to the contrastive determination of conscious content, such that its present increase is inherent to our feeling of this blue. Causal enrichment is not a separate feeling that is added to content of perceptual experience: it is the feeling of this content coming into being as the object or “presentational contrast” of consciousness. After a few seconds of gazing up at the sky, although we do not experience any perceptible change of color, we may feel that the blue loses some of its intensity and that its pleasantness fades as well. This faintly detectable change is also an experience of changing harmonic intensity.10  Neuroscientists will be quick to point out the underlying physiological causes of this fading of intensity—synaptic fatigue, habituation, etc. The present theory does not deny the role of these physiological processes; rather it tries to explain how such processes impact the affective tone of experience. 10


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It should be clear from this example that harmonic intensity is an “adverbial” feature of sense perception, a way of feeling blue that modifies that feeling without adding any kind of distinct quality or other content (cf. Aydede 2014). One might say that affect pertains primarily to the how of feeling, not the what.11 For the present theory, however, the how of feeling is not an attitude toward feeling but its manner of becoming actualized. Finally, it should be reiterated that the harmonic theory does not offer to us a description of our experience of affect—I hope by now it is clear why this is not the case, and why we should not expect this from a theory of affect. But then what does it offer, and how is it supposed to be tested? By connecting affect with the causal differentiation of conscious contents, the harmonic theory offers an account of the affective modification of those contents as a basic, essential, and integral feature of conscious experience. Accordingly, it should be possible to incorporate the harmonic theory of affect into our understanding of other basic traits of conscious experience in ways that allow it to engage with other theoretical perspectives on consciousness and cognition. Also, the harmonic theory has a number of implications that can be tested more directly against experience. The following chapters undertake the tasks of incorporating the harmonic theory of affect into a theory of consciousness and elaborating its implications for our experience of affect.  The way in which the content of feeling is modified by its causal context can be expressed by various analogies, but most of these fail to capture the contrastive nature of feeling and the essential connection between affect and value. For instance, we may think of the dynamic repertoire as an artist’s palette that expands and contracts, so that a highly differentiated, pleasing sensation of blue is like a selection from an especially large palette of colors. But insofar as the colors of a palette are not contrastively determined, this is not a very good analogy. A better analogy is to picture the states of a complex system as different ways of folding a piece of paper into a particular shape. Repeated “foldings“result in a network of creases, some sharper than others, constituting something like a contrast space, while something like a dynamic repertoire is constituted by all the different shapes that can be folded from a network of creases. The advantage of this analogy is that it captures strength and diversity of contrast and their connection to stability. Note that there is a trade-off between number and sharpness of folds; it is difficult to make many sharp folds in a single piece of paper. Also, if we compare a shape made from a few sharp folds (high strength, low diversity) with a shape made from many weak folds (low strength, high diversity), we find that the first holds its shape much better than the second. With this analogy we can think of highly differentiated feelings as shapes made from many sharp folds (high strength, high diversity). This analogy does not capture the connection to value, however. 11

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A Brief Review of Emerging Evidence In this final section, we briefly consider how the preceding arguments relate to evidence from recent scientific investigations of the neural dynamics associated with consciousness. In order of increasing specificity, the main questions are: (1) What evidence do we find in support of the thesis that the relevant brain states are contrastively determined? (2) What evidence do we find in support of the thesis that the dynamic repertoire of consciousness changes in respect of both number and stability of states? (3) What evidence do we find in support of the thesis that changes of the dynamic repertoire of consciousness correspond to changes of affect? Before we begin, it is important to clarify the kind of “system” are we talking about. Although a complete picture of the causal dynamics of consciousness should include the body and environment, here we will be focusing on the dynamics of the brain as described by proponents of a nonlinear dynamic or “neurodynamic” approach (Freeman 1991, 2000; Edelman and Tononi 2000; Kelso 1995; Varela et al. 2001; Spivey 2006; Tononi 2015; Breakspear 2017; see esp. Cosmelli et al. 2007 for overview). The hallmark of this approach is a shift of focus regarding the kind of neural activity pattern that is treated as the physical basis of thought, perception, consciousness, or whatever it is we understand the brain to be doing. Instead of focusing on localized patterns of intermittent activity— basically, looking to see what parts of the brain are activated or “light up” in response to certain stimuli or when engaged in certain tasks—a neurodynamic approach focuses on transient brain-wide patterns of continuous activity generated by the coordination of large populations of neurons. Insofar as these two kinds of activity patterns are related, these foci are not exclusive and can be combined within a single framework of investigation. In practice, however, neurodynamic studies lend themselves to rather different ways of understanding of how neural activity supports consciousness and other the functions of the mind. For present purposes, the main difference has to do with how brain states are defined holistically as patterns of coordinated activity rather than patterns of selective activation. In turn, this difference has important implications for understanding how brain states are constituted, which brings us to the first question.


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1. What evidence do we have in support of the thesis that brain states are contrastively determined? At least in its strongest form, the thesis that states are contrastively determined cannot be confirmed directly. However, indirect support may come from evidence that the contrastive nature of perceptual experience is related to patterns of stability and instability. And, in fact, we do find evidence of this relation whenever a continuously changing stimulus results in a noncontinuous change in perception—a switch from one quality to another or from one perceptual category to another. This is the telltale sign of a bifurcation. As reported by psychologist Michael Spivey, the transitions between our perceptions of green and blue, the “p” sound and the “b” sound, as well as our categorization of a series of bowl- and cup-like shapes, are all characterized by nonlinearity (2006, pp. 141–168). What about the claim that each state is differentiated as such within the dynamic repertoire as a whole? Important evidence for the “holism” of neurodynamic states (Dreyfus 2007, p. 258) can be found in the groundbreaking work of the late neuroscientist Walter Freeman on olfactory perception in rabbits (1991, 2000). According to Freeman, the categorization of olfactory stimuli is not determined by a pattern of selectively activated certain cells in the olfactory bulb. Rather, all cells of the olfactory bulb participate in global activity patterns that constitute perceptual categorization, so that all cells participate in every categorization, whether or not they are among the cells currently being stimulated by chemicals at the receptor level. Experiments show clearly that every neuron in the bulb participates in generating each olfactory perception. In other words, the salient information about the stimulus is carried in some distinctive pattern of bulb wide activity, not in a small subset of feature-detecting neurons that are excited only by, say, foxlike scents. (Freeman 1991, p. 79)

At the level of perceptual experience as a whole, the implication of Freeman’s neurodynamic approach is that every perceptual feature— qualities, shapes, objects, movements, etc.—is determined contrastively with all other possible features at the same level of categorization. These

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perceptual categories are not like words on a vocabulary list, each defined separately, so that acquiring a new category means acquiring a new definition. Rather, they are members of a contrast space that is instantiated by the dynamic repertoire of a nonlinear system. Again, generally speaking, if a set of categories is contrastive, the categories are mutually determined so that categories cannot be added or subtracted without modifying all the others. Thus, learning a new perceptual category means creating a new region of relative stability, a new basin of attraction, and this entails a change in the entire landscape that alters all the other categories. On a more abstract and theoretical level, a very similar claim has been made by the neuroscientist Giulio Tononi in reference to the discriminatory power of consciousness (2008). Tononi suggests that we can get an idea of this power by comparing a simple photodiode with conscious experience in respect of the informational value of their respective states. If both systems are given a simple discrimination task—telling the difference between a light screen and a dark screen—we might suppose that the states of the two systems are equivalent in informational terms. But, Tononi points out (2008, p. 218), for the diode the activated state contrasts with only one other possibility, whereas in our case, the conscious perception of a light screen is different not only from a dark screen, but from a multitude of other images, so when you say “light,” it really means this specific way versus countless other ways, such as a red screen, a green screen, a blue screen, this movie frame, that movie frame, and so on for every movie frame (not to mention for a sound, smell, thought, or any combination of the above).

Tononi makes a second, closely related point with another comparison between our conscious experience and the response of an entire array of photodiodes (ibid.). Even though each diode has just two states, with enough diodes it is possible for an array to “recognize” all the different scenes of all the movies ever made, as an array of one million diodes has a repertoire of 21,000,000 states. But, Tononi argues, this view of the array’s discrimination capacity is misleading, because in fact each diode functions independently, making a simple binary distinction in complete ignorance of what the other diodes are doing. The entire array is not a


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single, unified system; there is no single, unified perspective for which the total image really exists as such. It is not even clear why the sum total of the states of the diodes should count as a single state. Accordingly, it seems that we cannot say that the array has an immense dynamic repertoire composed of 21,000,000 states; rather the array is a collection of 1,000,000 systems, each with a repertoire of 2 states. Tononi’s two points are connected as follows. The high informational value of conscious states depends on both their unity and their complexity—on both integration and differentation. If conscious states were not individually complex wholes, they would not be so highly differentiated as we suppose them to be, as they would not be members of a single system with a very large, high-dimensional dynamic repertoire. Complexly structured states, high informational value, high differentiation, and large dynamical repertoires all go together—indeed, Tononi argues that these properties should be considered as essential features of consciousness (Tononi 2015). Thus, in many respects, Tononi’s integrated information theory of consciousness fits well with my contrastive approach. Accordingly, to the degree that the integrated information theory is bolstered by recent experiments that find a correlation between consciousness and measures of complexity (e.g., Massimini and Tononi 2018; see discussion below), I hope that the contrastive approach can also claim some measure of support. However, there is an important sense in which Tononi’s information-­ based approach is not contrastive. He defines the differentiation of a system as the “diversity of its potential states” (Tononi 2015; Marshall et al. 2016, p. 4), that is, as the total number of states in its dynamic repertoire. In the terms that I am developing here, Tononi’s concept of differentiation is defined only by diversity of contrast; it does not register strength. To distinguish my contrastive understanding of the differentiation of conscious states, I use the term differentiated-ness instead. 2. What evidence do we have in support of the thesis that the dynamic repertoire of consciousness changes in respect of number and stability of states? The answer to this question depends on the identification of the dynamic repertoire of consciousness, which is one of the current goals of

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neurodynamic research. This, in turn, involves identification of the activity patterns that constitute the neural correlates of consciousness and the description of these patterns as integrated states of a unified system. Because the continual activity of our brains—sleeping and awake—is highly complex, spanning multiple scales from milliseconds to seconds and from individual neurons to the whole brain, it is a major challenge just to identify the most functionally relevant variables. Furthermore, to confirm that a spatiotemporal pattern of activity constitutes a unified state requires knowledge of the effective connectivity of the participating regions of brain—their actual causal influence on one another (Friston 2011)—which is no simple matter, to be sure. Even so, promising candidates for the neural states and repertoires of consciousness can be estimated by obtaining measures of entropy and functional connectivity—the temporal correspondence of patterns of neural activity—and by generating models from detailed knowledge of the structural connectivity of the brain. The present discussion prescinds from methodological questions and considers only the basic upshot of recent investigations of the neurodynamics of consciousness. Of particular interest is the attempt to measure the dynamic repertoire of brain activity as a whole (e.g., Ghosh et al. 2008; Hudetz, Liu, and Pillay 2015; Deco et al. 2019). The guiding hypothesis of this approach is that consciousness depends on the size of this repertoire, that is, on its number of states (Deco and Jirsa 2012; Hadriche et al. 2013; Deco et al. 2019). This hypothesis has found some empirical support in studies that find that changes in the size of the brain’s dynamic repertoire correspond to the transition from consciousness to unconsciousness, as well as the transition from normal consciousness to psilocybin-induced psychedelic states. The relevant implication is that the dynamic repertoire of consciousness does change, at least in respect of diversity. Another line of research, summarized by Massimini and Tononi (2018), focuses on measuring the complexity of brain states rather than the size of the dynamic repertoire. This technique uses transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to deliver a harmless “jolt” to the brains of subjects who are awake or sleeping and then captures the resulting EEG response pattern. The advantage of this method is that insofar as significant perturbations of neural activity across the brain can be reliably correlated with the TMS impulse, these perturbations can be used to


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delineate the extension of integrated brain states and to measure their complexity. The resulting measure of complexity—called the “perturbational complexity index” or PCI—provides an astonishingly accurate predictor of consciousness: PCI is lower than 0.31 for all subjects who are in deep sleep or unconscious vegetative state, while PCI is 0.31 or higher for all subjects who are awake or in REM sleep (dreaming). Again, provided that we can infer that the complexity of brain states corresponds to the size of the dynamic repertoire, these studies also indicate that the conscious repertoire does change, as values of PCI for conscious subjects seem to vary widely above the conscious threshold—in healthy awake subjects PCI ranges from 0.31 to 0.70 (see Casarotto et al. 2016). Unfortunately, none of these studies provides any confirmation that the dynamic repertoire varies in respect of the relative stability of its states. This question is further complicated by the fact that the brain states associated with consciousness are widely assumed to be metastable rather than stable (Kelso 2012). Given the importance of relative stability, the significance of metastability for the present approach warrants more careful consideration. The term metastability is sometimes used refer to a state that is easily destabilized by small perturbations. For example, a marble balanced on the flat rim of a bowl could be said to be in a metastable state, as the smallest nudge will send it rolling to the bottom of the bowl (where it will settle into a stable state). In the context of brain dynamics, however, metastability is described as the merest “trace” or “ghost” of stability (Kelso and Engstrøm 2006) exhibited by the curve of a dynamic trajectory rather than a state. It makes sense that conscious dynamics is characterized by metastable trajectories rather than stable states: metastability maximizes responsiveness to a constantly changing world and it fits with our experience of the constant flow of consciousness. However, as indicated by aforementioned studies that attempt to measure the size of the conscious dynamic repertoire, it seems that metastability does not preclude us from speaking of distinct enumerable “states,” even if these “states” are more accurately described as the transient “lingering” or “dwelling” of a trajectory near a “ghost attractor” (e.g., Vohryzek et al. 2020).12  Geometric representations of metastability and “ghost attractors” can be found in the bottom row of Fig. 5.3 above. 12

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At present, the best that I can do is clarify the third thesis as follows: insofar as conscious dynamics is characterized by metastability, conscious states/trajectories must vary within the metastable regime in respect of number and the differentiability of states/trajectories. In other words, however we define the states of consciousness, it essential to the present approach that these states can be more or less differentiated in two respects corresponding to strength and diversity, and that the dynamic repertoire of consciousness can change in respect of both number and differentiability of states. The studies of psilocybin-induced psychedelic states mentioned earlier suggest that there is room for variations of stability within the metastable regime (Carhart-Harris et al. 2014; Tagliazucchi et al. 2014). 3. What evidence do we have in support of the thesis that changes of the dynamic repertoire of consciousness correspond to changes of affect? At the time of this writing, I do not know of any experimental evidence that directly bears on this question, although the preceding discussion of attempts to measure the dynamic repertoire of consciousness suggests that it is not entirely beyond the scope of empirical testability. Again, to clarify, the thesis that needs to be tested is that changes of affect correspond to changes of differentiated-ness, defined in terms of both number and stability of states, i.e., diversity and strength. As I will discuss further in Chap. 8, some varieties of negative affective tone (e.g., melancholic sadness) may be determined primarily by deficiencies of strength. This implies that current measures of how the dynamic repertoire changes in respect of diversity alone (i.e., number of states) are not sufficient for tracking changes of affect.

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Dreyfus, Hubert L. 2007. Why Heideggerian AI Failed and How Fixing It Would Require Making It More Heideggerian. Philosophical Psychology 20 (2): 247–268. Edelman, Gerald M., and Giulio Tononi. 2000. A Universe of Consciousness: How Matter Becomes Imagination. New York: Basic Books. Freeman, Walter J. 1991. The Physiology of Perception. Scientific American 264 (2): 78–87. ———. 2000. How Brains Make Up Their Minds. New York: Columbia University Press. Friston, Karl J. 2011. Functional and Effective Connectivity: A Review. Brain Connectivity 1 (1): 13–36. Ghosh, A., Y. Rho, A.R. McIntosh, R. Kötter, and V.K. Jirsa. 2008. Cortical Network Dynamics with Time Delays Reveals Functional Connectivity in the Resting Brain. Cognitive Neurodynamics 2 (2): 115–120. Goldbeter, Albert. 2018. Dissipative Structures in Biological Systems: Bistability, Oscillations, Spatial Patterns and Waves. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences 376 (2124): 20170376. Grange, Joseph. 1997. Nature: An Environmental Cosmology. Albany: SUNY Press. Guevara Erra, R., D.M. Mateos, R. Wennberg, and J.L. Perez Velazquez. 2016. Statistical Mechanics of Consciousness: Maximization of Information Content of Network Is Associated with Conscious Awareness. Physical Review E 94 (5): 052402. Hadriche, Abir, Laurent Pezard, Jean-Louis Nandrino, Hamadi Ghariani, Abdennaceur Kachouri, and Viktor K. Jirsa. 2013. Mapping the Dynamic Repertoire of the Resting Brain. NeuroImage 78: 448–462. Hoel, Erik P. 2017. When the Map Is Better Than the Territory. Entropy 19 (5): 188. Hooker, Cliff, ed. 2011. Philosophy of Complex Systems. Waltham, MA: Elsevier. ———, ed. 2013. On the Import of Constraints in Complex Dynamical Systems. Foundations of Science 18 (4): 757–780. Hoyt, Donald F., and C. Richard Taylor. 1981. Gait and the Energetics of Locomotion in Horses. Nature 292 (5820): 239–240. Hudetz, Anthony G., Xiping Liu, and Siveshigan Pillay. 2015. Dynamic Repertoire of Intrinsic Brain States Is Reduced in Propofol-Induced Unconsciousness. Brain Connectivity 5 (1): 10–22.


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James, William. 1890/1983. The Principles of Psychology. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. ———. 1902/1982. The Varieties of Religious Experience. New York: Penguin Books. Janson, Natalia B. 2012. Non-Linear Dynamics of Biological Systems. Contemporary Physics 53 (2): 137–168. Jones, Judith. 1998. Intensity: An Essay in Whiteheadian Cosmology. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press. Kelso, J.A. Scott. 1994. The Informational Character of Self-Organized Coordination Dynamics. Human Movement Science 13 (3–4): 393–413. ———. 1995. Dynamic Patterns. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. ———. 2012. Multistability and Metastability: Understanding Dynamic Coordination in the Brain. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 367 (1591): 906–918. Kelso, J.A. Scott, and David A. Engstrøm. 2006. The Complementary Nature, 2006. Cambridge, MA: MIT press. Li, Chenyang. 2008. The Ideal of Harmony in Ancient Chinese and Greek Philosophy. Dao 7: 81–98. Marshall, William, Jaime Gomez-Ramirez, and Giulio Tononi. 2016. Integrated Information and State Differentiation. Frontiers in Psychology 7: 926. Massimini, Marcello, and Giulio Tononi. 2018. Sizing Up Consciousness: Towards an Objective Measure of the Capacity for Experience. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Moreno, Alvaro, and Matteo Mossio. 2015. Biological Autonomy: A Philosophical and Theoretical Enquiry. Dordrecht: Springer Verlag. Neville, Robert C. 1981. Reconstruction of Thinking. Albany: SUNY Press. ———. 1989. Recovery of the Measure. Albany: SUNY Press. ———. 2019. The Metaphysics of Goodness. Albany: SUNY Press. Peirce, Charles S. 1878/1992. How to Make Our Ideas Clear. In The Essential Peirce: Selected Philosophical Writings: Volume 1, ed. N. Houser and C. Kloessel, 124–141. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Schaffer, Jonathan. 2005. Contrastive Causation. The Philosophical Review 114 (3): 327–358. Schöner, Gregor, J.A. Scott, and Kelso. 1988. Dynamic Pattern Generation in Behavioral and Neural Systems. Science 239 (4847): 1513–1520. Silberstein, Michael, and Anthony Chemero. 2013. Constraints on Localization and Decomposition as Explanatory Strategies in the Biological Sciences. Philosophy of Science 80 (5): 958–970.

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Spivey, Michael. 2006. The Continuity of Mind. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Stepp, Nigel, Anthony Chemero, and Michael T. Turvey. 2011. Philosophy for the Rest of Cognitive Science. Topics in Cognitive Science 3 (2): 425–437. Tagliazucchi, Enzo, Robin Carhart-Harris, Robert Leech, David Nutt, and Dante R. Chialvo. 2014. Enhanced Repertoire of Brain Dynamical States during the Psychedelic Experience. Human Brain Mapping 35 (11): 5442–5456. Thelen, Esther, and Linda B. Smith. 2006. Dynamic Systems Theories. In Handbook of Child Psychology: Theoretical Models of Human Development, ed. R.M. Lerner and W. Damon, 258–312. New York: John Wiley & Sons Inc. Tononi, Giulio. 2008. Consciousness as Integrated Information: A Provisional Manifesto. The Biological Bulletin 215 (3): 216–242. ———. 2015. Integrated Information Theory. Scholarpedia 10 (1): 4164. Varela, Francisco, Jean-Philippe Lachaux, Eugenio Rodriguez, and Jacques Martinerie. 2001. The Brainweb: Phase Synchronization and Large-Scale Integration. Nature Reviews Neuroscience 2 (4): 229–239. Vohryzek, Jakub, Gustavo Deco, Bruno Cessac, Morten L. Kringelbach, and Joana Cabral. 2020. Ghost Attractors in Spontaneous Brain Activity: Recurrent Excursions into Functionally-Relevant Bold Phase-Locking States. Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience 14: 20. Whitehead, Alfred N. 1933/1967. Adventures of Ideas. New York: Free Press. ———. 1978. Process and Reality: Corrected edition. Ed. D.R. Griffin and D.W. Sherburne. New York: Macmillan.

6 Affect and Consciousness

The arguments of this chapter and the next have two overarching objectives. The first is to show how affect is essential to consciousness, such that there can be no conscious feeling without affect and vice versa (no affect zombies and no happy trees). The second objective is to provide resources for understanding the special nature of conscious feeling. These objectives are joined together by the thesis that consciousness is an affectively self-regulating stream of feeling. I will argue this thesis by showing that affect is among the basic traits of consciousness that constitute its essentially dynamic and relational or stream-like character. In the larger scheme of the book, the arguments of this chapter and the next constitute an attempt to show how peaks of enjoyment can be understood as “the clarified and intensified development of traits that belong to every normally complete experience” (Dewey 1934/1980, p. 46). As might be expected, William James’s classic description of the “stream of thought” (1890/1983) will play a central role in the development of my thesis that consciousness is an affectively self-regulating stream of feeling. Indeed, what follows is essentially an attempt to incorporate affect into the Jamesian stream. But before turning to James’s account, some preliminary remarks about the problem of consciousness will help to explain the peculiarities of this approach. For the pan-experientialist © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 N. F. Barrett, Enjoyment as Enriched Experience, Palgrave Perspectives on Process Philosophy, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-13790-7_6



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philosophy of nature which lies in the background of this project, the problem of how to understand the place of consciousness in nature remains unsolved, but it is quite different from the “hard problem” best known to philosophers and scientists (Chalmers 1996).

 he Problem of Consciousness T for Pan-Experientialism In the previous chapter, the concepts of harmonic intensity and contrast were used to build a theoretical bridge between affective feelings and a simplified picture of the causal dynamics of consciousness. This kind of bridge building is not unprecedented—it can be found in other pan-­ experientialist approaches to understanding the place of consciousness in nature (e.g., Rosenberg 2004)—but it brings with it a host of difficulties. Among these is the implication that all systems in nature have feelings, including feelings of affect. In the last chapter it was simply assumed that we were talking about conscious systems, and distinctive features and conditions of consciousness were largely put aside. But the application of contrast to causal dynamics clearly holds for all systems, if it holds for any. If harmonic intensity is a feature of contrastive determination, then wherever contrastive determination obtains, so does harmonic intensity. As indicated by the two postulates introduced in the last chapter, in the background of the proposed theory of affect is a pan-experientialist philosophy of nature for which all causation is contrastive; this is how feelings are “thought together” with causal events. Given this background, does not my proposal entail that all things feel affected by their causal determination? Does it not imply that trees, rocks, and even subatomic particles can take pleasure in their various states? Although these questions may sound silly, they are only slight variants of questions that beset all pan-experientialist theories of consciousness and its place in nature. How can we extend feeling to all things in nature without falling into absurdity? It should be noted that the Whiteheadian variety of pan-experientialism advocated here does not entail the thesis that trees, rocks and other non-animate things have conscious feelings. On

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the other hand, it must be admitted that many Whiteheadians and other pan-experientialists are not sufficiently clear on this point. Among the difficulties that must be confronted by pan-experientialism is the apparent discontinuity of consciousness with respect to the rest of nature. Even if we hold that consciousness belongs to a continuum of feeling that extends throughout nature, we must account for this discontinuity. If feeling belongs to all events in nature, what marks the difference between conscious feelings and other kinds, and why do we have no inkling of the latter? And why can’t trees feel happy? Pan-experientialism is often presented as a solution to the problem of consciousness because it does not need to grapple with the emergence of qualitative phenomena. But as indicated by these questions, it is really a different approach that must grapple with its own version of the problem. Let us briefly consider the problem of consciousness for pan-experientialism. The available evidence indicates that consciousness is a very special kind of occurrence within nature. It is exceedingly rare and fragile, arising only in special circumstances which are easily destroyed and have so far eluded manufacture. Within our own bodies, the only place where we know for certain that it occurs, consciousness comes and goes. And yet it seems that all of our conscious experiences are bound together by a vague but unmistakable continuity. Each stream of consciousness is utterly singular and unique to its bearer; it cannot be replicated or transferred. Although we may not be able to articulate the reasons why, and some may deny that it is so, our comportment with respect to consciousness— our own and others’—betrays a deeply held conviction of its rarity, precariousness, and value. Even when the body remains alive, the permanent loss of consciousness is mourned as if it were death. These points about consciousness need emphasizing because pan-­ experientialism can sometimes appear as if it denied them. After all, one of the driving principles of pan-experientialist philosophy is some version of the continuity thesis that is inherent to all varieties of naturalism. In rough form, this thesis holds that all traits of experience, mind, and life must be somehow continuous with the rest of nature or else no understanding of them is possible. Needless to say, this is a very vague statement that admits many different interpretations. The point at which I am


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driving is that pan-experientialism should be seen as one way of specifying the continuity thesis that it shares with other varieties of naturalism, and in this respect, it is in the same boat with respect to the problems posed by the apparent anomaly of consciousness. Far from denying the rare and distinctive nature of conscious feeling, pan-experientialism is an attempt to articulate the rarity and distinctiveness of consciousness as a natural phenomenon. In support of this task, many proponents of pan-experientialism, much like their emergentist rivals, implicitly assume some version of what I call the complexity thesis. The complexity thesis, in its simplest and most general form, is the intuition that consciousness is somehow related to the complexity of our bodies, especially our brains. As a specification of the continuity thesis, the complexity thesis suggests that the capacity for consciousness belongs to the upper region of a continuum of complexity. The reason that we have consciousness, while plants, rocks, and most other things in nature don’t, is that we (or our brains) are much more complex. As long as the complexity thesis is left unspecified, it seems to have strong empirical support. Is not consciousness dependent on the brain, and is not the brain characterized, above all, by its astounding complexity? But as soon as we attempt to formulate a more precise version of the complexity thesis, we run into difficulty. One problem is that are there are many definitions of complexity, and it is not clear which of these applies exclusively to conscious systems. Moreover, the measurement of complexity in conscious subjects is by no means a simple and straightforward task. Some of the most prominent theories—such as Giulio Tononi’s Integrated Information Theory (2015)—are not yet testable, at least not directly. In the last chapter I mentioned that Tononi and his colleagues have developed a proxy measure, the “perturbational complexity index” (PCI), which differentiates conscious from non-conscious states with a high degree of accuracy (Massimini and Tononi 2018). But even this evidence for a connection between consciousness and complexity does not, by itself, explain this connection. Why should complexity give rise to consciousness at a certain threshold (i.e., at PCI = 0.31)? In this respect, at least, pan-experientialists seem to have a leg up on their emergentist rivals. For emergentists who hold some version of the

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complexity thesis, it is difficult to avoid falling prey to Leibniz’s “mill argument” (1714/1989, p. 215), which goes like this. A complex system made of unfeeling parts that is claimed to be the physical basis of consciousness could, in principle, be blown up to the size of a mill and investigated from the inside, where we would find no sign of feeling among its parts. As long as we suppose that feeling emerges from a complex system whose parts are completely unfeeling, what kind of complexity can overcome the mill argument? Meanwhile, for pan-experientialists, there is no need to claim that complexity gives rise to feeling per se. We need not pull a feeling out of a special configuration of unfeeling processes. Rather, our more modest claim is that the complexity of the brain conditions feeling (e.g., see Dewey 1929/1958, p. 86), giving rise to the distinct nature of conscious feelings. But what is this distinct nature, and why does it depend on complexity? Most commonly, this question is answered in terms of a phenomenal trait that is akin to complexity—something along the lines of phenomenal or qualitative richness. For present purposes, let us define richness simply as the “densely detailed structure” of conscious feeling (Haun et al. 2017). It is the richness of conscious feeling that accounts for its enormous variety, such that no two feelings are exactly the same. In light of this fact, it can be claimed that only some events in nature enjoy the special richness of conscious feeling, and this richness is a function of the complexity of the system in which conscious feeling occurs (e.g., Tononi 2008).1 This version of the complexity thesis—let us call it the complexity-­ richness thesis—can be traced back at least as far as William James, who suggested in his Principles of Psychology that the infinite variety of conscious feeling is matched by the infinite variety of states that can be taken by the “infinitely delicate brain” (1890/1983, p. 229). Additional phenomenological support for this thesis comes from the fact that a richness continuum can be found within consciousness. For example, various  Whitehead claimed that conscious feelings are distinguished by “affirmation-negation contrasts” (1978, p. 243), which I understand as non-perceptual feelings of the contrastive determination of perceptual feelings. Although this idea is central to my approach to affect and consciousness, I believe that it does not, by itself, explain the nature of consciousness or its dependence on some kind of complexity. 1


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kinds of peak experiences, such as aesthetic enjoyment and “flow” (Dewey 1934/1980; Csikszentmihalyi 1990; see Chap. 9), seem to belong to the uppermost regions of a continuum of richness. Why should this continuum not continue below consciousness into a non-conscious realm of feeling? Indeed, the present theory of affect posits just such a continuum, defined in terms of harmonic intensity and applied to the contrastive determination of all systems. The problem with this approach is that it seems to leave us without any way of accounting for the apparently discontinuous boundary between conscious and unconscious feeling. In short, if consciousness is distinguished only by its richness, there can be no threshold that divides conscious from non-conscious feeling. The complexity-richness thesis, by itself, suggests only a continuum of feeling that spans all kinds of processes in nature without any discontinuities. I do not think that we should try to skirt this difficulty by simply admitting that all events are conscious, regardless of richness. But I am not going to argue against the possibility of simple conscious feelings here. Rather, I prefer to focus on the inadequacy of richness as a distinguishing feature of consciousness as it is known to us. Cutting to the chase, I see three main problems presented by the idea of a continuum of feelings differentiated only by their richness: 1. Our experience of the loss of consciousness suggests that there are important breaks or discontinuities which are not accounted for by the complexity-richness thesis. Why do we not have any inkling of any simpler grade of feeling? 2. Consciousness is not just the appearance of rich phenomenal content: it also seems to be intimately connected with the distinctive behaviors of humans and other animate beings, especially the kinds of agency marked by motivation and intentionality. Does not the richness-­ complexity continuum imply a parallel continuum of intentional agents, something akin to animism? Unless consciousness is totally inert and epiphenomenal, it cannot be spread around nature without consequences for behavior. Why do we not encounter simple forms of intentional agency driven by simple forms of conscious feeling? 3. A third problem is special to the current project: if affective feelings belong to a continuum of harmonic intensity, how do we account for

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negative conscious feelings? The idea of an unbroken continuum of richness seems to be incompatible with the bipolarity of affect.2 The first problem may be the most basic and incontrovertible. We experience the loss of consciousness regularly when falling asleep, but also when going under general anesthesia, fainting, etc. As we lose consciousness, we often discern a certain fading of conscious feeling, which may be characterized as diminishing richness. Nevertheless, this fading does not contradict our commonsense notion of a threshold that marks a transition. The plainest reading of the evidence seems to be that something like the richness continuum does exist—consciousness does intensify and fade—but only down to a certain point, around which the fading of awareness reaches a discontinuity and we “black out.” The enormous importance of general anesthesia for modern medicine seems to hinge on this fact. I am not insisting that all awareness is conscious awareness. Evidence that we are capable of diverse levels and modes of awareness, some of which may be subconscious or unconscious, does not contradict our commonsense notion of consciousness as a distinctive mode of being characterized by major, qualitative differences in awareness and behavior. But how exactly should we understand these differences? Whatever the complete answer may turn out to be, the point that I am making here is that richness is not enough to make this distinction. Conscious awareness is not just a phenomenally rich form of awareness; lack of conscious awareness is not just a relative lack of phenomenal richness. If the preceding arguments do not seem convincing enough, here is another clue to the insufficiency of richness. Consider any markedly rich feeling that you have enjoyed at some point in your life. The exercise works better if it draws from a predominantly sensory experience, packed with vivid detail. The experience I have in mind is sitting on the back porch of my parents’ home on a warm breezy summer evening eating fresh-baked blackberry pie with vanilla ice cream. Now, suppose we  In the previous chapter it was suggested that negative feelings are constituted by losses of harmonic intensity. Yet we have good reason to believe that negative affect is more than just a comparative feeling. See Chap. 8 for further discussion. 2


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extract the rich sensory content from this experience and slice it into nearly instantaneous segments: razor-thin slices of conscious feeling, all retaining the same sensory qualities as the full, extended experience. The resulting blips of feeling should still have qualitative richness—indeed, that’s all they should have: each blip, however brief, is nothing more or less than a richly packed bundle of sensory qualities. Could such a blip count as consciousness? If not, why not? If we sense that something essential to consciousness is lacking in a rich blip of feeling, the exercise has served its purpose. The point, once again, is that consciousness is not well characterized by richness alone. This is not to say that richness is not an important or even an essential feature of conscious experience. On the contrary: richness is fundamental to the entire approach of this book, and my argument so far has focused almost exclusively on the richness of conscious feeling. The concept of harmonic intensity, the mainstay of my harmonic theory of affect, is a way of understanding this richness. However, so far the discussion has been deliberately confined to a simplified view of consciousness as successive bundles of qualities, and now I am arguing that this view is insufficient. What more should we add?

 oward an Affective View T of the Jamesian Stream Philosophers in multiple traditions have argued that important features of conscious experience are lost when it is pictured as Humean bundles of sensory qualities. But to be convinced of this point we should not need more than a moment’s reflection on our own experience. As a description of what actually appears, a “bundle of qualities” is grossly inadequate, like describing a novel as a bunch of letters. And yet the bundle picture continues to persist, as indicated by the way arguments about sense qualities, or qualia, have dominated recent philosophy of consciousness (Crane 2019). How has the bundle picture managed to exert such a powerful influence on our thinking about consciousness?

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The answer probably lies in the prominence, clarity, and distinctness of aspects of experience that lend themselves to being pictured this way. That is, if we pick out the most clear and distinct elements of our experience and prescind them from their natural context, we are likely to come up with something like the bundle picture. For a positivistic orientation that seeks to eliminate all vagueness from our concept of experience, the bundle picture is a temptingly satisfying outcome of inquiry. But if our priority is faithfulness to experience rather than specious intelligibility, we should have no problem discerning the existence of other elements in experience that are less prominent, clear, and distinct. Taking the whole of experience into consideration, we find that “the dark and twilight abound” (Dewey 1929/1958, p. 20). On the other hand, it should be acknowledged that it is extremely difficult for inquiry to come to grips with these vaguer aspects of experience—they are vague, after all. But that does not mean that they are trivial, or that we should not attempt to describe them. The singular genius of William James’s famous account of the “stream of thought” in his Principles of Psychology (1890/1983) lies in his unmatched ability to describe the vaguer aspects of experience without over-determining them. According to James himself, a central aim of his descriptive approach was to bring these more elusive features to light: “It is, in short, the re-­ instatement of the vague to its proper place in our mental life which I am so anxious to press on the attention” (ibid., p. 246). When we attend to the vaguer aspects of experience, what emerges is not a more subtle and nuanced account of the sensory qualities that normally dominate our view of consciousness, but a rather different view in which these qualities are subsumed within a stream of continual activity. This is why attention to “the vague” is so important: it helps us to restore all the relational and dynamic features that tend to drop out of the bundle picture. Hard as it may be to describe exactly what needs to be added to this picture, we should be able to confirm that there is no such thing as an unrelated, unchanging conscious feeling. For these reasons, I have chosen to make James’s description of the relational and dynamic traits of consciousness the primary reference point for the arguments of this chapter and the next. Perhaps James did not capture all the most important features of consciousness that need to


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be taken into account—below I will point out some critical missteps— but he set the bar high enough to serve as a measure of subsequent progress. Indeed, his account of the stream remains a critical benchmark in consciousness studies (e.g., Block et al. 1997; Edelman and Tononi 2000; Pred 2005). What features come to the fore when we attend to the vaguer aspects of experience? In Principles, James proposes that the “stream of thought” is characterized by five basic traits: (1) a sense of personal ownership; (2) constant change; (3) sensible continuity, including feelings of relation and tendency; (4) the appearance of independent objects; (5) selective interest and choosing activity.3 Notice that pleasure, pain, and other affective traits are conspicuously absent from this account. How can we account for this oversight? How can we add affect to this view of consciousness in a way that respects the integrity of James’s descriptive approach? And if affect belongs to a complete description of the stream, how did James miss it? The goal of this chapter and the next is to argue that affect, if properly understood, does indeed have a central and essential role to play in the Jamesian stream. Toward this end, I will present a revised and condensed view of the stream that highlights four traits: (1) a sense of how consciousness is changing, i.e., the flow of consciousness; (2) a sense of the meaning of this flow; (3) affect; and (4) self-awareness. With one major exception, these four traits—abbreviated hereafter as flow, meaning, affect, and self—overlap with James’s original five. Self-awareness corresponds to personal ownership; flow covers change and sensible continuity; meaning covers feelings of relation and tendency and the appearance of objects. Only affect seems to be missing from James’s account. The absence of affect is a critical lacuna that needs to be addressed by showing how affect relates to the “selective interest and choosing activity” of the stream. This is the task of the present section. Once affect is incorporated into the stream, I will argue that the four traits of flow, meaning, affect, and self are interrelated, “co-dependently arising” aspects of conscious feeling. Each of these traits may be more or  A bit later, in his Psychology: Briefer Course (1892/1984), he reduces the traits to four, omitting the appearance of independent objects. 3

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less prominent at any given moment, but none can exist without the others, and there can be no conscious experience unless all four are present. The second section of this chapter explores the relationship between affect, flow, and meaning; the next chapter is devoted to the relationship between affect and self-awareness. Once we understand flow, meaning, affect, and self as interrelated, “co-dependently arising” aspects of conscious experience, we should be able to use this interrelated unity to mark the distinct character of conscious feeling and advance toward a more adequate version of the complexity thesis. We can venture a hypothesis about why these traits are linked to certain minimal levels of qualitative richness, accounting for the appearance of a richness-complexity continuum that spans the consciousness threshold. * * * We now turn to confront the seemingly marginal place of affect in James’s view of mind and experience. In the index of The Principles of Psychology, the entries for pleasure and pain are astonishingly brief, while entries for affect, motivation, and desire are non-existent. In James’s most sustained treatments of the nature of consciousness—the famous chapter on the “Stream of Thought”—he does not include affect among the most essential five traits, and in his descriptions of these traits he mentions affective feelings only occasionally and in passing. This is not simply a terminological issue that can be skirted by looking into related terms such as emotion, feeling and passion. None of these terms plays a central role in James’s description of experience (ca. 1890). Moreover, we cannot say that James’s marginalization of affect was typical of his time. In the late nineteenth century, hedonistic theories of mental function figured prominently in the intellectual landscape within which psychology was emerging as a distinct field of inquiry (e.g., Mill 1863; Bain 1868; Spencer 1879/2011). James was well aware of these hedonistic theories: as I discuss below, he sharply criticized them in his Principles. In short, James could have made affect central to his account of the stream of consciousness had he thought that it warranted this kind of role.


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So why didn’t he? How can I account for marginality of affect in James’s view of consciousness, and how can I reconcile this position with my thesis that affect is essential to consciousness? The short answer is that James did see a central role in experience for a diverse assemblage of affect-like feelings, but for a variety of reasons, some better than others, he did not see fit to describe them as such. The long answer is that the absence of affect in Principles can be explained partly by certain shortcomings in James’s view of pleasure and pain, partly by his aversion to hedonistic theories, and partly by his unique gifts and limitations as an assembler of diverse facts of experience. Among the facts of experience noted by James is the way in which consciousness is continuously animated by diverse kinds of interest, a critical feature that we will examine closely in the following pages. In short, if affect can be equated with interest, it can be shown that James confirms my view that experience is thoroughly and deeply imbued with affect. This is the “affective version” of the Jamesian stream for which I will argue before turning to a consideration of its implications for our understanding of the interrelated features of flow, meaning, affect, and self. To begin, let us note an uncharacteristic misstep in James’s view of experience. In one brief but telling passage of the Principles, he falls into the common trap of picturing pleasure and pain as special qualities of feeling. At the outset of the final chapter, James claims that all schools of psychology should agree that “the elementary qualities of cold, heat, pleasure, pain, red, blue, sound, silence, etc., are original, innate, or a priori properties of our subjective nature” (1890/1983, p. 1216 italics in the original). Because James lists pleasure and pain together with a sample of sensory qualities, he seems to assume that the former have the same distinct, “elementary” qualitative nature as the latter. I do not wish to make too much of this statement. In the context in which it appears, James’s attention is on other matters, and in any case it does not represent anything essential to his view of experience. Nevertheless, the error is worth noting at least insofar as it shows that James did not examine pleasure and pain very closely. If he had done so, no doubt he would have come to the same conclusion as his friend and fellow pragmatist Charles Peirce (1903/1998, pp. 190–191): they do not contain any special “elemental quality.” As we will see, James’s failure to

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realize this fact is related to his exclusion of affect from the most basic features of consciousness. Now let us consider James’s opposition to contemporary theories of psychological hedonism. The most extensive treatment of pleasure and pain in the Principles occurs in a subsection (1890/1983, pp. 1156–1164) of the chapter on “Will,” where James attacks these theories, calling them a “curiously narrow teleological superstition” (p.  1157). What James objects to is not teleology per se but its “curiously narrow” interpretation by psychological hedonists of his time. Indeed, whatever its flaws, psychological hedonism is at least an attempt to answer questions that James considered to be of critical importance: What is the motive power of mind? What internal norms guide its activity? In the passages that immediately precede James’s discussion of pleasure and pain, he claims that “consciousness is in its very nature impulsive” (p. 1134). Following this claim, James acknowledges that feelings of pleasure and pain plainly exhibit this impulsive quality. Indeed, the power to move us is essential to pleasure and pain (see p. 146). The part of psychological hedonism that he rejects is the assumption that this motive power can be reduced to or subsumed by pleasure and pain, together with the suggestion that these feelings must be obeyed—that they cannot be resisted, checked by other impulses, or otherwise deflected. To show the overreach of psychological hedonism, James observes that in the daily routine of life, actions of a habitual nature are “utterly without mental reference to pleasure or pain” (p. 1158). He also offers examples that seem to demonstrate that unpleasantness can serve to motivate action, as when we are tempted to press a sore tooth “just to bring out the pain” (p. 1159). But with these arguments James aims only to refute the position that our actions are uniformly determined by a certain kind of impulse constituted by of feelings of pleasure and pain. Here and elsewhere he consistently acknowledges that some such impulse is at work in all conscious activity; indeed, he accuses the hedonists of overlooking these more varied and immediate “springs of action” in their attempt to explain all behavior as the seeking of pleasure (and avoidance of pain). For present purposes, what needs emphasis is James’s view that the motive power of pleasure and pain is representative of an essential trait of experience, the “impulsive quality” of conscious feeling:


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The impulsive quality of mental states is an attribute behind which we cannot go. Some states of mind have more of it than others, some have it in this direction, and some in that. Feelings of pleasure and pain have it, and perceptions and imaginations of fact have it, but neither have it exclusively or peculiarly. It is of the essence of all consciousness … to instigate movement of some sort. (p. 1157)

Although he refers to it as a “quality,” it is clear that James does not believe that this trait can be identified with any distinct sensory-like quality, as it belongs to all types of feeling. Later, James ventures the following characterization: If one must have a single name for the condition upon which the impulsive and inhibitory quality of objects depends, one had better call it their interest. ‘The interesting’ is a title which covers not only the pleasant and the painful, but also the morbidly fascinating, the tediously haunting, and even the simply habitual, inasmuch as the attention usually travels on habitual lines, and what-we-attend-to and what-interests-us are synonymous terms. It seems as if we ought to look for the secret of an idea’s impulsiveness … [in] the urgency, namely, with which it is able to compel attention and dominate in consciousness. (p. 1164)

In this passage it seems that James is moving tentatively toward a characterization of interest as another basic trait of consciousness. And, in fact, once it is brought to our attention, interest emerges as a major leitmotif of James’s writings about experience. Although it never makes its way into the heading of any chapter or subsection of the Principles, interest turns up again and again as an essential ingredient in his analyses of perception, conception, and reasoning. We even find that it is included by James among the five “original” core traits of consciousness, albeit in an oblique manner that easily escapes our notice: consciousness “is interested in some parts of its object to the exclusion of others, and welcomes or rejects—chooses from among them, in a word—all the while” (1892/1984, p. 140). However, despite its importance to consciousness, or perhaps because of its importance, James never describes interest or defines it in terms other than its power to compel attention. This power—echoed by

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Wolfgang Köhler’s “demand character”—sounds like an objective quality, but James evidently thought of interest as both subjective and objective, active and passive. Although in certain passages he stresses one or the other pole, he never clearly distinguishes between the objective, impulsive side of interest, i.e., that which compels attention, and the subjective, selective side of interest, i.e., that which directs attention. This ambiguity is in keeping with James’s famously “double-barreled” view of experience and is arguably a virtue, not a flaw. More problematic, as we will see, is the absence of any suggestion as to what makes anything worthy of interest—or is interest simply something “given” to experience? But then how could interest be active? How could it be decided? In the Principles, the most sustained treatment of interest occurs in the chapter on “The Consciousness of Self.” It is worth examining closely, especially with respect to questions about the self as both source and object of interest. In this chapter, James is seeking to uncover the innermost core of self-consciousness, and what he finds is an active element, an activity defined wholly in terms of interest: [W]hatever qualities a man’s feelings may possess, or whatever content his thought may include, there is a spiritual something in him which seems to go out to meet these qualities and contents, whilst they seem to come in to be received by it. It is what welcomes or rejects. It presides over the perception of sensations, and by giving or withholding its assent it influences the movements they tend to arouse. It is the home of interest,—not the pleasant or the painful, not even pleasure or pain, as such, but that within us to which pleasure and pain, the pleasant and the painful, speak. (1890/1983, p. 285, italics added)

The last sentence of this passage is especially intriguing: the innermost self, the home of interest, is not pleasure or pain, but that to which these feelings speak. What could he mean? Despite his brief mention of a “spiritual something,” James is not trying to establish the existence of a transcendental ego. He clearly rejects this idea in other passages. Rather, he is trying to catch hold of whatever is felt as our innermost self within experience. Moreover, he is trying to strike a delicate balance. On the one hand,


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James concedes that the activity of feeling cannot be the object of consciousness, but on the other hand he wants to avoid making this activity into the work of an agent operating on experience from outside. Accordingly, in these passages he frequently refers to the innermost self as a “principle” of activity within consciousness, that which selects or decides interest. In other words, if interest is a “double-barreled” phenomenon, both subjective and objective, here he is referring to the subjective pole. The difficulty against which James is struggling is that the subjective and objective sides of interest cannot be characterized in isolation from one another. Interest refers both to the selective activity of consciousness and whatever it is that governs or guides selection. The objects of experience are not made to fit our interests, but neither are they constituted independently, as if interest were an added quality that is stamped upon them like a seal of approval. Interest is therefore extremely difficult to pin down, as it wavers between the subjective side, the spontaneous element in experience, our “vote” in the constitution of experience (1878/1978, p. 21), and the objective side, having to do with that which provokes and compels interest. Consider the interplay between subjective and objective aspects of interest in the following passage: I am aware of a constant play of furtherances and hindrances in my thinking, of checks and releases, tendencies which run with desire, and tendencies which run the other way. Among the matters I think of, some range themselves on the side of the thought’s interests, whilst others play an unfriendly part thereto. The mutual inconsistencies and agreements, reinforcements and obstructions, which obtain amongst these objective matters reverberate backwards and produce what seem to be incessant reactions of my spontaneity upon them, welcoming or opposing, appropriating or disowning, striving with or against, saying yes or no. (1890/1983, pp. 286–287)

Before moving on, I would like to draw out certain dynamic implications of this passage. There is a definite suggestion of a circularity, or a rhythmic alteration, between subjective and objective poles. Before each spontaneous reaction on the subjective side, the objective tendencies that produce this reaction were already determined as “furtherances and hinderances” in relation to desire, which, in turn, was presumably

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determined in reaction to earlier tendencies. Along these lines, I propose to think of the dual nature of interest—active/passive, subjective/objective—not only as two poles but also as interrelated phases of a continuous cycle that powers the stream of experience. Insofar as it is spontaneous, every reaction of the subject is a choosing activity that shapes, but does not wholly determine, the subsequent presentation of the objective tendencies of experience, which in turn constrain, but do not wholly determine, further spontaneous reactions, and so on. This cycle of interested activity is much like the continuous perception-action cycle described by John Dewey (1896) and many others since. But it refers to something more basic: the cyclical activity of all conscious experience. Moreover, it gives to this cyclical activity a distinctly teleological impulse: interest. * * * So far I have been building a case that something called interest is at the core of James’s view of the stream consciousness with the intention of declaring that this trait can be subsumed by the harmonic theory of affect. But first I want to address a critical issue that James left unresolved—a problem that helps to justify my appropriation of his account of experience. In the preceding paragraphs I have argued that interest plays a central, “double-barreled” role in this account as the motive power of the stream. And yet the nature of interest remained, for James, an unanalyzable primitive, an a priori element “behind which we cannot go.” Let us briefly consider the implications of this view. Where does it leave our understanding of reasoning, learning by experience, self-­ criticism, and other forms of inquiry? It should be clear that without any sense of what constitutes the character of interest, we are unable to raise any questions about which objects are worthy of interest or how we should choose among them. We are unable to criticize our interests except by considering their consequences, and even then it is not clear how this will help. Perhaps critique leads to new interests which can check others, or at least expand the range of interests from which we can choose. But if interests are primitives, and if they are all on a par with respect to their power to command our attention, on what basis do we choose? Choice between one “brute teleological


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affirmation” (James 1878/1978, p. 16) and another cannot be any more reasoned than the swerve of an Epicurean atom. Notwithstanding the obstacle that this view of interest presents to inquiry, it might be argued that it should be accepted on empirical grounds. Perhaps our interests just are what they are, and they cannot be analyzed, questioned, or critiqued. Plenty of arguments have been made to this effect: the “heart has its reasons,” we are “slaves of the passions,” and all that. Rather than take stock of the evidence for and against this emotivist view, I prefer to indicate how James himself would have found it unsatisfactory. James believed that our interests have to be constrained somehow, or else they would pose a serious threat to our survival. Accordingly, he reasoned that natural selection must have acted on spontaneous variations of interest so that certain vitally important matters—especially our bodies—show up in experience as “supremely interesting” (1890/1983, p. 307). As a result, human interests are innately ordered into a hierarchy that puts self-interest, or “self-love,” above all other interests. The idea that human behavior is directed by self-interest is not original to James. However, certain distinctive features of his view of self-interest are worth noting. First, James argues that the one thing in which we cannot take an interest is the active “principle” of consciousness discussed earlier. This principle constitutes the core of our sense of self, but insofar as it cannot be the object of consciousness it also cannot be the object of interest (see p. 323). Thus, ironically, what we feel to be our innermost self, the “home of interest,” is itself void of self-interest. Curious though it may be, let us set this point aside for now—I will come back to it in the next chapter. Second, and closely related to this last point, it is important to notice the de facto nature of the hierarchy of individual interests, according to James’s view. Although interest is essential to consciousness, there is no essential object of interest. “The phenomenon of passion is in origin and essence the same, whatever be the target upon which it is discharged; and what the target actually happens to be is solely a question of fact” (p. 309). Moreover, according to James, it is not the case that we are supremely interested in our own body because we identify so closely with it and cannot survive without it; rather, he insists, we identify closely with our body

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because it is a supreme object of interest (p.  304). The fact that this supreme object of interest happens to coincide with the thing most essential to our survival is a contingent state of affairs that has been arranged for us by nature. If James’s portrayal of interest in these passages is taken at its word, it is impossible for us to choose rationally between interests or to cultivate more refined interests. Interests, on his account, do not seem to be educable, comparable, or corrigible in any way. In his earlier writings, James makes this point explicitly: These aesthetic and practical interests, then, are the weightiest factors in making particular ingredients stand out in high relief. What they lay their accent on, that we notice; but what they are in themselves, we cannot say. We must content ourselves here with simply accepting them as irreducible ultimate factors in determining the way our knowledge grows. (1878/1983, p. 16)

Whatever reasons James may have had for treating interest this way, it does not square with other aspects of his philosophy, or even with his view of consciousness as a “choosing activity.” For even if the interests of consciousness are multiple, there is no real choice if it is impossible to give a reason for the selection of one interest over others. In short, by making interest into a primitive, a priori element “behind which we cannot go,” James makes himself vulnerable to charges of the very same determinism that he decries in psychological hedonism. Really, could we not say this picture of interest-powered experience is just hedonism by another name? The real problem with psychological hedonism is not its “curiously narrow” view of motivation, but the brute givenness and incorrigibility of whatever it is—interest, pleasure, or what have you—that serves as the motive power of consciousness. In turn, the brute givenness of interest is a problem not just because it raises the threat of irrationalism, but also because it fails to account for key features of our experience that depend on the educability of interest. Our experience of interest includes all the occasions in which we reflect on, critique, compare, choose between and cultivate interests. Surely James wanted to include these activities in his view of experience.


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Moreover, as pointed out by Wolfgang Köhler in his analysis of the “demand character” of experience (1944/1971, p.  367), the impulsive quality of consciousness is never a sheer brute force. It always has some prima facie reason, some “rational or understandable relationship” to the subject (pp. 368–369). Probably James would not have wanted to go so far as to attribute reasonableness to all feelings of interest—this sounds too well-measured for our strongest passions, deepest longings, or most reflexive impulses. But I think he could have accepted the point at which Köhler is getting. The force of interest, no matter how strong, deep, or reflexive, is always a persuasive force: we are never simply pulled and pushed around by our interests, even when we follow them without hesitation. Indeed, James seems to register this point when he observes that “consent” is a widely recognized manifestation of the active nature of experience (1890/1983, p.  913). If our experience of interest contains elements of persuasiveness and consent, it must also contain at least a germ of reason that can, in principle, be examined and critiqued. James should have been well aware of the importance of uncovering the germ of reason within the primary impulses of feeling, as this was a central theme in the writings of his fellow pragmatists. Indeed, interest is arguably the Jamesian expression of what Peirce, Royce, and Dewey would have described as the aesthetic basis of experience and inquiry. No doubt James knew about this line of thought, and he must have seen its relevance to his work. In fact, in his Principles, he briefly discusses aesthetic values—richness and ease—as dominant factors in “our intellectual as well as our sensuous life” (p. 943). He even cites with approval Royce’s “law” of consciousness, which is “to combine the greatest richness of content with the greatest definition of organization” (p.  944). Why didn’t James turn to these aesthetic theories to explicate interest? Why is James the only classical pragmatist who did not proclaim the fundamental importance of aesthetics for our understanding of mentality? It is possible to give an answer to this question from the perspective of the harmonic theory of affect. Recall that James defined interest only in terms of its power to draw and hold our attention. He must have recognized that aesthetic principles can be used to explain a wide range of examples that have this power (see above description of “the interesting”). However, just as he refused to

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identify all interest with pleasure and pain, he likely refused to apply aesthetic principles to all instances of interest because he saw that many objects of interest fail to satisfy these principles. Pleasure and pain have interest—they draw and hold our attention—and yet in many cases they are evidently lacking in “richness of content.” Whatever interest the taste of sugar has, it is not aesthetic. Thus, once again, the sticking point for James was the apparent lack of any unifying quality or any other explicit feature that could explain all varieties of interest, and on this point he was right. The advantage of the harmonic theory of affect developed in the previous chapter is that it can show how diverse kinds of positive experience— including those with pronounced richness and those without—are manifestations of the same principle of harmonic intensity, but without requiring that they share a common quality. Experiences that we prize for their aesthetic value are typically (but not always) instances of high “explicit” harmonic intensity, or richness of presentational contrast. Meanwhile, feelings that lack richness but are nevertheless strongly pleasurable may be instances of high “implicit” harmonic intensity, or richness of causal contrast. In both cases, we can say that a certain richness of differentiation is achieved, but only in the former case is this richness an explicit feature of perceptual content. Thus, by introducing a distinction between perceptual and non-­ perceptual feeling, it is possible to explain James’s reluctance to use aesthetics to explain interest. As James probably knew, aesthetics is the right place to look for a theory of interest because it deals with intrinsic worthiness. Objects of aesthetic appreciation evidently have intrinsic interest; therefore, an examination of aesthetic interest should help us to say something about the nature of interest in general—this is essentially what Dewey does in Art as Experience (1934/1980). But even if we succeed in defining the nature of aesthetic interest (a daunting task in itself ), it does not seem that this definition can apply to all interest, for the reasons just noted. From a descriptive standpoint, then, it is possible to grant the soundness of James’s position, even if it left him without any recourse for understanding and critiquing the “irreducible and ultimate factors in determining the way our knowledge grows” (1878/1983, p. 16).


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 he Interrelatedness of Flow, Meaning, T and Affect At last we proceed to an affective revision of James’s view of experience. This revision is built on the previous section’s argument that his notion of interest can be understood as equivalent to affect, provided that affect includes both perceptual and non-perceptual feelings and is specified in terms of harmonic intensity. The preparation for this move has been slow and painstaking because I wanted to show that it is possible to give an affective reading of the James’s stream that preserves the main features of his descriptive approach. Before beginning, it may be helpful to recall that the twofold purpose of this chapter and the next is to explicate affect as an essential, integral feature of consciousness and, at the same time, to use this understanding of affect to clarify the special nature of conscious feeling. The view of consciousness that emerges from this account can be summed up by the thesis that consciousness is an affectively self-regulating stream of feeling. As will soon become apparent, the following account of the role of affect in consciousness contains a circularity: affect depends on the stream of consciousness, while the stream of consciousness depends on affect. I hope to show that this circularity is not the bad, self-defeating kind, but rather a consequence of the co-dependent, interrelated nature of the traits that distinguish conscious feeling from other kinds. The heart of this interrelation is the connection between affect and awareness of change, or flow. This connection is what gives rise to consciousness as an affectively self-regulating stream. Once this connection is established, I will try to show how two other basic traits, awareness of meaning and self, are both supportive of and dependent on the affective self-regulation of consciousness. Needless to say, consciousness is a notoriously difficult topic, and we should not expect progress to be easy. But by the end of the next chapter I hope at least to have established that conscious awareness is much more than the appearance of qualitative content. The sheer presence of a simple blue quale—if such a thing were possible—would not constitute a conscious feeling of blue. Nor can we make this bare phenomenal occurrence

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into a conscious feeling simply by adding more qualities. For content to be the object of conscious awareness requires a sense of how this content belongs to and is achieved by an ongoing stream of feeling. As part of a stream, every conscious feeling includes, in addition to qualitative content: a sense of how this content is changing and how it relates to other contents past and future; a sense of the stream’s active role in the determination of this content as well as a sense of how it is affected by this content; a sense of the inherent interest of this content, as well as an active interest in its further determination. All this is included in conscious awareness of relatively clear and distinct qualitative content, although it does not show up as this content.

Flow and Affect Flow refers not just to the fact that the contents of conscious feeling are always changing, but also to the fact that consciousness includes awareness of this change. This may seem like a simple point if you have never considered it before, but its importance cannot be overstated.4 Perhaps more than affect, meaning, or self, flow is the key to understanding consciousness as a distinct kind of feeling (Pred 2005). Accordingly, many of the most important claims of this chapter (and of the entire book) are about flow—its relation to other traits of consciousness, as well as its implications for our understanding of causation. In this chapter, two additional postulates about causation will be introduced in relation to our exposition of flow. To begin, let us clarify what is meant by flow as awareness of change. The difference between the mere fact of continuous change and experiential awareness of change can be pointed out by comparing the flow of  Here is a glimpse of the metaphysical and phenomenological riches that can be mined from the examination of flow. On the metaphysical side, flow has been developed by Bergson, Whitehead, and others into process cosmology, for which all causation, and all actual, enduring existence, has the same dynamic temporality found in consciousness (see Röck 2019). On the phenomenological side, flow has been elaborated by Husserl and others as “time-consciousness,” considered to be one of the most important topics of continental phenomenology (de Warren 2009). James’s writings on flow—in Principles, found principally in the chapters on the “Stream” and “The Perception of Time”—were seminal for both traditions. 4


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consciousness to the images of a movie (James 1890/1983, p. 571; Varela 1999). A movie is a continuously playing roll of film, in which each frame presents an image that could, in principle, exist all by itself. The frames of a movie are usually related so that when presented to us at high speed they depict continuous movements and a coherent narrative. Now, it may seem that we can use this fact to explain how a succession of mental states is experienced as a continuous flow: our consciousness is like a film that watches itself. The problem with this analogy (or one of its problems) is that each frame of a film does not contain any traces of its past or future neighbors. From the film’s “own perspective,” then, it makes no difference if successive images are coherently related or not, or how rapidly they succeed one another—each image shows up by itself, and can only have whatever significance it bears on its face. In consciousness, however, no feeling is experienced in isolation. Each moment draws from a vague sense of what has just happened as well as a vague sense of what is (likely) about to happen. The example most often used to illustrate this fact—and to which we will return again and again throughout the rest of this chapter—is our experience of melody. It should be fairly evident that it is impossible for a melody to be experienced as such without flow, awareness of change. Without flow, a melody is no more than a succession of isolated pitches, like a film reduced to a succession of isolated images. In fact, melodic flow is only the most conspicuous example of the way every feeling is conditioned by past and future feelings, as indicated by James in the following passage: …an impression feels very differently according to what has proceeded it; as one color succeeding another is modified by the contrast, silence sounds delicious after noise, and a note, when the scale is sung up, sounds unlike itself when the scale is sung down; as the presence of certain lines in a figure changes the apparent form of the other lines, and as in music the whole aesthetic effect comes from the manner in which one set of sounds alters our feeling of another…. (p. 228)

Indeed, it is possible to argue that our experience of all objects of perception is like our perception of a melody (cf. Noë 2012). Even a glimpse

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of an object—a mug on a table—is like hearing a snippet of a melody. The whole melody of an object, which is never played out in its entirety, is constituted by all the different perceptually guided interactions we could have with it. I will expand on these points in the discussion of meaning below. For now, the key claim is that we cannot perceive any enduring object as such without at least an incipient awareness of its distinctive manner of flowing, and to experience the flowing character of its objects consciousness must have a sense of its own flow.5 So far the argument has been that consciousness is not just a continual succession of images sealed off from past and future. Every feeling in the stream has “knowledge” of other parts of the stream (James 1890/1983, p. 571). Moreover, to be aware of change, every present feeling must have some minimal duration or temporal “thickness” (pp.  573–575). As described by James, the present moment of consciousness is “specious” in that what we take to be an instantaneous present is in fact a vaguely bounded temporal field that extends into past and future. It should be emphasized that the extension of feeling in the present is not space-like but temporal and dynamic. Present feeling is a feeling of coming into being that is conditioned by the past and future but also possesses its own spontaneity (Neville 1981). Because of the dynamic character of the “specious present,” consciousness always flows and everything in consciousness flows, including all the contrasts that make up the content and tone of feeling. We now come to a critical juncture. To understand the relation of flow to other traits of consciousness, it is essential to recognize that flow is not a passive awareness of change; rather, it is active and interested. Moreover, its interestedness is essential to its active nature. Our interest in the flowing of our own experience is not like that of an interested observer; it is not like watching a film. It is more like the interest of a dancer in her own dancing. Whatever interest, activity, and selfhood belong to consciousness are of a piece with its streaming. Perhaps the most succinct way to put this point is to say that the flow of consciousness is actively self-­determined (cf. Varela 1999; Gallagher 2017).  This is one of the main contributions of Husserlian phenomenology to our understanding of experience. See, e.g., Zahavi (2005). 5


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In the context of pan-experientialism, the thesis that the flow of consciousness is actively self-determined entails a number of different claims, some of which pertain to the self-determined nature of causation in general, while others pertain to the specially self-determined nature of conscious feeling. I will argue that what is special about the self-determination of consciousness depends on affect. In short, the capacity for affective self-regulation is the basis of the active and intentional self-constitution of the stream of consciousness, including its capacity to choose. If this approach to understanding the distinctiveness of conscious feeling is to conform to the principle of continuity, the potential for affective self-regulation must be articulated as an inherent feature of the self-­ determined nature of causation in general. For this purpose, it is necessary to lay out two additional postulates about the nature of causation, beginning with following: Third Postulate: Every causal event is self-determining insofar as it involves a choice between possible states.

This postulate refers to the decisiveness that belongs to the present moment insofar as the present is not wholly determined by the past. Because of this decisiveness, one could say that every causal event involves a “choice” between possible states. However, the way in which most causal events are self-determining falls short of our commonsense notion of choice in two critical respects. First, in many systems the choice between states and the kind of self-­ determination that this choice permits are so trivial as to be of no consequence. The importance of self-determination depends on the kind of state that is chosen: many systems are constrained so that the decisiveness of the present applies not to a choice between macrostates but only to the way in which macrostates are realized at a much more fine-grained level. For example, the constitutive events of a gas at equilibrium might be said to include “choices” between configurations at the molecular level, but such choices make no difference to the behavior of the gas at the macroscopic level. Second, our commonsense notion of choice includes more than just the possibility of being determined one way or another: it also involves

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awareness of reasons for being determined one way or another. A conscious choice is not just between possible states but also between possible reasons for these alternatives. This point is especially important for present discussion, as our purpose is not simply to argue that conscious states are self-determined but to articulate the affective nature of the basic reasons—the motives or interests—entailed by the Jamesian view of consciousness as a choosing activity. Building on the previous chapter’s discussion of contrastive determination, we can interpret the choosing activity of consciousness as a choice between contrasts. This choice between contrasts is not unconstrained. It is constrained by the conscious repertoire, by constant perturbations of a continually changing environment, and by the current trajectory of the conscious stream. Most immediately, it is constrained by whatever contrast was chosen by consciousness in its previous state. Indeed, retention of past feeling is an essential aspect of flow, along with decisiveness of the present and anticipation of the future. Each of these temporal aspects of flow plays an essential role in the contrastive determination of conscious feeling within the extended “specious present.” The role of the past is to provide the context in which the present choice is to be made. The past is given in the sense that it is already determined: the present activity of consciousness cannot choose its past. But the manner in which past will be taken up by the present for the determination of a new feeling is not yet determined, and in this sense the past is not simply given. Thus, an essential aspect of present feeling consists in how it chooses to appropriate the contrasts of its own past (James 1890/1983, pp. 321–324; MacKenzie 2009, pp. 94–97). At least in this respect consciousness always has some say in the constitution of its own flow. Now let us consider the inherently affective nature of this choice. Based on arguments of the previous chapter, we can claim that flow entails awareness of harmonic intensity—more precisely, awareness of how harmonic intensity is changing—and that this awareness constitutes the core interest of all conscious experience. Much more will be said about how this awareness shows up in later chapters. Here the focus is on its role in the self-constitution of flow. I have just claimed that the active self-determination of flow involves a choice of contrast. Because of the inherent connection between contrast and harmonic intensity, we can say


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that every conscious choice of contrast is directed by awareness of how harmonic intensity is changing. Actually, as I will explain further in the next section, this choice is directed in two closely related ways—affect and meaning—both of which are essential to the self-determination of flow. Meaning is more closely related to the prospective, anticipatory dimension of flow, while affect pertains more directly to the present: it is the “immediate concern” of conscious self-determination. To be clear, my claim is not that the self-determination of feeling originates with affect; rather my claim is that affect is essential to the awareness required for this self-determination to become a choosing activity. For the present theoretical approach, the fundamental reason or motive governing all causal self-determination—conscious and unconscious—is harmonic intensity, as expressed by the following postulate. Fourth Postulate: Every causal event seeks to determine itself with a maximum of harmonic intensity.6

Taken by itself, the fourth postulate might seem to over-determine the self-constitution of flow in a way that precludes real choice. To avoid this trap (common to Leibnizian forms of metaphysical optimalism), I propose to build on the fourth postulate as follows. Like other causal events, conscious feeling always maximizes the harmonic intensity of its contrastive determination. But because of the comparative feelings inherent to flow, as well as the possibility of adopting different intentional attitudes and orientations within the extended present, consciousness is able to  This postulate is akin to the optimality principles endorsed by Leibniz and others (Rescher 2010), with the key difference that it allows for choice. See Barrett and Sánchez-Cañizares (2018) for further discussion. See also the “law of consciousness” described by Josiah Royce in 1885, p. 357. This postulate also bears a certain resemblance to the Free Energy Principle (FEP) developed by Karl Friston (2010) and others. In particular, the concept of “optimal grip” developed in Bruineberg and Rietveld (2014) in relation to FEP overlaps in many ways with present discussion. However, my own view is that this resemblance is superficial, and that the fourth postulate fits better much with the law of maximum entropy production (LMEP) as articulated by Rod Swenson (1997). An extended discussion of FEP and LMEP is beyond the scope of this book, but one fundamental difference can be summarized as follows. FEP is essentially a homeostatic function, while LMEP is essentially a “heterostatic” or self-amplifying function, although it can act like a homeostatic function within certain contexts (see Swenson 2020; Barrett 2020). As a maximizing principle, the fourth postulate certainly “acts” much more like LMEP; whether there is a more substantial connection is an open question. See Conclusion for more discussion. 6

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choose among multiple contrasts, each of which constitutes an alternative maximum of harmonic intensity (see Barrett and Sánchez-Cañizares 2018). Moreover, it is able to choose among multiple contrasts not just for the sake of maximizing harmonic intensity in the present, but also for the purpose of achieving a particular aim or end-in-view. Let us rephrase the fourth postulate in terms that lie a bit closer to everyday experience. Suppose that we understand harmonic intensity as the immediate good sought by the active self-determination of consciousness. The fourth postulate states that all feelings choose to determine themselves so as to achieve the greatest good. What distinguishes conscious feeling is the capacity to choose between goods (cf. Dewey 1929/1958, p.  28). Moreover, in some cases, consciousness is able to make this choice between present goods with some view of the future goods that can be achieved by means of this choice. This last aspect of conscious choice entails awareness of meaning, the focus of the next section.7 The present account of the active and interested self-determination of flow can be summarized as follows: consciousness activity chooses how to appropriate the past according to a threefold purpose: (1) to appropriate the contrasts of past feeling for the production of a new complex contrast that (2) achieves a maximum of harmonic intensity in the present and, at least in some cases, (3) aims at its own appropriation by future feelings. This purposeful self-determination of conscious feeling in relation to past, present, and future is the nucleus of conscious freedom, intentionality, and moral responsibility (cf. Dewey 1929/1958; Whitehead 1978; Neville 1981). But whatever else is intended by conscious feeling, at the core of conscious intentionality is an act of self-constitution that aims at the immediate “satisfaction” provided by a maximum of harmonic intensity (Neville 1989, pp. 279–300). The key to this view of the self-determination of consciousness is the circular dependence of flow and affect. Let us review. According to the  The claims of this paragraph reveal the cosmological background in which enrichment—pursuit of harmonic intensity—is a feature of all events in nature. Especially within this wider context, the use of “good” should not be understood in a moral sense. From our point of view, the “goods” or “ends” achieved by nature may be “an ecstatic culmination, a matter-of-fact consummation, or a deplorable tragedy” (Dewey 1929/1958, p. 97). 7


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theory developed in the last chapter, because the qualitative content of perceptual feeling is contrastively determined, it entails non-perceptual feelings of harmonic intensity, and these non-perceptual feelings of harmonic intensity are what determine the affective tone of consciousness. However, for these feelings of harmonic intensity to be genuinely affective they must be comparative, because harmonic intensity cannot feel better or worse except in comparison. By “comparative,” I mean feelings of higher-order contrast which are indicative of the way in which the differentiated-­ness of the conscious repertoire is changing. We now see that these feelings of higher-order contrast are essential to flow in two senses: first, they are entailed by awareness of how consciousness is changing; and second, they give to flow its fundamental impetus and interest. Thus, flow gives to feelings of harmonic intensity the comparative character that they need to be genuinely affective while, in return, affect gives to flow its fundamental motive or interest—that which enables and guides its active self-determination.

Meaning and Affect The argument of the previous section—that all conscious feeling is interested in the harmonic intensity of its own determination—seems to run up against everyday experience. Are we really so obsessed with our own affective state? Is that what consciousness is all about? On the contrary, it seems that most of the time we are interested in the world around us: What’s going on? Who’s there? Is there anything good to eat? And so forth. In other words, we are mostly interested in the meaning of our experience. Needless to say, the meaning of experience is a difficult and highly contested topic, deserving a much more extensive treatment than I can give here. The goal of the present account is to say just enough about meaning in order to show the interrelation between meaning, flow, and affect as basic traits of consciousness. That may be a lot, but it is not everything, and hopefully a rough sketch will suffice. The following argument incorporates meaning into the previous section’s picture of consciousness as an affectively self-regulating stream of feeling. By adding

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meaning to this picture, the choosing activity of consciousness can be seen as an interpretive or semiotic activity, that is, as semiosis. Generally speaking, semiosis is the act of taking something as a sign. Conscious semiosis is a complexly embedded process that extends into the environment and includes other sign users. Stripped to its core, however, conscious semiosis consists in the taking of conscious feeling (or some aspect thereof ) to be a sign of something in some respect (Peirce 1868/1992, pp. 38–42). When feeling is taken as a sign, it is taken to mean something. In what follows I provide a brief account of this core of conscious semiosis with the aim to show how semiotic activity is enfolded within the activity of affective self-regulation.8 First, if conscious semiosis is the taking of conscious feeling as a sign, who or what does the taking? In the stream of consciousness, it is conscious feeling itself that does the taking, and the feelings that are taken as signs come in part from previous moments of the stream. Semiosis is therefore an integral part of the present appropriation of past feeling discussed in the last section: because of the semiotic nature of conscious activity, the stream of conscious feeling is also a stream of signs (ibid.). The semiosis of consciousness is not completely self-enclosed. Consciousness is a stream with many tributaries. It continually integrates into itself previous conscious feelings as well as evolving patterns of non-­ conscious activity that are also semiotic. For the naturalistic view of semiosis that stems from Charles Peirce, signification and meaning are not unique to consciousness. Interpretive activities pervade the body and are ubiquitous in nature: all living things engage interpretively with their environments (Kohn 2013). What is special about conscious semiosis is the experience of meaning and all the special kinds of intentional engagement and self-controlled inquiry that this experience affords (see, e.g., Stjernfelt 2012). As experienced, meaning is a relational, dynamic trait

 Though inspired by the semiotics of C.S. Peirce, the following discussion of meaning is considerably simplified and does not adopt his terms or differentiate between different aspects of meaning that pertain to the sign, interpretant, and immediate object. For a more detailed account of Peirce’s theory of signs that explains his peculiar terminology, see, e.g., Nöth (2011). See also Neville (1989), for an important distinction between “network” and “content” meaning that is elided by present discussion. 8


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that points beyond the present and is thus intimately bound up with the trait of flow. This brings us to our next question: What in feeling is taken as a sign? What has meaning? From a commonsense standpoint, it seems that what has meaning is simply the content of feeling. The term content needs further clarification, however, as it can refer both to whatever is immediately present to feeling (sometimes called “phenomenal content”) and to the meaning of what is present (sometimes called “representational content”). For instance, suppose that a dark, oval-shaped patch in our visual field is taken to be a circular hole in the ground: we might say that the former is the phenomenal content and the latter is the representational content. Common sense tends to conflate these two kinds of content, while philosophy tends to separate them in a way that leads to notoriously intractable problems. How should we negotiate this treacherous issue? In the last chapter the phenomenal content of feeling was defined largely in terms of presentational contrast. For present purposes, however, we need to expand our notion of phenomenal content to include the affective tone determined by causal contrast. Now, with respect to this content, the point that I wish to make is that it has no inherent meaning. That is, considered by itself, a presentational contrast suffused with affective tone does not mean anything (Peirce 1868/1992, pp. 41–42). But before we jump to the conclusion that meaning is something added to experience, the arguments of the previous section—concerning flow and activity—must be taken into consideration. Because of flow, “what is immediately present to feeling” is a slippery subject: more precisely, it is continuously in motion (ibid.). The phenomenal content of feeling never stands still; it is always changing. And for the same reason, it is always related to more content, both before and after. Accordingly, in the previous paragraph, any content that is “considered by itself ” is an abstraction from experience. In the stream of conscious experience, there is no such thing as a single, unrelated presentational contrast suffused with affective tone. Presentational contrasts are always changing and, moreover, they are felt as changing: they have a dynamic, relational structure in which the relatively clear and distinct qualitative content of the specious present shades off into a vague and constantly shifting horizon. The structure of phenomenal content can thus be

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described as a “focus-fringe” structure, as long as we are careful to remember that it is always flowing, like the image presented by a magnifying glass as it is passed over a richly textured surface. Moreover, as discussed below, the fringe of present feeling is not just a peripheral background feature: it suffuses the whole of feeling, plays a key role in its ongoing constitution, and is essential to our experience of meaning. For now, the first key point is that the flow of phenomenal content gives to this content an inherent dynamic relatedness that it would not have if it were just a succession of snapshots. In turn, because of this relatedness, we can say the following. When feeling is taken as a sign—that is, when feeling is taken to mean something—it is being treated in respect of its relation to other feelings, past or future. Indeed, whatever else we can say about meaning, it seems that it always involves some kind of relation. This is not to say that all the relata that constitute meaning are present to feeling in the manner of presentational contrasts: what is present to feeling is the relatedness intrinsic to the flow of phenomenal content. Thus, while the experience of meaning is always partly prospective and hypothetical—a “wager” about future feeling—nevertheless the experience of meaning is based on the actual presence of relations in feeling (James 1909/1977, p. 136). The activity of conscious semiosis does not ascribe relatedness to feeling; it does not construct relations out of unrelated qualities. Rather, semiosis is what consciousness does with its own relatedness.9 We now come to another key point, which concerns the choosing activity of consciousness. Adding choice to the picture, we see how the inherent relatedness of feeling is taken up into the iterative cycle of the conscious stream’s active self-constitution. What consciousness does with its own relatedness is an interpretive activity, but as such it is not separate from the active self-determination of phenomenal content. Rather, as semiotic activity, the self-constitution of feeling becomes an act of self-­ interpretation (see, again, Peirce 1868/1992). This point will be crucial  A similar point is made in different language by Dan Arnold in his recent essay, “Pragmatism as Transcendental Philosophy” (2021): the relatedness of conscious feeling is given in a phenomenal sense (not the epistemic sense famously rejected by Sellars), while the meaning of this feeling is taken. The way in which dynamic relatedness of feeling can both given and taken is essential to the current pragmatist approach to experience as a self-interpretive activity. 9


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for later discussion of the relation of affect and meaning. Also, it should be remembered that the relatedness of consciousness always exceeds that which is actively taken up as a sign. Because of this surplus of relatedness, conscious semiosis is always selective: “Selective emphasis, with accompanying omission and rejection, is the heart-beat of mental life” (Dewey 1929/1958, p. 25). A great deal hinges on these two points. Put succinctly, the difference between pragmatist and constructivist views of meaning hinges on the difference between the taking of meaning qua selective emphasis within a context of inherent relatedness, on the one hand, and the construction of meaning qua inferential process based on unrelated qualities, on the other. Insofar as the active sign-taking of consciousness contributes to the determination of its own relatedness, conscious semiosis has a circularity that makes the subjective and objective aspects of meaning difficult to tease apart (more on this below). But this difficulty should not obscure the fundamental point that consciousness is always already related. When conscious feeling takes itself to mean something, it is acting on the ground of its own relatedness in a way that has immediate consequences for the constitution of present feeling as well as potential consequences for future feeling. These points need extra emphasis as they are essential to the present approach to the meaning of consciousness. They are also easily misunderstood. They do not entail that whenever we perceive an object all of its meanings show up like a collection of labels. To avoid falling into a caricature of this view, it should be kept in mind that felt relatedness belongs to the vague features that are so important to the Jamesian view of the conscious stream: like affect, meaning depends on flow. In James’s Principles, the link between meaning and flow is indicated by his well-known remarks on the “fringe” of conscious feeling (see Mangan 2008). Fringe is a highly misleading term, however, as it is often confused with the periphery of perceptual awareness (James himself occasionally uses the term this way). Moreover, it does not do justice to the importance of the features to which it refers. In the widest sense, the fringe refers to any and all dynamic and relational features of experience. In this sense, perhaps, the fringe can be distinguished from a clear and distinct focus of discriminable phenomenal content. But this distinction is, again, highly misleading. The focus and fringe are co-determined

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aspects of the continuous flow of content. Moreover, insofar as it is the fringe that constitutes the meaning of experience, whenever experience is concerned with meaning—which is perhaps most of the time—it is the fringe and not the focus that we take in as the primary “content” of experience. More precisely, what we take in is the meaning determined by the flow of phenomenal content, not the phenomenal content as it shows up from moment to moment. As determined by the flow of consciousness, the experience of meaning is a relation grasped at one end, so to speak. Moreover, it is a relation grasped by present feeling—it is a relation grasped here and now—even while its other ends extend beyond the present. The experience of meaning in the present is often expressed as “perceiving S as O,” where S is a pattern of phenomenal content and O is the object perceived thereby. But this expression is too often assumed to mean that the perceived object is inferred without any grounding in experience itself. According to James’s description, however, the meaning of experience is thoroughly merged or “fused” together with phenomenal content: The significance, the value, of the image is all in this halo or penumbra that surrounds and escorts it,—or rather that is fused into one with it and has become bone of its bone and flesh of its flesh… (1892/1984, p. 150)

Returning to the example of the melody, we do seem to find this “fusion” of meaning and sound. Each note is heard as suffused with meaning that comes from its relation to preceding notes as well as our expectation of what is to follow, so that each note is heard as a melody. Moreover, the melody is not something added to experience but rather a way of experiencing that changes how we hear the notes—we hear them as leading in a certain direction, for example. Of course, we may be surprised if the melody takes an unexpected turn, but this feeling of surprise is only further confirmation that meaning is experienced and that this experience depends on flow. A note cannot be heard as surprising except in relation to prior notes and prior expectations: specifically, it is heard as surprising because of the way it jars with present retention of the anticipatory aspects of past feeling.


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The same account of meaning can be applied to our experience of all objects, although the arguments are less intuitive. For example, if our visual field presents to us an oval shape on the floor but we perceive this shape as a circle, that perception is a present experience of the oval shape as having a certain dynamic fringe or horizon—a way of changing as we approach or move away—and this horizon is what makes the oval appear to us as a circle from every angle, even though it only presents to the visual field as a circle when viewed from above. In this manner, every object is perceived as the distinctive fringe or halo of meaning constituted by a momentary flow of phenomenal content. A perceived object is the entire melody of which our present feeling is a snippet. Just as we do not hear the entire melody in the same way that we hear the present note, we do not actually see all the different sides of an object in the same way that we see the part of the object that faces us (Noë 2012). Still, just as we hear a snippet as a melody, we perceive a shape in our visual field as a particular object’s way of appearing. Again, as pointed out above, perceived meanings are always partly hypothetical. They can be mistaken, as we discover when we approach a hole in the sidewalk that turns out to be a very cleverly devised painting.10 Just as different melodies share identical snippets, different objects can present the same flow, at least momentarily, and as perceived from a certain perspective. However, the possibility of making mistakes does not lead back to the constructivist view of meaning as a product of inferences. For the present approach, the experience of meaning is always grounded in the inherent dynamic relatedness of feeling. Also, because semiotic activity is part of the self-constitution of feeling, it makes a difference to phenomenal content—meaning is not just something inferred “after the fact.” The prospective character of the experience of meaning can be described as sense of “knowing how to go on from here” (Cuffari 2014). To continue with the musical example, this prospective aspect of the experience of meaning is indicated by the way in which our recognition of a familiar  In this respect, we can say that all perceptual experiences are “predictive.” I try to avoid this term, however, as it implies an inferential operation that goes on behind perception. Instead, I suggest that prediction is inherent to the intentional, selective, and emphatic nature of the contrasts of perception. 10

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melody includes the sense that we “know how it goes.” Practically speaking, this tacit knowledge means that we can sing along or improvise some accompaniment. More generally, perceiving “how it goes” involves tacit knowledge of how to engage with the various things and events in our environment. As we take in our surroundings, most of the meanings that we perceive in our vicinity are given the briefest attention and passed over, unengaged or “unaccompanied,” as they fail to attract our interest. We perceive “how it goes”—the gist—and move on. Indeed, much of the time it seems that we only take in the “how it goes” of our surroundings, such that it is the so-called fringe and not the so-called focus—the meaning and not the momentary phenomenal content—that dominates experience. Glancing over the contents of a waiting room, we see an empty chair and quickly take a seat, barely registering the shape and color of the furniture. Of course, if we take an interest in these details, the shape and color of a chair are just as readily picked up. The point is that more abstract levels of meaning constituted by the flow of consciousness are often the dominant features of experience even though they are nowhere to be found among the supposedly more basic contents of perception. Ironically, to focus on the latter so that we see a collection of presentational contrasts instead of a chair takes careful concentration or even the specially cultivated sensibility of an artist (Whitehead 1927/1959, p. 3). What is of special interest here is the subtle way in which awareness of “how it goes” alters the phenomenal content of present feeling—including, especially, affective tone. The point I wish to make is that the perception of meaning in the present need not include additional phenomenal contents (e.g., memories of past experiences). I suggest, rather, that the most basic way in which the experience of meaning shows up is through subtle changes in how we feel present contents, including especially changes of affective tone. Let us consider an example. To illustrate our sense of the “fringe,” the philosopher Bruce Mangan uses the following passage from a psychology experiment: A newspaper is better than a magazine. A seashore is a better place than the street. At first it is better to run than to walk. You may have to try several


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times. It takes some skill but it is easy to learn. Even young children can enjoy it. Once successful, complications are minimal. Birds seldom get too close. Rain, however, soaks in very fast. Too many people doing the same thing can also cause problems. One needs lots of room. If there are no complications it can be very peaceful. A rock will serve as an anchor. If things break loose from it, however, you will not get a second chance. (Mangan 2008, p. 77; see Bransford and Johnson 1972 for original source)

On a first reading, the meaning of this paragraph is difficult to ascertain even though all of the words and sentences are perfectly intelligible. The thread that ties everything together is missing, and as a result one has no sense of “how to go on from here.” Now, think of a kite and consider how your sense of the paragraph changes. According to Mangan, the effect is immediate: “Behold! Befeel! Something in our experience has changed—instantly and radically. The paragraph no longer feels disjoint. But the sensory contents in the paragraph have not changed” (ibid.). When read through a second time the words are suffused with a fringe of meaning that they did not have before. But is it only the fringe that has changed? In some sense, Mangan must be right: the “sensory contents” have not changed, because the words on the page remain the same. But perhaps additional contents are now present, as our reading is attended by mental images (e.g., memories of kites). Without denying this additional content, I wish to direct our attention to the possibility that “sensory contents” do change, albeit subtly, in relation to our experience of their meaning (or lack thereof ). For instance, when the meaning of a passage is unclear, reading slows down, and the words do not resonate in our experience in the same way. Is not this felt as a slight change of affective tone? It may not be so strong as to be registered as such. When our experience of meaning is notably affective, we tend assume that the cause of this affective change is an emotion elicited by perception, not the perceptual experience itself. But in light of what we have said previously about the contrastive nature of all contents, should we not expect the experience of meaning to be inherently affective? The arguments leading up to this point have prepared us to answer in the affirmative: all experience of meaning must be inherently affective,

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because all meaning is carried by the same contrastive contents of feeling that determine affective tone. At the same time, it is important to clarify that affect and meaning are not the same thing. The meaning of experience has to do with the relatedness of feelings, not their contrastive nature per se. But these are not separable features of experience. As indicated by the preceding example, there can be no change of fringe without a change of focus, and vice versa. In the remainder of this section, we turn to a consideration of how the semiotic activity of consciousness is enfolded within its affective self-­ regulation. The objective of this last part is to show how conscious interest in meaning directs rather than merely subserves the fundamental interest of consciousness in the harmonic intensity of its own determination. It is not that interest in harmonic intensity constitutes an ulterior motive for the experience of meaning, nor is it the case that interest in meaning merely supervenes on interest in harmonic intensity. Rather, interest in meaning is one of the primary manifestations of conscious interest in harmonic intensity: the former interest is the latter interest as it is pursued within most contexts of everyday life. To make this case, we need to consider how our experience of meaning is continually evolving, and we need to consider how this evolution is determined by (1) the selective activity of consciousness, (2) the changing constraints of our conscious repertoire, and (3) engagement with a complexly structured and changing world. This is by no means a complete picture of experience: the contributions of the world shall be left unspecified, and the body in which consciousness is embedded shall be left out entirely. What follows is a rough sketch of the basic roles played each of these three determinants of experience. Also, the subsequent argument turns on a different heuristic image of experience. So far we have talked about the experience of meaning as a distinct kind of flow—leaning heavily on our experience of melody—but in this last part we will adopt the metaphor of grasping or “getting a grip.” We begin with a fundamental question: how is the meaning of experience decided? At one extreme, naïve realism assumes that meanings are wholly decided by the world. At the other extreme, various kinds of constructivism assert that meanings are wholly decided by the perceiving system. The present approach attempts to find a middle path between


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these extremes, such that all meanings are jointly decided by the perceiving subject and the world. Fortunately, for present purposes we need not sort out the details. Questions about the determination of meaning are usually spurred by concerns about the veridicality of experience, whereas here we are concerned with a different matter: changes of affective tone. At the level of detail that interests us, it should be clear that each of the three main determinants of meaning listed above has an important role to play, even if their respective contributions are difficult to tease apart in specific instances. Also, it should be clear that none can be the sole determinant. The phenomenon of “inattentional blindness” made famous by the “invisible gorilla experiment” (Simons and Chabris 1999)11 clearly indicates that the world alone does not decide what we perceive. But neither should we conclude that we simply choose what to perceive: although we may direct our attention to certain kinds of meaning, the world decides how these meanings are specified, often in ways that leave us surprised, amazed, disappointed, or dismayed. Admittedly, on the side of the perceiving subject, it is hard to distinguish the respective contributions of the selective activity of consciousness and the constraints of the conscious repertoire. This task is further complicated by the way in which the latter constraints are complexly nested and constantly evolving. The contribution of the conscious repertoire to the determination of meaning includes all that comes from past experience. Some aspects of this repertoire may be species-general: for instance, sensorimotor patterns that arise from the interaction of our bodies with the structured fields of energy found in our environment (see Di Paolo et al. 2017, pp. 41–75). Others are more specific to our culture and society, to our community and family, and to our unique personal history. The contribution of the conscious repertoire to the determination of meaning stands out in cases where widely disparate perceptions of meaning result from differences of past experience (e.g., differences between cultures, between adults and children, between experts and novices, etc.). Indeed, sometimes the role of the conscious repertoire seems so decisive that we describe meaning as  In the “invisible gorilla experiment” subjects are shown a video of a basketball game and instructed to count passes between players. While absorbed in this task, a significant proportion—more than half—fail to notice that someone in a gorilla suit walks into the middle of the game and waves their arms. 11

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if it were entirely a product of past experience, or at least a product of the interaction of past experience and the world. Yet it should be clear from previous discussion that the conscious repertoire is so complex and fluid that its contribution to experience can be specified in multiple ways. It is the selective activity of consciousness that decides how the conscious repertoire engages with the world. For instance, the phenomenon of “inattentional blindness” cannot be attributed to the conscious repertoire except insofar as this repertoire is delimited by the intentional choice to engage the present environment in a particular way. The various interacting roles of selective activity, repertoire, and world can be summarized as follows. We can confirm that the meaning of experience is specified by engagement with the world, but without a repertoire that is richly structured by past experience there would be nothing to specify. Moreover, it is the selective activity of consciousness that decides how its own repertoire makes contact with the world so that meaning is specified. Notice that the central connecting role of selective activity in this picture of experience as a form of engagement adds a crucial third dimension to our account of conscious intentionality. In the last section, the core of conscious intentionality was described as the self-­ determination of conscious feeling as a unitary, complex contrast with a maximum of harmonic intensity. Earlier in this section we added the intentionality of semiosis, the active taking of feeling as a sign. Now, finally, we can see how conscious intentionality includes the classic view of intention as the “stretching forth” of the organism into the world so as to be determined in some way (Freeman 2000). It should be clear that the present account of how the meaning of experience is decided leaves plenty of room for error, or at least inadequacy of some kind. However, as I have indicated, our present concern is not the “truth conditions” of experiential engagement, if any such exist, but rather the relation between meaning and affect.12 This relation  Some might say that engagement by itself cannot be true or false, only wide or narrow, rich or poor. For example, it might be said that the failure to notice a gorilla in the midst of a basketball game does not entail any falsehood unless something is asserted about this experience that is contradicted by the gorilla. Yet it could also be argued that insofar as engagement is intentionally directed it implicitly involves some assertion that this engagement is appropriate and adequate to the present situation. See Neville (1989) for extended discussion of these points. 12


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cannot be articulated without some sense of how both of these aspects of experience depend on engagement. For this purpose, the metaphors of grasping and getting a grip are particularly helpful, as they help us to keep in mind that our experience of meaning, though selective and interpretive, is always a way of engaging or staying in touch with the world. At the same time, we can think of affect as an inherent feature of the grip that we have on the world at any given moment. To grasp the world in a particular way is an intentional act undertaken by an experiencing subject, but the actual grip that results is jointly determined by our way of grasping and what the world offers to be grasped. If this metaphor is to register all the dimensions of the preceding picture, we have to allow for many ways of grasping, corresponding to the complex fluidity of the conscious repertoire and the selective activity of consciousness. Also, we have to register the cyclical nature of experience as a continuous activity. Something of this cyclical or iterative character is captured by the activity of climbing or any other motion that involves the continual grasping of something hand over hand: the key feature of this movement is the way in which our grasping with one hand is connected in one fluid motion with to our reaching out to grasp with the other hand (Bruineberg and Rietveld 2014, p. 10). This feature corresponds with the way in which our experience of meaning in the present moment determines how we are prepared to experience meaning in the next moment. Again, those who are interested in the veridicality of experience will want to push this metaphor in a certain direction, focusing on the failure to grasp or grasping “wrongly.” Because of our interest in the inherently affective character of the experience of meaning, however, we start with the fact that something is always grasped—we always experience some meaning, and the world always plays some role in the specification of this meaning—but, depending on how the different determinants play their part, the quality of our grasp may be noticeably different. Our grasp may be firm or loose, wide or narrow, blunt or finely articulated, and so on. Speaking of the quality of our experiential grasp brings to mind Merleau-­ Ponty’s concept of “optimal grip” (1945/2002; Dreyfus 2007; Bruineberg and Rietveld 2014). Notice, however, that the concept of “optimal grip” is ambiguous: there are two ways in which a grip can be optimal, corresponding to meaning and affect.

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According to the present theory, the most fundamental optimality pursued by experience is the combination of strength and diversity that constitutes a maximum of harmonic intensity. In terms of the grasping metaphor, perhaps this optimality is analogous to the combination of firmness and flexibility that characterizes an optimally good grip in general. In the case of experience, however, the optimality of maximum harmonic intensity is not for anything else: it is an achievement in its own right. This sense of optimality strains the metaphor of grasping, as it suggests that we think of an optimal grip as something we might pursue for its own sake (perhaps expert rock climbers appreciate optimal grips in this way). In any case, the point that I am making is that the pursuit of this fundamental kind of optimality—that of harmonic intensity—can simultaneously serve the pursuit of an infinitely diverse range of task-­ specific kinds of optimality, each having to with our experiential grasp of the relevant meanings within a particular situation. To understand how this is possible, it is important to clarify that the conscious pursuit of harmonic intensity cannot be indifferent to meaning. This should be evident from was said previously about the nature of meaning—how it is grounded in the flow of phenomenal content—as well as the way in which meaning is jointly determined within the context of intentional engagement. If all that mattered was the harmonic intensity of a single, momentary feeling, or if consciousness were a fully self-contained process, then meaning would have no inherent interest. But because consciousness is a continuous, self-constituting stream embedded within the complexly nested and constantly evolving environment of brain, body, and world, its fundamental concern for harmonic intensity naturally includes an interest in meaning. In short, insofar as it depends on engagement, maintenance of harmonic intensity requires the maintenance of a firm and flexible grip on the world, and this in turn depends on maintaining a “good fit” between our way of grasping and what is there to be grasped.13 The fundamental challenge of consciousness qua semiotic activity is to determine itself in such a way that  It may seem as the conformity required for maintaining a good grip constitutes a truth condition, but the matter of truth is much more complicated than this. For example, narcissists are highly adept at maintaining a satisfyingly good grip on the world in a way that is deeply distortive. In the present context, “grip” describes the kind of engagement or causal interaction that determines the 13


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anticipates the determining role of the world, giving subsequent feelings the opportunity to be differentiated with maximum strength and diversity. It still might be objected that this view of affect and meaning implies that our conscious grasp of meaning is completely subservient to an insatiable appetite for harmonic intensity. Any meaning will do, so long as it serves to enrich our experience. I suggest that this is not an entirely inaccurate picture of the egocentric nature of our experience. But it fails to reflect the inescapable situated-ness of all experience and the dependence of harmonic intensity on engagement. We never pursue harmonic intensity tout court. Even when our orientation toward the world is maximally open-ended and fun-seeking, we are always embedded within a particular situation that offers a limited set of opportunities for enrichment. Also, the constraints of experience are such that some kind of “good fit” between our conscious repertoire and the world is usually a condition for the maintenance of satisfactory levels of harmonic intensity.14 Aside from whatever consequences may eventually result from the “mistaking” of feeling, often the immediate result is the diminished quality of our grasp as we find ourselves unprepared for the meanings that are available to be experienced. Sometimes our failure to anticipate meaning is such that certain meanings do not enter at all (as in cases of “inattentional blindness”), and we are blithely ignorant. But wherever the diminished quality of our grasp is noticed, it shows up as a loss of harmonic intensity together with a sense that we are unsure of how to “go on from here.” Practically speaking, in terms of the task at hand, this faltering of our grip may result in our failure to achieve our intended goal. At the same time, in terms of the fundamental interest of consciousness, it means that the self-constitution of feeling has no immediate choice that will restore the smooth flow of high-­contrast phenomenal content required for the maintenance of harmonic intensity (see Chap. 9 for further discussion). flow of experience; it is not the same as our commonsense notion of “getting a grip,” which connotes a “reality check.” 14  Unfortunately, this condition does not exclude the comforts of self-delusion and other common pitfalls of human experience. It merely suggests that within any context there is a limit to the kinds and degree of delusion that can be maintained. In the long run, at least, nature does not suffer fools. But it seems that we have a tendency to indulge in just as much delusion as present circumstances allow.

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Another possible objection to this picture of affectively-driven experience is that it seems to suggest that life is a continual round of pleasures. In fact, the degree and kind of satisfaction obtained in experience depend on the constraints of the present context. In adulthood, most of our everyday engagement with the world is driven by the pursuit of subtle peaks of harmonic intensity or micro-satisfactions within complexly structured intentional contexts or “behavior settings” (work, shopping, etc.). Moreover, within these everyday contexts, experience is not geared toward the attainment of these micro-satisfactions as such; rather these micro-­ satisfactions are used to direct our progress toward various ends-in-­view. The relation between presently available micro-satisfactions and intentional context is a complex chicken-and-egg-like dynamic, as decisions about intentional context and specific actions within this context are always made in response to available micro-satisfactions, which, in turn, are changed by these decisions. When we decide the present intentional context and thereby define the “task at hand,” we are effectively setting the parameters within which harmonic intensity can be maximized, and we use the micro-satisfactions of experience to direct the search for appropriate meanings and improve our grip within this chosen context (cf. Bruineberg and Rietveld 2014). In other words, when we engage the world in an intentionally directed way, we decide the parameters of engagement so that (ideally) the most meaningful contrasts (for present purposes) are also the most satisfying with respect to harmonic intensity. If the parameters are rightly specified, then the affective optimality of harmonic intensity coincides with the semiotic optimality of our task-specific grip on the present situation. As the task progresses, our grasp of meaning is subtly measured by fluctuations of harmonic intensity—nearly indiscernible satisfactions and frustrations—and in response to these fluctuations we make continual adjustments.15  This sounds like we know the answers to our own questions and then reward ourselves for getting them right. In fact, all such decisions are hypotheses about how to direct experience, and may lead either to frustration or to the wrong kind of satisfaction. Thus the present picture of engagement is very different from a cybernetic model in which “satisfaction” is derived from closing the distance between the present state and a predefined goal state. Also, an advantage of this picture is that it registers one of the perennial pitfalls of human inquiry: our tendency to change the parameters of 15


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These fluctuations and adjustments are essential to engagement as a conscious, affectively self-regulating activity. They are not something that goes on “underneath” or “behind” it. But they are not consciously monitored—they not made into objects of perception—except, perhaps, when our grasp of an object or situation falters noticeably. The affective nature of perception is most notable at the extremes: where perceptual feelings fail to attain the clarity and distinctness required for meaningful discrimination, and where perceptual feelings attain the richness of high explicit harmonic intensity. When our intentions turn to aesthetic enjoyment we are very close to making harmonic intensity into an explicit goal of engagement, but even then our interest in meaning changes rather than subsides. To illustrate this point, and to further refine the preceding account of the relationship between affect and meaning, let us consider MerleauPonty’s classic example of “optimal grip”: viewing art at a museum (1945/2002, p. 352). The adjustments of art-viewing often include largescale movements—approaching or stepping back from a painting, walking around a sculpture—which play out in exaggerated form the countless minute adjustments that we make in everyday contexts of perceptual activity. Moreover, in art-viewing as well as everyday life, what counts as “optimal grip” depends on our intentional engagement with the object. When we adopt the intentional framework of pure aesthetic enjoyment, we adjust our viewing accordingly, so that perception of meaning—identifying the objects of a still life, for example—may take a back seat to delight in vivid color. Alternatively, consider what happens if we come across an abstract painting that seems to represent something that we cannot make out. In this case, we may adopt a different intentional framework, so that greater harmonic intensity is found in whatever perceptual grasp delivers the clearest representational meaning. Perhaps the painting would yield more harmonic intensity if we relaxed these constraints and just admired the play of shapes and colors. But as long as our intention is to discern “the meaning” of the painting, this aesthetic intensity is unavailable to us—it is not the kind of contrast at which we are aiming. inquiry—switching midstream from one problem to another—so that satisfaction is obtained more easily. See “Answering an Easier Question,” Chapter 9 in Kahneman (2011).

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In each of these cases—delighting in the colors of a still life, searching for “the meaning” of an abstract painting—both affect and meaning play essential, interdependent roles in our viewing experience. In the first case, just because we do not perceive the still life as an arrangement of objects does not mean that meaning is excluded from experience. Delight in the interplay of colored shapes is a kind of perceptual engagement directed in a particular way at the (non-representational) meanings offered by a painted surface. Likewise, our search for representational meaning in an abstract painting does not mean that we have abandoned the goal of aesthetic satisfaction: rather, it makes this satisfaction contingent upon the achievement of a particular way of grasping the meaning of the painting (which the painting may or may not afford). On the other hand, the fact that affect and meaning are so closely intertwined does not mean that they cannot be distinguished or that experience cannot shift its orientation toward one or the other. When experience is concerned with meaning, as it is most of the time, it has a distinctly forward-looking and anticipatory orientation: present feeling is always grasped with eye toward what comes next, and affect serves our sense that meaning is firmly grasped and we “know how to go on from here” (Cuffari 2014). When experience is focused on affect and this affect is positive, its orientation may shift toward the present, “immediate quality” of experience, and our grasp of meaning serves to prolong and intensify satisfaction.

Varieties of Affect To conclude this chapter, let us draw out some the main implications of the preceding arguments for our understanding of affect. First, by now it should be clear why genuine affective feelings belong exclusively to consciousness. In brief, affective feeling is not genuine unless it is comparative, and comparative feelings of affect—feelings of higher-order contrast—depend on the flow of conscious feeling (as well as its richness). All events in nature may include some feeling of the harmonic intensity of their contrastive determination, but if this feeling is not comparative it cannot be felt as belonging to any continuous stream,


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it has little or no meaning, and it cannot be used to direct feeling one way or another. Feelings of harmonic intensity cannot make any meaningful difference to contrastive determination beyond the present moment unless they include some broader awareness of and concern for how this intensity is changing. Second, it is important to take a moment to appreciate the infinitely diverse kinds of affective feeling. In the previous chapter harmonic intensity was defined as a feeling of contrast that varies along two dimensions, strength and diversity of contrast, or “narrowness” and “width.” Some kinds of harmonic intensity (e.g., sensory pleasure) lean towards narrowness while others (e.g., relaxation) lean toward width. Just this complexity alone allows for a diverse range of affective tones; this range is expanded even further when richness (harmonic intensity of presentational contrast) is taken into account, as well as the bipolarity of affect (positive and negative valence). Also, the temporal emphasis of affect can shift between past, present, and future, each giving to affect a different dynamic character. Affect can be primarily reactive, impulsive, or conative, or it can dwell “in the moment.” (Some of these varieties of affective feeling will be treated at length in Chap. 8.) In addition, affect is enormously diversified by its relation to meaning. As discussed in the previous section, affect and meaning are intimately related and mutually determining traits, as both are constituted by contrast, albeit in different ways. This relationship is especially noticeable once we take into account the trajectory of an experience as it evolves over time. Meaning pertains to the relations that actually and possibly obtain between the flowing contrasts of experience, while affect pertains to the varying harmonic intensities of these same contrasts. At least to some degree, these are independently varying features of experience (see Chap. 9 for further discussion). But normally, over time, these two features are continually dovetailing: affect determines how meaning evolves, while the evolution of meaning determines affect. This relationship gives rise to an inexhaustible variety and depth of affective feeling. Even if two feelings are equivalent in respect of harmonic intensity, insofar as they have different meanings they belong to different flows and as a result their cumulative affective character will be different. Affect is not determined solely by some instantaneous level of harmonic intensity: it is a

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complex comparative feeling, and its comparative character draws from the evolving tendencies and possibilities of experience. In short, affect is just as multifarious as every other aspect of experience—as it must be, because it modifies and is modified by every other aspect of experience. To summarize, affect varies in (at least) the following respects: 1 . Strength and diversity of contrast (narrowness and width) 2. Explicit and implicit richness (perceptual and non-perceptual feeling) 3. Polarity (positive or negative valence and degree thereof ) 4. Temporal emphasis (past, present, and future) 5. Meaning (tendencies and trajectories in the evolution of contrast) Affect varies in still other ways, stemming from its close connection to self-awareness. Earlier we considered James’s claim that the innermost self of consciousness is “that to which pleasure and pain speak.” According to the present theory, the language spoken by pain and pleasure is the language of harmonic intensity. Harmonic intensity is the lingua franca, the common currency of all feeling. It is the impulsive character of consciousness, its most fundamental motive and interest. But what is the self to which it speaks?

References Arnold, Dan. 2021. Pragmatism as Transcendental Philosophy, Part 1: Peirce in Light of James’s Radical Empiricism. American Journal of Theology and Philosophy 42 (1): 50–103. Bain, Alexander. 1868. Mental and Moral Science: A Compendium of Psychology and Ethics. London: Longmans, Green, and Co. Barrett, Nathaniel F. 2020. Extremal Properties and Self-Preserving Behavior. Adaptive Behavior 28 (2): 113–118. Barrett, Nathaniel F., and Javier Sánchez-Cañizares. 2018. Causation as the Self-­ determination of a Singular and Freely Chosen Optimality. The Review of Metaphysics 71 (4): 755–788. Block, Ned, Own Flanagan, and Güven Güzeldere, eds. 1997. The Nature of Consciousness: Philosophical Debates. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.


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Bransford, John D., and Marcia K. Johnson. 1972. Contextual Prerequisites for Understanding: Some Investigations of Comprehension and Recall. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior 11 (6): 717–726. Bruineberg, Jelle, and Erik Rietveld. 2014. Self-organization, Free Energy Minimization, and Optimal Grip on a Field of Affordances. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 8: 599. Chalmers, David J. 1996. The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Crane, Tim. 2019. A Short History of Philosophical Theories of Consciousness in the 20th Century. In Philosophy of Mind in the Twentieth and Twenty-first Centuries, ed. Amy Kind, 78–103. London: Routledge. Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly. 1990. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. New York: Harper Row. Cuffari, Elena Clare. 2014. On Being Mindful about Misunderstandings in Languaging: Making Sense of Non-sense as the Way to Sharing Linguistic Meaning. In Enactive Cognition at the Edge of Sense-Making, ed. M. Cappuccio and T. Froese, 207–237. London: Palgrave Macmillan. de Warren, Nicholas. 2009. Husserl and the Promise of Time: Subjectivity in Transcendental Phenomenology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Dewey, John. 1896. The Reflex Arc Concept in Psychology. Psychological Review 3 (4): 357–370. ———. 1929/1958. Experience and Nature. New York: Dover. ———. 1934/1980. Art as Experience. New York: Putnam. Di Paolo, Ezequiel, Thomas Buhrmann, and Xabier Barandiaran. 2017. Sensorimotor Life: An Enactive Proposal. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Dreyfus, Hubert L. 2007. Why Heideggerian AI Failed and How Fixing It Would Require Making It More Heideggerian. Philosophical Psychology 20 (2): 247–268. Edelman, Gerald M., and Giulio Tononi. 2000. A Universe of Consciousness: How Matter Becomes Imagination. New York: Basic Books. Freeman, Walter J. 2000. How Brains Make Up Their Minds. New  York: Columbia University Press. Friston, Karl. 2010. The Free-Energy Principle: A Unified Brain Theory? Nature Reviews Neuroscience 11 (2): 127–138. Gallagher, Shaun. 2017. The Past, Present and Future of Time-Consciousness: From Husserl to Varela and Beyond. Constructivist Foundations 13 (1): 91–97. Haun, Andrew M., Giulio Tononi, Christof Koch, and Naotsugu Tsuchiya. 2017. Are We Underestimating The Richness of Visual Experience? Neuroscience of Consciousness 2017 (1): niw023.

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James, William. 1878/1978. Remarks on Spencer’s Definition of Mind as Correspondence. In The Works of William James, Vol. V: Essays in Philosophy, ed. F.H. Burkhardt, 7–22. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. ———. 1878/1983. Brute and Human Intellect. In The Works of William James, Vol. XI: Essays in Psychology, ed. F.H.  Burkhardt, 1–37. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. ———. 1890/1983. The Principles of Psychology. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. ———. 1892/1984. The Works of William James, Vol. XII: Psychology: Briefer Course. Ed. F.H. Burkhardt. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. ———. 1909/1977. Radical Empiricism. In The Writings of William James: A Comprehensive Edition, ed. J.J.  McDermott, 136. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Kahneman, Daniel. 2011. Thinking, Fast and Slow. New York: Macmillan. Köhler, Wolfgang. 1944/1971. Value and Fact. In The Selected Papers of Wolfgang Köhler, ed. M. Henle, 356–375. New York: Liveright. Kohn, Eduardo. 2013. How Forests Think: Toward an Anthropology Beyond the Human. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. Leibniz, G.W. 1714/1989. The Principles of Philosophy, or, The Monadology. In Philosophical Essays, ed. R. Arlew and D. Garber, 213–225. Cambridge: Hackett Publishing. MacKenzie, Matthew. 2009. Enacting the Self: Buddhist and Enactivist Approaches to the Emergence of the Self. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 9 (1): 75–99. Mangan, Bruce. 2008. Representation, Rightness and the Fringe. Journal of Consciousness Studies 15 (9): 75–82. Massimini, Marcello, and Giulio Tononi. 2018. Sizing Up Consciousness: Towards an Objective Measure of the Capacity for Experience. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. 1945/2002. Phenomenology of Perception. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge. Mill, J.S. 1863. Utilitarianism. London: Parker, Son & Bourn. Neville, Robert C. 1981. Reconstruction of Thinking. Albany: SUNY Press. ———. 1989. Recovery of the Measure. Albany: SUNY Press. Noë, Alva. 2012. Varieties of Presence. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Nöth, Winfried. 2011. Representation and Reference According to Peirce. International Journal of Signs and Semiotic Systems (IJSSS) 1 (2): 28–39. Peirce, Charles S. 1868/1992. Some Consequences of Four Incapacities. In The Essential Peirce: Selected Philosophical Writings: Volume 1, ed. N. Houser and C. Kloessel, 28–55. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.


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Peirce, Charles S. 1903/1998. The Seven Systems of Metaphysics. In The Essential Peirce: Selected Philosophical Writings: Volume 2, ed. The Peirce Edition Project, 179–195. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Pred, Ralph Jason. 2005. Onflow: Dynamics of Consciousness and Experience. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Rescher, Nicholas. 2010. Axiogenesis: An Essay in Metaphysical Optimalism. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books. Röck, Tina. 2019. Time for Ontology? The Role of Ontological Time in Anticipation. Axiomathes 29 (1): 33–47. Rosenberg, Gregg. 2004. A Place for Consciousness. Oxford University Press. Royce, Josiah. 1885. The Religious Aspect of Philosophy: A Critique of the Bases of Conduct and of Faith. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, and Company. Simons, Daniel J., and Christopher F. Chabris. 1999. Gorillas in Our Midst: Sustained Inattentional Blindness for Dynamic Events. Perception 28 (9): 1059–1074. Spencer, Herbert. 1879/2011. The Data of Ethics. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction. Stjernfelt, Frederik. 2012. The Evolution of Semiotic Self-Control. In The Symbolic Species Evolved, ed. T. Schilhab, F. Stjernfelt, and T. Deacon, 39–63. Dordrecht: Springer. Swenson, Rod. 1997. Autocatakinetics, Evolution, and the Law of Maximum Entropy Production: A Principled Foundation Towards the Study of Human Ecology. Advances in Human Ecology 6: 1–48. ———. 2020. The Fourth Law of Thermodynamics (LMEP) and Cognition from First Principles: Commentary on Barrett’s “On the Nature and Origins of Cognition as a Form of Motivated Activity”. Adaptive Behavior 28 (2): 105–107. Tononi, Giulio. 2008. Consciousness as Integrated Information: A Provisional Manifesto. The Biological Bulletin 215 (3): 216–242. ———. 2015. Integrated Information Theory. Scholarpedia 10 (1): 4164. Varela, Francisco J. 1999. Present-Time Consciousness. In The View from Within: First-Person Approaches to the Study of Consciousness, ed. F. Varela and J. Shear, 111–140. Thorverton, UK: Imprint Academic. Whitehead, Alfred N. 1927/1959. Symbolism: Its Meaning and Effect. New York: Capricorn Books. ———. 1978. Process and Reality: Corrected Edition. Ed. D.R.  Griffin and D.W. Sherburne. New York: Macmillan. Zahavi, Dan. 2005. Subjectivity and Selfhood: Investigating the First-Person Perspective. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

7 Affect and the Feeling Self

This chapter continues the argument that affect is integral to all aspects of experience, turning from flow and meaning to a consideration of self-­ awareness and the feeling self—the self at the core of all conscious experience. Evidence of a close connection between affect and our sense of self is easily found in experience. Although affect can be felt at some remove (for instance, as a property of objects), the most powerful affective feelings seem to touch the very center of our being. This intimate connection is reflected by common ways of talking about our “innermost feelings” or “feelings of the heart.” Indeed, it seems impossible to have a strong affective feeling that does not deeply impact our self in some way, just as it seems impossible for us to feel deeply impacted in a way that is not affective. These observations suggest that our feeling self is, in the words of William James, “that to which pleasure and pain speak.” Perhaps we can go so far as to say that if not for affect we would have no sense of self. For is it not affect that makes our experience seem to belong uniquely to us? Unfortunately, suggestive though it may be, this intuitive notion of a close connection between affect and our conscious self does not shed much light on either aspect of experience. What is the self to which affect speaks? How is the self impacted by affect? An answer to these questions © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 N. F. Barrett, Enjoyment as Enriched Experience, Palgrave Perspectives on Process Philosophy, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-13790-7_7



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was intimated in the last chapter by the definition of consciousness as an affectively self-regulating stream of feeling. Now, in this chapter, I will argue that the self to which affect speaks is constituted by our unique and constantly evolving conscious repertoire, and that the impact of affect on this self is manifested by our changing capacity to feel.

Minimal Self-Awareness and the Minimal Self We begin by distinguishing the kind of self we are hoping to bring into focus. Human selfhood is a complex, convoluted, and ceaselessly changing phenomenon, comprising multiple interrelated layers and dimensions, perhaps even multiple selves, only some of which rise to conscious awareness. Here our interest is confined to whatever kind of selfhood may be considered to be fundamental to consciousness. And, within this focus, we are especially interested in the kind of selfhood that involves reflexivity. Reflexive selfhood is the kind of selfhood that is rooted in the awareness that an entity has of itself as a distinct individual. It refers both to reflexive self-awareness as well as any kind of enduring individual identity that is constituted, at least in part, by this self-awareness. We may not be able to specify where and how reflexive selfhood obtains in nature, but we can say with confidence that it does exist. The clearest examples come from our own experience: consider all the ways in which our self-image exerts a steady influence on our experience and behavior and contributes to the formation of a distinct personal identity. Now, with this type of reflexively constituted selfhood in mind, the question before us can be stated as follows: Is there a fundamental kind of self, essential and intrinsic to consciousness, which is reflexively constituted by an equally fundamental and intrinsic kind of self-awareness? This is the question of minimal self-awareness and the minimal self (Gallagher 2000a, 2000b; Zahavi 2005; MacKenzie 2009). Let us take each of these concepts in turn. The first and most widely supported thesis about conscious selfhood, sometimes called the “reflexivity thesis,” claims that all conscious experience includes some kind of minimal self-awareness (Siderits et  al. 2011). Importantly, those who

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support this thesis usually specify that the self-awareness in question is non-conceptual, pre-reflective, and non-objectifying. The concept of non-objectifying awareness warrants further discussion, as it will be critical for the following discussion. Although it sounds obscure, non-objectifying awareness is a pervasive feature of conscious experience that includes much more than self-awareness. In general, non-­ objectifying awareness applies to any part or aspect of experience that makes a difference to how it evolves without being selected by attention and “thematized” as a focal object.1 For example, we are usually aware of our own body without focusing on it, and our experience of our surroundings is also largely non-objectifying. It seems that most of the dynamic variables studied by ecological psychologists usually belong to non-objectifying awareness. For example, usually we do not pay attention to the way the ground is moving as we walk, but without non-­ objectifying awareness of this dynamic variable we would soon stumble. Also, phenomenologists after Heidegger have pointed out that when we work skillfully with tools they are perceived as if they were an extension of our body, as “ready-to-hand.” The implication is that tools become part of non-objectifying awareness while objectifying awareness is directed to the task before us. If a problem arises, however—if the tool breaks or we fail to use it well—then the tool becomes “present-at-hand”: it passes from non-objectifying to objectifying awareness. As indicated by these last examples, the boundary between objectifying and non-objectifying awareness is fluid, and changes constantly as attention and thought are directed one way or another. Importantly, however, within non-objectifying awareness there may be features that we cannot objectify or otherwise bring into explicit focus. Most philosophers of the phenomenological tradition believe that a fundamental kind of self-awareness belongs to this category (Zahavi 2005). Also, it bears repeating that the reflexivity thesis, at least as examined here, claims not just that some kind of minimal, non-objectifying self-awareness is present in our conscious experience, but also that this awareness is essential to  The kind of “objectifying awareness” with which “non-objectifying awareness” is being contrasted is a basic feature of consciousness, not to be confused with the kind of “objectifying” that entails degrading portrayals of persons. 1


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consciousness per se: something about the nature of consciousness entails or requires a kind of minimal self-awareness that cannot be objectified. A common way to make this point is to say that a certain kind of self-­ awareness belongs to the act of experiencing and so cannot be part of what is experienced. This view echoes James’s observation that the active choosing “principle” of consciousness cannot be the object of consciousness (see last chapter and below). A similar perspective was suggested in the last chapter, in the discussion of flow. If conscious experience requires flow, and flow is necessarily active and interested, then we seem to be a short step from confirming that self-awareness is essential to consciousness. Note that this kind of argument comes at the reflexivity thesis from an oblique angle: rather than trying to point out the subtle traces of minimal non-objectifying self-awareness in experience, it points to other traits that are more evidently or more arguably essential to consciousness, and then claims that these traits require or entail self-awareness. For example, if we are convinced that there can be no consciousness without interest, then indirectly we may have found a way to establish self-awareness in connection to interest. These considerations are important to keep in mind lest the debate about self-awareness reduces to a phenomenological question that, by itself, is impossible to settle conclusively. On the other hand, the reflexivity thesis is not something that should be deduced solely from our analysis of other features and the conditions of consciousness. It should also be articulated as an empirical claim about conscious experience. Minimal self-awareness has to show up somehow, even if it is always non-­ objectifying. This is a critical point to which we will return. Now let us consider the minimal self. If we accept the reflexivity thesis, we are confronted by another question concerning the kind of selfhood that is implicated by minimal self-awareness. What kind of enduring individual identity, if any, is entailed, supported, or constituted by our most rudimentary self-awareness? Proponents of the reflexivity thesis disagree about how to answer this question. In particular, they disagree about whether minimal self-awareness is sufficient to establish the continuous identity of the conscious subject across all experiences (see Siderits et al. 2011).

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I will not attempt to settle this issue here. For the purposes of this book, I am more concerned to argue that a kind of minimal self-­awareness is intrinsic to the affective self-regulation of consciousness. In addition, I will propose that the affective self-regulation of consciousness allows for the conscious repertoire of every individual to engage in a process of reflexive self-constitution and thus, to this extent, I will argue that minimal self-awareness constitutes a minimal self. Moreover, I will argue that our conscious repertoire constitutes a unique, continuous identity and that some experiences provide us with a heightened awareness of this identity. I do not believe that these arguments can resolve all questions about the continuous identity of the self. Even so, insofar as questions of minimal self-awareness and the minimal self are closely related, a brief consideration of the latter can help to sharpen our view of the former. Of particular interest to present discussion is the position of Dan Zahavi (2005), which he has carefully staked out in relation to the works of Husserl and other phenomenologists, as well as contemporary analytic philosophers of mind. For Zahavi, some kind of enduring self-identity, closely related to minimal self-awareness, is essential to consciousness. At the same time, Zahavi is careful to distinguish his position from substantial theories of the self, which posit an unchanging substratum within or beneath experience, and from Kantian theories, which make experience dependent on the synthetic activity of a transcendental ego. To avoid these pitfalls, Zahavi must walk a fine line. Not only must he must argue that some kind of minimal self-awareness is entailed by all experience; he must also argue that this awareness indicates the continuous identity of the subject of experience, and he must do so without positing any substantial entity or object of experience in which this identity inheres and without allowing this elusive self to slip outside experience into a transcendental realm. What is it about self-awareness and the minimal self that motivates such intricate maneuvering? In brief, the motivation comes from the sense that all of our experience is somehow tied together by a special quality of “mineness.” In Zahavi’s words, When I think thoughts, read a text, perceive a windowsill, a red book, or a steaming teacup, my mind is configured in such a manner that I


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a­utomatically and relentlessly sense that I, rather than anyone else, am doing it. I sense that the objects I now perceive are being apprehended from my perspective and that the thoughts formed in my mind are mine and not anyone else’s. (2005, p. 138; see also Zahavi and Kriegel 2016)

William James also endeavored to account for the feeling of mineness, which he described as a certain “warmth and intimacy” that attaches to all of our past experiences and marks them as ours. In one of his more inspired metaphors, James likens the feeling of personal ownership to the brand that allows a cowhand to pick out his cattle from a herd (1890/1983, p.  317). Some of this feeling, James reasons, can be accounted for by continuity and similarity of feelings, especially bodily feelings (pp. 318–319). But he admits that similarity and continuity alone do not suffice to explain the peculiar sense of personal ownership that unites our experience. He suggests that the act of possessing past feelings as our own—the “act of appropriation itself ” (p. 323)—is more intimate to our feeling of personal identity than any resemblance we might find. In making this claim, James knows that he is on a slippery slope. An act of appropriation implies the existence of some agent that does the appropriating: “A thing cannot appropriate itself; it is itself; and still less can it disown itself. There must be an agent of the appropriating and disowning” (ibid.). Like Zahavi, James wishes to avoid making the appropriating self into a substantial agent that exists behind or beyond mental activity. At the same time, he insists that our experience includes this activity of appropriation as a “patent fact” (p. 322), even though it cannot become the object of experience: “[It] never is an object in its own hands, it never appropriates or disowns itself ” (p. 323). I suggest, however, that a critical difference between the views of Zahavi and James can be found in the priority that the latter gives to the activity of consciousness. For James, the selective, appropriating activity of consciousness is the innermost core of conscious selfhood. In contrast, Zahavi is reluctant to make any activity of consciousness into the ground of personal ownership. Following a distinction made by his fellow phenomenologist and frequent collaborator Shaun Gallagher (2000a, 2000b), Zahavi parses self-awareness into two components, the sense of agency and the sense of ownership. Although ownership and

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agency normally go together, it seems possible for them to come apart so that we can experience the telltale “mineness” of personal ownership without a sense of agency. The argument in support of this dissociation draws in part from reports of intrusive thoughts by schizophrenic patients. These reports imply that we can experience thoughts as belonging to our experience even while they seem to be caused by someone else. Zahavi takes this possibility as evidence that the innermost core of the conscious self is not an activity of consciousness but rather something to do with the first-person perspective. I think it can be shown Zahavi’s arguments overdraw the distinction between senses of agency and ownership and make too much of the example of intrusive thoughts. As Gallagher himself points out (2000b), our experience includes a diverse range of feelings of ownership and agency with respect to all aspects of experience, including bodily feelings and thoughts that we usually regard as exclusively and unmistakably our own: examples include involuntary movements, phantom limbs, unbidden thoughts, and the “four-hand illusion” (Chen et al. 2018). But more to the point, the fact that I can experience some thoughts as intrusive does not exclude me from having any sense of agency with respect to the stream of experience into which these thoughts intrude. It seems to me that the phenomenon of intrusive thoughts is more aptly described as a feeling that the activity of experience is somehow divided against itself so that our normal sense of agency has become fragmented and disordered, as opposed to a feeling that all conscious agency has been usurped by a foreign power, reducing the conscious self to a passive witness. On the question of self-awareness and the enduring self, then, I take a position closer to James, as I take the activity of consciousness to be at the core of self-awareness. In the last chapter I argued that this activity is driven by affectively self-regulating nature of the conscious stream. But the “self ” of affective self-regulation need not entail self-awareness or an enduring self. If conscious self-concern is to be anchored in a more robust but still non-objectifying sense of a unique enduring self, something more has to be added to this account. But what? On James’s account, because the activity of consciousness cannot be the object of consciousness, any sense of self that is based on this activity cannot play a guiding


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role in our mental life because it cannot take any interest in itself.2 As I pointed out in the last chapter, this is a problematic feature of James’s view of consciousness, as it suggests that the innermost core of activity is strangely void of self-concern and thus confined to the rather abstract role of a choosing “principle.” But on what basis does it choose? Perhaps because James was unable to give an account of interest (see discussion in previous chapter), he was also unable to describe the innermost core of conscious self-interest. Whatever the reason, James leaves us with the sense that there is a hole at the center of his picture of consciousness.

Subjectivity Changes In the remainder of this chapter, I present a different approach to self-­ awareness and the conscious self that is based in affective feelings of self-­ interest and concern and, perhaps most importantly, self-enjoyment, all of which pertain to our sense of how our capacity to feel is changing. But before we consider how awareness of our capacity to feel shows up, the first step in this approach is to turn our attention to the more basic fact that our subjectivity, that is, our manner of experiencing, is constantly changing. This fact was implicit in the preceding chapter’s discussions of flow and other features of consciousness, but it has not been picked out as an important feature in its own right. It means that the conscious stream changes its manner of streaming. In other words, not only does consciousness entail (1) constant change and (2) awareness of this change; (1′) its manner of changing also changes and (2′) there is awareness of this latter kind of change as well. Both James and Zahavi register this additional dimension of change and awareness in their accounts of consciousness, but neither capitalizes on its implications for self-awareness. In Principles, when James calls the activity of consciousness a “principle” he makes it sound like a fixed  James tries to fill this gap with the body as the object of supreme interest but this is a mistake. Of course, nothing is more important to the persistence of our consciousness than the health of our own body. But our interest in our body is sporadic. 2

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operation such as an algorithm. It certainly was not James’s intention to portray the activity of consciousness as if it were unchanging. But while his descriptions of the ebb and flow of the stream are strongly suggestive of the changing nature of conscious activity, he does not clearly distinguish this dimension of change within the overall flow of experience. Similarly, Zahavi emphasizes the importance of what is called “time-­ consciousness” in the Husserlian tradition but for the most part he treats it abstractly as a threefold “structure” of subjective experience that does not change.3 To be sure, Zahavi clearly recognizes that subjectivity changes but, like James, it seems that he does not see the challenge or the opportunity that this kind of change presents to our understanding of self-awareness. Perhaps the idea that our most basic self-awareness is based in changes of subjectivity is a bit counterintuitive. But the changes in question are not minor details. Within the immense variety of such changes we can make a rough distinction between actively and passively determined kinds of change. First let us briefly consider changes that are actively chosen, shaped, and directed. These changes have to do with the active role of consciousness in determining how its own repertoire comes into contact with the world (see Chap. 6): changes of attention and effort; changes between basic conscious activities such as perception, memory, imagination, and reflection (i.e., changes of “intentional attitude”); and changes of situational orientation and engagement corresponding to all the different “behavior settings” of human life. Especially within an environment shared with other persons, we are capable of directing our experience in countless ways.4 In short, as long as we are consciously experiencing something we are also continually deciding how to experience, and our awareness of this choosing activity is an important component of non-objectifying self-awareness. However, as important as this awareness may be, it does not take us beyond James’s view of the consciousness self as a bare  See astute criticism of Krueger (2011).  Studies of the capacity for joint attention in young children (age 1–2) reveal the special dexterity of human consciousness in this respect. Other animals may achieve “joint attention” and shape their intentions accordingly, but it seems that only humans readily switch between different, intentionally defined situations within the same environment (see Tomasello 2014). 3 4


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choosing activity. It does not reveal the more robust sense of a continuous self-identity that we are seeking. Although the activity of choosing implies a chooser, it does not necessarily constitute a self-same subject who undergoes and suffers the consequences of choosing and who can be held responsible for its own choices. To build a more robust notion of the innermost conscious self, the key is to change the criteria for interest and concern. James assumed that all self-interest is objectifying—that is, he assumed that only an enduring object of perception or thought can be an object of interest—and from this it follows that the activity of consciousness, the “home of interest,” must be the one aspect of consciousness that is excluded from interest. In contrast, I want to argue that the activity of consciousness can be interested in itself insofar as this activity is felt to be changing. But so far I have discussed changes of activity that are directly and actively chosen, and although we may be aware of these choices they do not suffice for awareness of a continuous self. Fortunately, there are other changes in our manner of experiencing that are not decided directly by choice. These are changes of our conscious repertoire, especially those that bear upon our current capacity to feel. I will now argue that awareness of this change—our current capacity to feel as determined by the current differentiated-ness of our repertoire—is a fundamental form of non-objectifying self-­ awareness that is intrinsic to consciousness and, moreover, that this awareness constitutes a fundamental form of non-objectifying self-concern.

Non-objectifying Self-Enjoyment Non-objectifying self-awareness of our changing capacity to feel is normally overshadowed by other aspects of experience, including other varieties of self-awareness and concern (e.g., awareness of and concern for our bodies). Occasionally, however, it is intensified by our enjoyment of music, sport, festivity, and other activities. I propose that these intensifications of non-objectifying self-awareness—which I shall call episodes of non-objectifying self-enjoyment—can provide us with a window onto the

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more basic non-objectifying self-interest and concern involved in all experience. This proposal may seem ironic given that intensely enjoyable experiences of music, dance, sport, and festivity are commonly described as occasions in which we “lose ourselves” in the experience. Some would say that in these moments we enjoy everything but our self. Indeed, one of the marks of “flow” experience—being “in the groove” or “in the zone”— is the absence of self-awareness (Csikszentmihalyi 1990). Moreover, it is common knowledge that too much self-awareness is incompatible with enjoyment. But this common picture of the unselfconscious nature of enjoyment excludes only objectifying varieties of self-awareness and self-­ regard. Whereas I am proposing that many of the distinctive traits of these apparently selfless experiences are directly connected or conducive to non-objectifying self-enjoyment. From here on, “self-enjoyment” refers only to the non-objectifying variety unless otherwise specified. I suggest that we can learn about self-enjoyment from examining our enjoyment of “peak performances,” or experiences marked by high levels of skill. Of course, an objectively bad performance can also be an occasion for self-enjoyment—such experiences are especially common among children and unselfconscious adults. Nevertheless, it is better to begin with an examination of self-enjoyment in the context of peak performances by highly trained athletes, dancers, and musicians, as these examples make it easier to see how self-enjoyment arises from the “alignment” of present intentions, conscious repertoire, and activity (see Chap. 9 for further discussion). Sondra Horton Fraleigh’s phenomenology of dance (1987, 1993) is especially illuminating in this respect. In her descriptions of dance performance we find that feelings of power, expressive freedom, and bodily immersion are especially prominent. But the most telling feature of her account is the way in which peak dance performance provides a kind of self-fulfillment that is also, at the same time, completely selfless. For instance, how does self-enjoyment show up as the power of a dance? When we think of a powerful dance from an observer’s standpoint, we imagine various qualities of movement: speed, grace, control, expressiveness. But the power enjoyed by the dancer herself is more than these qualities. It is also the way her experience is immersed in bodily


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movement so that she feels her conscious self fully realized in this movement. From the perspective of the dancer, the power of the dance comes not so much from movement itself, or from its various qualities and meanings, but rather from a feeling of perfect alignment between her conscious intentions and these other aspects of her experience. “The dancer is one with her body-of-action when intent is fulfilled. … When I move in good faith with my intentions I am fully alive to my powers of motion. I am powerful in dancing moments….” (p.  105).5 In other words, for the dancer herself, the power of dance is the creative power felt by all artists when activity aligns with imagination. Fraleigh’s description of self-enjoyment in dance as “the fulfilment of our intentions in movement” (p. 103) confirms that, depending on what we mean by “self,” we can say that self-awareness is either diminished or enhanced in enjoyment. During peak performances of dance, objectifying self-awareness may be largely absent. As I have already noted, this kind of unselfconsciousness is a well-known feature of peak performance in various activities and of absorption in general. But again, it is important to distinguish between objectifying and non-objectifying self-­ awareness and to realize that both can change. Specifically, in peak performance, while objectifying self-awareness is minimal, non-­ objectifying self-awareness is intensified and becomes self-enjoyment. This is clear from Fraleigh’s description of the dancer’s heightened experience of her own agency in dance: “She initiates it, perceives its consequences, and takes pleasure in her own effectiveness as she moves. She is directly attuned to agency as an avenue of self-knowledge” (p. 104). Indeed, the distinction between objectifying and non-objectifying self-­ awareness helps us to resolve the apparent contradiction between self-­ affirming descriptors (power, freedom, control, etc.) and self-abnegating descriptors (absorption, “letting go,” oneness, etc.) in many accounts of peak performance. In the most puzzling cases, the experience of agency is heightened even though the subject no longer feels herself to be the agent,  Moreover, while certain qualities of movement may be emblematic of self-enjoyment (e.g., a soaring leap symbolizes power and freedom), in principle any quality of movement can be enjoyed in dance. Fraleigh makes this clear when she insists that a dance whose movements are “anguished and restricted” can be experienced by the dancer as free and powerful if these movements are an expression of her unimpeded conscious intentionality (pp. 108–109). 5

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as in the “dance that dances itself ” or the “music that plays itself.” This last phrase might seem to suggest the total absence of self-awareness, both objectifying and non-objectifying, but implicit in this description is a feeling of immersion and oneness: “(I am) the dance that dances itself.” No performer has this feeling of selfless performance while at the same time feeling alienated from the performance. Compare the selflessness of an inspired performance with the selflessness of involuntary movement. In the former case, sense of ownership is a subtle matter: the music can feel as if it is “not my doing” and, at the same time, “more myself ” than anything else I do. In fact, I suggest that the total identification of the feeling self with a performance provides us with a special opportunity to experience this self in and through the heightened creativity and expressiveness that mark peak performances. Creativity and expressiveness are consequences of the full engagement of the unique repertoire that constitutes our consciousness as a singular stream of feeling. To make the most of this opportunity we have to let go of the kind of self-monitoring that preserves a distinct sense of self over and against its expression in activity. Thus it is possible to confirm that we are most intensely self-aware when we “lose ourselves” in enjoyment of the dance (or music, sport, festivity, etc.). The picture we have just painted of self-enjoyment is still too vague, however. Fraleigh’s observations about alignment of intention and movement support my claim that the feeling self is enjoyed in peak performance, but they do not tell us enough about how this alignment shows up. After all, the alignment of intention and activity is not something that we feel directly; rather, it describes a condition for self-enjoyment. How does experience change when we achieve this alignment? How are we aware of this alignment if it does not show up as an object of consciousness?

Expansive Feelings I suggest that if we pay attention to what athletes, musicians, and dancers say about their own peak performances, we will find that their self-­ enjoyment is frequently manifested by expansive feelings. Expansive


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feelings are closely related to the feeling of immersion on which I have already remarked. In the case of dance, the dancer feels herself immersed her body, and through her body she feels immersed in the dance, in the space in which the dance is situated, and even in the becoming of the present moment in time.6 The space of my dance may be as large or as small as I conceive it to be. … My reach into space is not limited to the outer reaches of my own kinesphere. … My state of being is limited only to my imagination, and the movement I create and experience imagistically, bodily, as an extension of my own free will and good intentions. (p. 111)

These observations suggest that the feeling self of the dancer expands to fill whatever “space” is constituted by the dance. Moreover, I suggest that this experience of expansion is grounded in the way that the repertoire of consciousness is enriched by the alignment of intention and activity. More precisely, the enrichment of the repertoire is a result of the “quality of grip” achieved by the way the repertoire makes intentionally directed contact with the current situation (see Chap. 6). In most contexts, a basic condition for the maintenance of a good grip is a “good fit” between the repertoire of the agent and the activity; this fit is an essential condition of skillful performance. Now, with this idea of skill in mind, we can see that as the skill of the dancer improves, her “grip” on the activity of dancing becomes wider and more refined, the “space” in which she creates the dances expands, and the “dancing self ” that fills this space becomes fuller and richer. Something similar can happen in musical performance. Instead of feeling immersed in her body, however, a musician feels her instrument as an extension of her feeling self. Insofar as it applies to the skillful use of all tools, this extension of the feeling self is a commonplace feature of everyday life. More special to music, however, is the way the feeling self extends through the instrument into the musical environment, the physical space in which the music reverberates, as well as the “virtual space” of meanings  “I just remember feeling powerful. I had a sense of being at one with the space around me” (Laura Glenn, cited in Fraleigh 1993, p. 104). “I experience time as a pure entity when I dance, because I create and control the time of my dance in my performance” (p. 110). 6

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created by music (Clarke 2005). In music-making the feeling self becomes a special kind of extended self, the “musical self.” As in dance, the expansion of the musical self is limited by the extent to which its intentions can be realized. So, for example, a musician who does not know how to work with the acoustics of a large, powerfully resonant space (such as a cathedral or an empty cistern) does not feel her musical self extend into this space. For this musician, the space is the setting of the performance rather than an ingredient in it. The environment is only included as an ingredient to the extent that its contribution to the performance is intentionally shaped by the performer and, to the same extent, the environment becomes part of the “space” in which the musical self is realized. From these examples we can conclude that the feeling self extends over the entire field of intentional activity, whatever the activity may be. This field is not something constructed by consciousness, neither is it determined solely by the environment and other actors. Rather, it includes everything that is presently engaged by conscious experience—everything with which consciousness is presently “in touch.” Usually, the more skillful the activity, the wider and richer the intentional field, and the broader the space, physical or “virtual,” into which the feeling self extends.7 As I have already indicated, in many cases the extension of the feeling self is quite literal. In basketball, the veteran point guard who “sees the whole game” plays within a bigger space than the novice, even though both play in the same size court. The mind of an expert tennis player extends forward in time to anticipate the opponent’s next move, while the novice focuses on hitting the ball as it approaches. Similarly, while a novice musician concentrates on getting the notes right, a master focuses  What I am describing here may sound like the “extended mind” hypothesis that has been widely discussed in cognitive science and philosophy of mind (Clark and Chalmers 1998). But most of the standard examples of extended mind—e.g. using paper and pencil to do arithmetic—think of both mind and its extension in a way that is strongly influenced by the computational theory of mind. Extension often means “off-loading information” into the environment so that it does not need to be kept in “working memory” (e.g. writing numbers on paper). If the mind is pictured as an algorithmic process, then extension refers to the way this process might be executed outside the head (e.g., by doing long division on paper). The way in which a jazz musician incorporates the vibe of the venue into her performance suggests a very different notion of extended mind: there is no “off-­ loading” of information, and—at least at the level of experience—there is no step-wise execution of an algorithmic procedure. 7


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on the shape of entire phrases, or even the pacing of long sections of music (e.g., the build-up to a climax). Especially in performing arts like dance and music, the field of intentional activity extends beyond the physical space into the “virtual space” of meanings that are expressed through the performance. A virtuoso jazz musician has an enormous range of meanings at her disposal. But even in less improvisatory styles of music where the performer seems to have less creative leeway, the discovery of fresh nuances of meaning is among the most rewarding aspects of performance. At least from the performer’s perspective, these nuances are a manifestation of her range and power of expression—the richness of her artistic palette. Thus, even when interpretive options are restricted to subtle shades of meaning, the ability to bring out these shades in a deftly tailored performance can be an occasion for expansive feelings of self-enjoyment. Closely related to this last point is the special intensity of self-­ enjoyment that emerges from making music with others. Music can be deeply enjoyed when played alone, of course. But many musicians will attest that the most rewarding musical experiences arise from playing or singing in small groups in which each individual instrument or voice makes a distinct contribution to the whole. I suggest that this added intensity comes from the way in which a shared “virtual space” of musical meaning allows for an even richer differentiation of the musical self. Part of this enrichment comes from the complex contrast achieved by different instruments or voices. But it also comes from the dynamic interplay of making music with others and the opportunity for selfexpression that this interplay affords. This experience suggests that enjoyment with others is essential to many kinds of self-enjoyment. Probably the richest fields of engagement are those that are made and shared with others and, for the same reason, perhaps the most expansive feelings that we can have are also shared. This is an important point to which we will return later.

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Why Does Expansiveness Feel Good? It is easy to get carried away with talk about expansive feelings and take their connection to affect for granted. After all, expansiveness is a natural and straightforward way to talk about a wide variety of common enjoyments. But this very fact should prompt us to ask: Why is expansiveness such a common feature of enjoyment? Are expansive feelings essential to enjoyment? Are they always positive? As far as I can tell, feelings of expansiveness are not essential to enjoyment.8 On the other hand, it does seem that whenever expansiveness is pronounced, feeling is always positive. I cannot remember ever having or hearing about a bad expansive feeling. The very idea seems oxymoronic. When we feel disturbed by an enormous expanse—the immensity of the ocean, the endless reaches of outer space—there are always additional feelings of alienation, powerlessness, and insignificance, which are anything but expansive. The so-called “oceanic feeling” is supposed to be one of the most powerful positive feelings one can have, and it allegedly entails a feeling of oneness with the entire universe. Still, no matter how easily and often we identify expansiveness with enjoyment, the reason for this identification is not self-evident. Some further explanation is wanted. The harmonic theory of affect developed in the previous chapter suggests a reason for the positivity of expansiveness. Moreover, it can be used both to unify and to differentiate the various phenomena gathered under the category of expansive feeling. First, it suggests that when expansiveness is a prominent ingredient in feeling—even in the case of the point guard who “sees the whole game”— it is not just a perceptual feeling of an actual expanse. It is, rather, a non-­ perceptual feeling of expansiveness that pertains to the repertoire within which conscious feelings are presently determined. This possibility confirms that feelings of expansiveness belong to non-objectifying awareness and, however closely connected they may be to other, more explicit aspects of experience, they cannot be thematized as objects of experience. Moreover, the non-perceptual nature of expansive feeling suggests  For example, in my experience the enjoyment of food is not an expansive feeling. But perhaps for a gourmand it is. 8


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reasons for its apparently close connection to the feeling self as a form of non-objectifying self-enjoyment. More on this point in a moment. Second, the harmonic theory suggests a way to define the expansiveness of feeling in ways that account for its strongly positive value. In short, the expansiveness of non-objectifying self-enjoyment pertains to experiences of high harmonic intensity that are dominated by diversity of contrast or “width.” Recall from previous discussion that experiences of high harmonic intensity depend on both diversity and strength of contrast. However, as I will discuss further in the next chapter, different kinds of enjoyment may be characterized predominantly by one or the other dimension: there are “wide” and “narrow” kinds of positive feeling. Feelings that are strongly marked by expansiveness belong to the wide variety of enjoyment. Third, the expansion of the feeling self is not just a feeling of present extensiveness: it also includes the sense of an expanded horizon of meaningful possibilities that can be experienced. As I will discuss further in Chap. 9, our experience of the meaningfulness of a novel, film, or other art work is not a synoptic gaze that takes in all of its meanings at once. Rather, it is a vague sense of the many layers or nuances of meaning that are available to be experienced in and through the work. Similarly, the “wide vision” of an elite athlete during peak performance includes awareness of being poised to act in many possible ways. In other words, the heightened intensity of athletic peak performance belongs not just to what is actually perceived but also to the feeling of a heightened capacity to respond quickly and effectively to whatever happens next.9 This last point indicates that what expands in self-enjoyment is best described as our capacity to feel. Importantly, although our capacity to feel is never part of the content of experience, its expansion can be felt, perhaps even strongly felt, although always non-perceptually. To be clear, changes in our capacity to feel are not usually felt as such. Our capacity to feel is not something that we can gauge and report as we do with mood, energy levels, and appetite. By claiming that we are aware  Accordingly, it might seem that what distinguishes the “wide vision” of an elite point guard has less to do with what they see, and more to do with what they can do. But if ecological psychologists are right, our capacity to act changes the way we see the world: The better the point guard, the wider the view. 9

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of our changing capacity to feel and that this awareness is a basic variety of conscious self-awareness as well as a fundamental kind of affective selfconcern, I am not trying to establish a distinct dimension of affective feeling. I am claiming, however, that our capacity to feel changes and that we feel these changes through a variety of feelings, especially those discussed in previous pages. Perhaps the changes most directly indicative of changes of our capacity to feel are, on the side of perception, changes of discriminatory power (see further discussion in next chapter) and, on the side of action, changes of skill, spontaneity, and effort. But there is no one feature that we can pick out and examine as a gauge of our present capacity to feel, and we can feel this capacity even when we are at rest. The felt expansion of our capacity to feel is often connected to what is presently experienced. A hunting dog who picks up a scent suddenly perks up and its whole manner of being changes: it is “fully present, all there, in all of its actions: in its wary glances, its sharp sniffings, its abrupt cocking of ears. All senses are equally on the qui vive” (Dewey 1934/1980, p. 19). But although this state of alertness is stimulated by the environment, surely it is felt in a way that goes beyond whatever present stimulation brings to experience. The feeling self of the animal opens to the world, ready to receive new stimulation. Moreover, our sense of our capacity to feel does not always depend on present activity. There is a kind of expansive self-enjoyment that can show up even when we are not doing anything in particular. This kind of self-­ enjoyment is exemplified by the pleasure that athletes and dancers take in their body in repose: a feeling of power in reserve or of limitless possibilities. Perhaps all of us feel something like this when we wake up well-­ rested and refreshed, ready to take on the day. I am suggesting that the good feeling that comes from our felt readiness to experience whatever life has to offer is a kind of expansive non-perceptual feeling: the “fully charged” self. Lest I seem to be painting an overly clear and distinct picture of affective self-awareness, I should add that there is no way for us to demarcate these feelings of heightened capacity as belonging only to the self and not the world. Indeed, one of the most commonplace features of affective experience is the way in which our mood alters our experience of the


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world and vice versa. Dreary weather makes us feel down; being in love makes everything bright and cheery. The harmonic theory is able to register this lack of clear distinction between affective feelings of the self and world: because the conscious repertoire is what we feel everything with, its expansion and contraction will always affect both subjective and objective poles of feeling. At the same time, the theory is also able to register a difference—without setting up a clear distinction—between “central” affect pertaining to the self and “peripheral” affect pertaining to things of the world (Haybron 2014, p. 283). Insofar as it is possible for the harmonic intensity of perceptual contents to change without impacting the overall differentiated-­ ness of the conscious repertoire, such changes are felt as peripheral affects belonging to objects of consciousness. As discussed in the last chapter, these peripheral affects play an important role in the guidance of perceptual activity, although most do not rise to the level of objectifying awareness. Also, insofar as peripheral affects are caused by a lack of attunement or stimulus strength rather than a diminished capacity to feel (corresponding to a diminished repertoire), they are not as strongly felt.10

The Feeling Self as a Unique Individual Now let us return to the main question with which this chapter began: What is the self to which affect speaks? The thesis argued in this chapter is that expansive feelings and other felt intimations of our changing capacity to feel contribute to non-­ objectifying awareness of the feeling self that is constituted by the stream of consciousness as a continuous, affectively self-regulating activity. Importantly, the feeling self is not just a bare choosing activity: it has a particular identity constituted by a singular stream of feeling with a unique and constantly evolving repertoire.

 The difference between peripheral and core affect is analogous to the way the clarity of the sound emitted by a radio depends on strength of signal and tuning to the right frequency, on the one hand, and size of the antenna and power of the radio, on the other. 10

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Although the feeling self cannot directly take itself as an object, we can say that it is inherently self-concerned in the following sense. Insofar as it has awareness of its own changing capacity to feel—which is not just any capacity, but that which constitutes its very nature and identity and on which its very existence depends—it is able to act upon this awareness and contribute to its own preservation and enrichment. Thus, even though the most fundamental self-concern of consciousness has no object, it plays a constant role in the guidance of its self-constituting activity. In addition, it does seem that we can say that this self-awareness is concerned with a unique individual identity even if this identity is never consciously grasped as such. Our capacity to feel is not an abstract quantity like horsepower. Rather, it has to do with the fluctuating differentiated-­ ness of our singular conscious repertoire, which has been uniquely shaped by all of our past experiences. Accordingly, feelings of the “expansion” and “contraction” of our currently available repertoire constitute enrichments and deteriorations of our unique subjectivity, our unique way of experiencing the world. I am not prepared to argue that this self-awareness carries with it experiential warrant for the continuous self-same identity of the subject of consciousness across a person’s entire lifespan. Nevertheless, it does seem that the concept of a unique and constantly evolving repertoire allows us to confirm that the feeling self does have an identity that persists across different experiences. Moreover, although we may not experience the uniqueness of our subjectivity as such (there is no such thing as a feeling of uniqueness11), I do think it is possible to affirm that the uniqueness of our individual repertoire enters somehow into experience. The repertoire of consciousness is not a storehouse of predetermined feelings, but the constantly evolving “contrast space” within which each and every conscious feeling is newly determined.

 Like value, uniqueness and novelty are traits of experience that can seem more or less pronounced and yet can never be identified with any particular feature or quality. A novel experience is not marked by a special quality like the smell of a new car. Similarly, there is no telltale sign of uniqueness. Nevertheless, descriptions of certain experiences as unique or novel are warranted insofar as both are related to differentiated-ness and the latter can be felt. See Chap. 8. 11


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Also, although our unique repertoire is continually shaped by our conscious choices, we cannot choose our repertoire or decide to change it in a particular way. Likewise, we cannot choose to change our current capacity to feel: feelings of how this capacity is changing are largely passive. Granted, in many circumstances, our conscious choices can have momentous consequences for our repertoire as well as almost immediate consequences for our capacity to feel. For example, to save our feeling self from the pain of a disturbing image, sometimes we need only choose to look away. In general, however, we do not have direct conscious control over our repertoire, and this means that we have limited conscious control over changes of our capacity to feel and attendant affective feelings of expansion and contraction. Let us pause to consider some of the reasons for this lack of direct conscious control. First, like other conscious organisms, we have evolved a variety of regulatory systems—especially pain and pleasure systems—that act exogenously on the conscious repertoire and thereby contribute to the determination of affect in a way that is, for the most part, independent of conscious choice. But even if such systems did not exist, conscious control over the repertoire of feeling would still be limited. Recall from earlier discussion in Chap. 6 that whatever control we have over the presentational contrasts of perception is limited to selective emphasis, and is learned through exploration of our environment, as subtly guided by the micro-affects that are carried by these contrasts. Meanwhile, although the causal contrasts of non-perceptual feeling are more powerfully affective, because of their vague, implicit nature it is more difficult for us to learn how to control them through conscious choice. Again, this is not to say that the conscious repertoire is beyond the limits of self-­ control: for instance, we can and do learn to make conscious choices that impact on current emotion and mood. However, this control is notably less direct and reliable than our control over perceptual feeling.12 These last points accord with our general sense that with respect to our most powerful affective feelings we are recipients rather than agents:  Insofar as our conscious choices have important consequences for our conscious repertoire, we can take responsibility for our way of experiencing. See Neville (1981) and (1995) for further discussion. 12

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affect is something undergone, suffered or enjoyed. As observed at the beginning of this chapter, affect is most powerfully felt as something that impacts our innermost self. I am proposing that what makes this impact so powerful and deep is the felt expansion or contraction of our unique conscious repertoire and our capacity to feel. To what other change could consciousness be so deeply sensitive? The capacity to feel is not something that consciousness “has”: it concerns the enrichment or impoverishment of its very existence. Moreover, to feel oneself powerfully affected—especially in experiences of enjoyment—can be one of the most important ways in which we become aware of our feeling self as a unique individual. To get a better sense of how the uniqueness of our feeling self might actually show up, let us consider the experience of a conversation between friends. Without getting into details, it should be evident that the dynamic repertoire of any such conversation is highly fluid and complex, involving many different interactive constraints at different levels and timescales, some of which belong to the individuals separately, some of which belong to the two friends together, and some of which belong to the present conversation. In the background of a conversation between friends is their whole past history and the unique rapport that they have developed through many conversations and other shared experiences. This rapport is itself a kind of dynamic repertoire constituted by constraints that evolve on a longer timescale than the dynamics of any particular conversation. In turn, the present topic of conversation is a short-term, emergent constraint that specifies a transient dynamic repertoire that may last only minute or two before the topic is changed. As a consequence of these nested constraints, sometimes the flow of conversation is narrowly constrained and rushes like a river in a gorge, sometimes it meanders leisurely over a broad terrain. Now, what interests us here are the causal contrasts—including higher-­ order contrasts—that can be felt in the midst of conversation and the kinds of non-objectifying self-awareness that can be felt through these causal contrasts. Since all of us have participated in many such conversations, hopefully it is not too much of a stretch to imagine how the concept of causal contrast might apply to the flow of a conversation as experienced from the inside.


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For instance, consider moments in which we feel like changing the topic, perhaps because the current topic is starting to ebb or because there is another topic that we are bursting to talk about. In this case, perhaps we may feel a vague higher-order contrast between the present channel of conversation and an alternative channel: a contrast between the present flow of conversation and another possible flow. This vague contrast of flows is a contrast between two dynamic repertoires, one belonging to the present topic of conversation and another belonging to an alternative topic. Although we may go so far as to think about the alternative topic, what I am highlighting is the possibility of feeling a vague causal contrast between topics as an implicit feature of the present flow of conversation. For example, perhaps we have a sense that the conversation is dragging a bit and would flow much more smoothly if we changed the topic. My point is that we need not explicitly consider an alternative topic in order to have a vague kind of non-objectifying self-­ awareness that indicates how our present flow contrasts with other flows. Going one step further, perhaps it is possible in the midst of a conversation to become aware of a vague contrast between the rapport that we have with this friend and the various rapports that we have with other friends. Again, if this is truly a feeling of how the current flow is differentiated from others, albeit on a deeper level, the awareness to which I am pointing cannot rise to the level of an explicit idea about the nature of our rapport with this friend. It must remain a vague and suffuse awareness of this rapport as manifested in the particular exchanges of the present conversation. This example indicates that feelings of causal contrast can vary in depth, corresponding to the kind of dynamic repertoire involved in the contrast. A vague feeling of the unique rapport that we enjoy with a particular friend constitutes a fairly deep sense of our unique relationship with this person. It also tells us something about who we are—or, at least, it tells us something about who we are with this person. For example, the feeling that we are “most like ourselves” with someone may include a vague feeling of how our repertoire is affected by engaging with them in lively conversation. Let us examine this phenomenon more closely. The key to this experience, I suggest, is that every conversation between two friends involves a causal contrast between their respective conscious

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repertoires whose richness depends on the quality of their engagement. We may consider this a “contrast of personalities,” but it is important to keep in mind that the relevant contrast is causal, not presentational, and that it has to do with the mutual conditioning of individual repertoires, not with any striking difference of personality that we might observe (e.g., outspoken vs. taciturn). Nevertheless, to understand how the causal contrast between two repertoires can bring out the uniqueness of each, it will help to return to the presentational contrast first considered in Chap. 5—the contrast between cheese and strawberry. One of the key features of contrast is the way in which the unique quality of the contrast as a whole entails the individuation of its component qualities (by virtue of their mutual conditioning). Each contrast involves a unique individuation of its component qualities. But how a component quality is individuated depends in part on its own individual qualitative nature—different cheeses make different contrasts with strawberry. Accordingly, while the particular way in which a cheese is individuated by its being paired with strawberry may be unique to this contrast, we can also say that this contrast serves to realize something of the unique “personality” of this cheese—its sharpness, for example. Similarly, when two friends are engaged in lively conversation, each may feel that her repertoire is uniquely specified or individuated by interaction with the other. And although this individuation is unique to the causal contrast achieved by the present conversation, it also serves to realize the individual personality of each participant. For example, a person’s sense of humor can be uniquely realized by the way it is brought out by her rapport with a particular friend. At the same time, when friendship serves to bring out the uniqueness of each person, it need not be understood as the revelation of a fully determined and unchanging personal essence. Rather, the feeling of being “more ourselves” when we are with a friend may have more to do with the breadth and depth of our repertoire that can be engaged by this person, i.e., how much of our repertoire “comes into play.” Thus the enjoyment of a conversation between friends has less to do with what they have in common than the richness of the causal contrast that is made by their close interaction. The richer the causal contrast, the more each feels herself, and the more each feels at home with the other.


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Surely this is one of the most profound forms of self-enjoyment that a person can have. Also, notice that in this case non-objectifying self-­ enjoyment entails non-objectifying enjoyment of the other. Like the self-­ enjoyment that arises when making music with others, the self-enjoyment of conversation may depend on how well we can listen and respond to others, allowing for them to enjoy themselves as well. We can also enjoy “monologuing” and other one-sided kinds of conversation, of course. But it seems practically impossible to achieve the richness of causal contrast that we often find with friends without the constant give-and-take of a lively conversation in which all parties take part. Perhaps, then, we can say that our individual personality is most fully realized through the kinds of enjoyment that are made and shared with others. If so, the harmonic theory adds to our commonsense understanding of the fundamental importance of shared enjoyment: we literally cannot be ourselves without it.

Conclusion Let us review the connection between affect and consciousness as it has been laid out in the preceding chapters. A basic condition for genuine affective feeling is the capacity for comparative feelings of harmonic intensity, or higher-order contrasts. This condition is provided by flow, which, in turn, depends on feelings of sufficient spatiotemporal scope. Thus, the threshold between unconsciousness and consciousness can be marked as a “phase transition” within a broad continuum of feelings/causal events of varying spatiotemporal scope (see First Postulate in Chap. 5). Once this threshold is crossed, no sooner does flow make affect possible than affect consolidates and drives flow, making it self-aware, actively self-constituting, and intrinsically motivated. Flow is not uniform and unchanging, and it is not simply “given” or felt passively by consciousness. Rather, the flow of consciousness itself changes and this changeability allows for its active self-regulation. Moreover, flow is actively regulated and directed because it is inherently self-concerned. The core of conscious self-concern—that which constitutes both minimal self-awareness and the minimal self—is our changing capacity to feel. Like other aspects of

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affective self-regulation, this changing capacity is indexed by non-­ perceptual feelings of how the harmonic intensity of consciousness is changing. Although affective self-regulation is essential to consciousness, it can take many different forms, most of which are not concerned with improving the affective state of consciousness simply for its own sake. Conscious experience is not just a simple pursuit of maximum harmonic intensity, come what may. In the last chapter, I argued that the search for meaning is an especially important and common kind of affective self-regulation. In this chapter, I have tried to show how affective self-regulation is directed by various kinds of non-objectifying self-awareness, which, when intensified, become self-enjoyment. These various kinds of self-awareness function not only to indicate our present overall well-being or mood; they also serve to indicate our present level of sensitivity, skill, freedom, power, and creativity. But most importantly, they indicate our changing capacity to feel. Can we say that the affective self-regulation of consciousness fulfills the requirement of a genuinely reflexive self, an entity whose self-­ awareness is self-constituting? It seems that we can, if concern for the changing capacity to feel is at once (1) inherent to flow, a basic trait of consciousness; (2) a form of reflexive self-awareness; and (3) a condition for the actively self-constituting nature of consciousness. Note that according to the present account the feeling self does not learn to be concerned for itself; nor is the feeling self the kind of self that is born from interaction with the world. The feeling self is a basic condition for all conscious learning, and is born with the first emergence of a stream of consciousness by virtue of the latter’s inherent interest in the enrichment of the activity that constitutes its very existence.

References Chen, Wen-Yeo, Hsu-Chia Huang, Yen-Tung Lee, and Caleb Liang. 2018. Body Ownership and the Four-Hand Illusion. Scientific Reports 8 (1): 1–17. Clark, Andy, and David Chalmers. 1998. The Extended Mind. Analysis 58 (1): 7–19. Clarke, Eric. 2005. Ways of Listening: An Ecological Approach to the Perception of Musical Meaning. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


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Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly. 1990. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. New York: Harper Row. Dewey, John. 1934/1980. Art as Experience. New York: Putnam. Fraleigh, Sondra Horton. 1987. Dance and the Lived Body: A Descriptive Aesthetics. Pittsburgh, PA: Pittsburgh University Press. ———. 1993. Good Intentions and Dancing Moments: Agency, Freedom, and Self-Knowledge in Dance. In The Perceived Self: Ecological and Interpersonal Sources of Self-Knowledge, ed. U. Neisser, 102–111. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Gallagher, Shaun. 2000a. Philosophical Conceptions of the Self: Implications for Cognitive Science. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 4 (1): 14–21. ———. 2000b. Self-reference and Schizophrenia. In Exploring the Self, ed. D. Zahavi, 203–239. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company. Haybron, Daniel M. 2014. The Value of Positive Emotion: Philosophical Doubts and Reassurances. In Positive Emotion: Integrating the Light Sides and Dark Sides, ed. J.  Gruber and J.T.  Moskowitz, 281–300. Oxford: Oxford University Press. James, William. 1890/1983. The Principles of Psychology. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Krueger, Joel. 2011. The Who and the How of Experience. In Self, No-Self? Perspectives from Analytical, Phenomenological, and Indian Traditions, ed. M.  Siderits, E.  Thompson, and D.  Zahavi, 27–55. Oxford: Oxford University Press. MacKenzie, Matthew. 2009. Enacting the Self: Buddhist and Enactivist Approaches to the Emergence of the Self. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 9 (1): 75–99. Neville, Robert C. 1981. Reconstruction of Thinking. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. ———. 1995. Normative Cultures. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. Siderits, Mark, Evan Thompson, and Dan Zahavi, eds. 2011. Self, No Self?: Perspectives from Analytical, Phenomenological, and Indian Traditions. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Tomasello, Michael. 2014. A Natural History of Human Thinking. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Zahavi, Dan. 2005. Subjectivity and Selfhood: Investigating the First-Person Perspective. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Zahavi, Dan, and Uriah Kriegel. 2016. For-Me-Ness: What It Is and What It Is Not. In Philosophy of Mind and Phenomenology: Conceptual and Empirical Approaches, ed. D.O.  Dahlstrom, A.  Elpidorou, and W.  Hopp, 36–53. New York: Routledge.

8 The Affective Continuum

In this chapter and the next, the argument moves from the exposition of the harmonic theory of affect toward its application to various kinds and dimensions of affective experience. When tested against experience, a theory of affect should be judged according to the following criteria. First, the theory should be able to register all types and varieties of affect within its conceptual framework. Second, the theory should be able to advance understanding by generating new insights about the nature of various types of affect and the relations between them. Third, it should be possible to show how the theory can be tested by proposing new hypotheses and by articulating possibilities that are excluded by the theory. Fourth, the theory should be able to give an account of the unity of affect, showing how all types and varieties of affect belong to a single continuum. However, before we can elaborate the harmonic approach into a more complete theory of affect, a critical missing piece needs to be added: the fundamental difference between good and bad feeling, also known as the bipolarity of affect.

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 N. F. Barrett, Enjoyment as Enriched Experience, Palgrave Perspectives on Process Philosophy, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-13790-7_8



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Bipolarity and the Affective Baseline The bipolarity of affect is a basic feature of experience (Russell 1979) that poses a special challenge to the present theory. The reason for this challenge is simple: harmonic intensity is not bipolar. As a function of strength and diversity of contrast, harmonic intensity is always greater than zero. I have postponed addressing this challenge until now because what I take to be the most plausible approach depends on establishing the threshold of consciousness within a continuum of harmonic intensity. In the last two chapters, I have attempted to account for this threshold as a transition within feeling, where feeling is identified with the contrastive determination of causal events that vary in spatiotemporal scope. To summarize: when feelings reach a certain minimum of scope and intensity, they acquire the interrelated traits of flow, meaning, affect, and self-­ awareness that distinguish conscious feeling from non-conscious feeling. This is my version of the “complexity thesis,” the idea that the emergence of consciousness is tied to some minimum level of complexity. Below this level, there are feelings of widely varying harmonic intensity, but there are no conscious feelings and there is no affect, as these require the higher-­ order contrasts made possible by flow. Now, given that the co-dependent emergence of consciousness and affect can be tied to a minimum threshold, what accounts for the bipolarity of affective valence—that is, the distinction between positive and negative feeling—that we find above this threshold? To account for bipolarity, I propose to define the normal resting level of harmonic intensity as the affective baseline. Somewhere above the threshold of consciousness, a level of harmonic intensity that roughly corresponds to our normal resting state is effectively “set to zero” so that significantly greater and lesser levels of harmonic intensity are felt as positive and negative. Later I will consider whether such a baseline is sufficient to account for negative feelings. The question we are confronting now is how to understand and justify such a baseline in a way that is not completely arbitrary and ad hoc.

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According to the present theory, we could feel positive and negative affect without a baseline. Affective feelings could be purely comparative feelings of harmonic intensity, so that any relative increase is felt as positive and any relative decrease is felt as negative. Our affective feelings do exhibit something of this relativistic pattern (like feelings of hot and cold): diminishment of pain can be felt as positive (Leknes et al. 2013) and the diminishment of pleasure is sometimes felt as negative (see research on “reward downshifts,” e.g., Papini 2014). But it is easy to think of cases in which a diminished pain is still notably unpleasant and a diminished reward is still notably pleasant. Taking these cases at face value, it seems that our ability to gauge positive and negative affect is not entirely relative to previous feeling—rather, it seems to depend on reference to a fixed and stable baseline. The existence of such a baseline is also supported by our sense that many everyday experiences (like tying our shoes) are affectively neutral. Thus, prima facie, the evidence from experience suggests that affect is not purely relative. In addition, from the perspective of the present theory it is possible to argue that an affective baseline is a good thing to have, and therefore something we should expect to have evolved in conscious animals. First, if consciousness itself depends on a minimal level of harmonic intensity, it makes sense for conscious animals to maintain a wakeful level that is higher than this minimum in order to ensure that consciousness is maintained. Furthermore, previous chapters imply that overall level of harmonic intensity is directly related to the cognitive capacity of consciousness. This point is the cognitive side of the connection between affect and our capacity for feeling, as manifested in the positive feelings that accompany peak performance in various activities such as music, dance, and sport. As strength and diversity of contrast increase together, so does our capacity to feel and act with decisiveness and precision. Accordingly, to ensure both wakefulness and adequate cognitive performance, it makes sense that conscious organisms should maintain a level of harmonic intensity that goes beyond the minimum required for consciousness. But these justifications raise new questions. If higher levels of harmonic intensity yield higher cognitive capacity, why is the harmonic intensity of consciousness not maintained well beyond the minimum?


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Why ever settle for anything less than peak experience? Why is waking life not a constant rush of maximal enjoyment? Especially in light of the third postulate and the “law of consciousness” proposed in Chap. 6—the principle that consciousness always maximizes harmonic intensity—these are serious challenges for the present theory. The proposal of an affective baseline suggests that our normal, “neutral” level of harmonic intensity is both more and less than it could be. Justification is needed on both sides. The explanation that we are seeking likely has something to do with the fact that feelings of high harmonic intensity, especially the kind of enjoyment found in music, sport, and festivity, cannot achieved at will. The “law” of maximized harmonic intensity dictates only that enjoyment occurs whenever the opportunity arises. However, like consciousness in general, enjoyment may be a delicate ecological phenomenon that depends on a complicated set of bodily and environmental conditions, including available energy and bodily skills as well as a complexly structured physical and social environment (see next chapter for further discussion). If we can assume that there is a critical connection between level of harmonic intensity and energy use, then it makes sense that conscious organisms generally maintain a baseline level of harmonic intensity that suffices for the cognitive demands of most everyday situations but does not rise to the level of enjoyment. But then another question arises: if harmonic intensity is directly related to cognitive capacity and can be regulated in response to changing demands, why are we not pleasantly excited by dangerous situations that, it would seem, demand peak performance? Why do most of us seem to be incapacitated rather than enabled by the threat of bodily harm? In response to these questions, I suggest that increased cognitive capacity—insofar as it can be controlled by the organism—is not always the best response to danger. In certain situations, it might even be a liability. This sounds counterintuitive as long as cognitive capacity is left undefined, implying that it can be increased at will in specifically directed ways. In terms of the harmonic theory, however, our cognitive capacity depends on our conscious repertoire, which cannot be altered at will (e.g., although concentration may increase discriminatory capacity, it does not make us into a connoisseur). Our ability to directly modify the repertoire seems to be limited to changes of strength and diversity of

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contrast. Greater diversity is a kind of increased cognitive capacity insofar as it allows for a more flexible and fine-grained response. However, although greater flexibility can be a significant advantage, in some situations it is a liability.1 As I pointed out in my initial discussion of harmonic intensity (Chap. 5), it is difficult to increase diversity without lowering strength of contrast. Consequently, the practical upshot of increased cognitive flexibility is often a reduced capacity for swift and decisive action. If someone comes at you with a knife, being able to think of ten different possible responses is not very helpful; better to think of one response and take it immediately. The kind of increased cognitive capacity associated with the enjoyment of skillful activity is not just increased flexibility: it combines strength and diversity and, insofar as it depends on a “good fit” between repertoire and the situation at hand, it cannot be manufactured at will (see next chapter for further discussion). In practice, then, the more reliable response to imminent threat is actually to decrease cognitive flexibility, restricting the focus of experience and heightening the strength of contrast needed for decisive action. For this reason, our bodies have regulatory mechanisms that ensure that our normal response to imminent danger is exceedingly narrow: freeze, fight, or flight. As discussed in Chap. 4, the distinctive cognitive effects of positive and negative affect have been studied and measured in a variety of settings. Although the effects of positivity may be desirable overall—that is, not just in certain situations, but also in the long term (Fredrickson and Joiner 2002)—the science of affect confirms our commonsense notion that negative affect and emotion also have their time and place. This, then, is the third main reason for having an affective baseline: without such a baseline (and the ability to go below this baseline when necessary), we would be missing an important dimension of our cognitive-­behavioral repertoire. Sometimes decreased capacity is advantageous. Notice that this account of the utility of negative affect is two-sided: it is both motivational and cognitive. The most common view of the utility  Extreme levels of cognitive capacity—in the sense of increased flexibility—are represented by the hyper-associative “divergent” thinking characteristic of psychedelic states. See Tagliazucchi et al. (2014). 1


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of negative affect is primarily motivational: negative affect functions as a “punisher,” complementing the “reward” function of positive affect. For this view, the cognitive effects of affect are products of conditioning, and include all the various ways in which positive and negative feelings are used as “carrot and stick” to guide behavior. From another standpoint, however, the utility of negative affect also has to do with its effects on cognitive style or scope (Gable and Harmon-Jones 2010a). Narrow negative feelings are especially useful in certain situations because of the way they narrow the scope of attention, helping us to act decisively (wide negative feelings have a different utility; see below). Notice that although these two ways of understanding the cognitive utility of motivation are quite different, they are not incompatible. As normally conceived, motivational systems of reward and punishment have no essential connection to changes of cognitive scope. One of the advantages of the present approach is that it accounts for this connection: strength and diversity of contrast (narrowness and width) are both cognitive and affective at the same time. So, depending on the situation, the primary utility of a negative feeling may be its negativity—its aversiveness—or its impact on cognitive scope, or both. But these are not separable elements of affect. For the present theory, it is impossible to have a strongly aversive feeling without narrowing the cognitive scope of experience. More generally, one cannot change the cognitive scope of experience without also producing a change of affective tone, and vice versa. Now, the problem with the aforementioned reasons for an affective baseline is that they are all based entirely on utility. From an evolutionary perspective, however, we cannot explain the existence of a feature by referring only to reasons of utility that depend on its existence. In the case of the affective baseline, we can reasonably presume that once it emerges as a feature of consciousness its utility will lead to its fixation as a universal trait among conscious animals. But we need a plausible account of how it emerges in the first place. To my mind, the most plausible account for the emergence of an affective baseline will involve something like the “settling point hypothesis” used to explain the stabilization of body weight in humans (Wirtshafter and Davis 1977; Bolles 1980). A “settling point” is what scientists in other fields call an “equilibrium”: a stable state resulting from multiple

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interacting variables. Settling points are commonplace in nature and society: scientists who support the “settling point hypothesis” of metabolic regulation point to the stabilization of sea level (Berridge 2004) and to the stabilization of the water level in a mountain lake (Speakman 2011) as illustrative cases. In these examples, there is no homeostatic “set point” and feedback system that governs the water level; rather, water settles at whatever level constitutes an equilibrium between inflowing and outflowing water (as determined by rivers, evaporation, etc.). An important advantage of this approach is that the stabilized state— the equilibrium or settling point—can be raised or lowered if one or more of the critical factors change. Thus, for example, it seems that climate change is leading to a new sea level, while the changing diet of modern society may be the primary cause of increased obesity. Economic models are supposed to help us predict how critical equilibria (e.g., employment rates) change in response to variables that we can control directly, like interest rates. These examples suggest that in organisms where the maintenance or control of a settling point is critical for survival, the dynamics responsible for the settling point can be influenced by special regulatory mechanisms, thus combining “passive” and “active” varieties of regulation in a single system. Furthermore, features that first emerge as settling points can more readily evolve into the actively maintained set points of homeostatic-like regulation. I suspect that this is the case with the affective baseline. However, it seems doubtful that conscious animals have mechanisms that directly monitor and control deviations of consciousness from the affective baseline. Harmonic intensity is not like body temperature or blood sugar. Even if it is possible to measure dynamic variables associated with the presence and level of consciousness (Northoff and Lamme 2020), it does not seem that the brain itself has the capacity to perform these measurements directly. Thus, although mechanisms for the regulation of wakefulness and arousal undoubtedly exist, it does not seem that there is any simple and direct way for the brain to adjust the harmonic intensity of conscious feeling. What reasons do I have for this position? For one, if we did have mechanisms for the direct and precise regulation of the harmonic intensity of experience, they would most likely be found in the systems responsible


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for sensory pleasure and physical pain. However, as I will discuss further below, the available evidence indicates that these systems are not failsafe “triggers” of positive and negative affect. Positivity and negativity are not the “output” of dopaminergic and opioid pathways. However effective these mechanisms may be, their impact on harmonic intensity is indirect. Nevertheless, the current harmonic theory implies that animals do regulate the harmonic intensity of their conscious feelings, and that this form of regulation is an important target (and driver) of evolution, development, and learning. Admittedly, I am not prepared to describe the processes by which this important regulatory task is accomplished. If I am on the right track, however, it should be possible to develop this theoretical approach to the point where it could be tested against current knowledge of the various regulatory systems of the animal body. The idea is not to propose a new regulatory system that works alongside those currently studied by biology and neuroscience. More likely, regulation of harmonic intensity “supervenes” on various systems of arousal, pain, pleasure, and attention, much in the same way that far-from-equilibrium thermodynamics “supervenes” on all the various metabolic processes of an organism.

Is a Baseline Sufficient for Bipolarity? Even if we grant the existence of a baseline, according to the present theory the difference between positive and negative feelings is still, in essence, a matter of degree. At first, this may seem strange and totally unfitting. Does not our experience of pain and suffering demand something more? Does not negative feeling seem essentially, qualitatively different from positive feeling? Bad feelings seem to be positively bad, not just less of a good thing. First, it must be admitted that there is no way to respond to such questions with total confidence. Still, in light of the fact that introspective inquiry has repeatedly failed to turn up any essential quality that marks either positive or negative feeling, we should consider the possibility that positive and negative feelings are not, in fact, essentially different, even if they are usually very easy to tell apart.

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Second, if my account of the relationship between harmonic intensity and consciousness is on the right track, the negativity of the area beneath the baseline is not entirely arbitrary, insofar as it can also be characterized by various kinds of cognitive impairment associated with deficient strength and/or diversity. We see this connection in the relationship between cognitive dysfunction, anhedonia, and altered sense of self that shows up in various mental health disorders. This connection indicates that it is possible to define negative areas of experience as objectively “unwell,” especially if they persist for long periods of time or occur repeatedly in ways that are maladjusted to our surroundings. Third, if we can accept that a baseline is sufficient to discriminate positive from negative feeling, its lack of absolute fixity can be seen as an advantage, helping us to understand some of the complexities of affect. For instance, this approach allows that the baseline is moveable, and that it changes at multiple timescales, reflecting changes of mood as well as longer-term changes of well-being. It also suggests that feelings of affective valence are subject to a kind of “hysteresis”: that is, the exact location of affective zero and its closely neighboring levels of positivity and negativity can vary depending on the present trajectory of the feeling self. So, for instance, a certain level of harmonic intensity characterized by pronounced diversity and diminished strength (see below for further discussion) might be felt as positive—relaxation—if it belongs to a trajectory that comes from a negative region characterized by excessive strength (e.g., an unpleasant state of tension), while this very same level of harmonic intensity could be felt as negative—boredom—in another context. Indeed, a certain degree of arbitrariness and ambiguity with respect to the affective baseline could be seen as more in keeping with our affective experience, not less. Although it is unimaginable that we could mistake a strong positive feeling for a strong negative feeling (and vice versa), near the neutral range various kinds of affective confusion are more plausible.


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Explorations of the Affective Continuum Now let us turn to the main work of this chapter, an exploration of how various kinds of affective feeling are located within the affective continuum of conscious experience. In the most inclusive sense, the affective continuum refers to all possible determinations of affective tone. For present purposes, we will define this continuum as an “affective space” composed of continuous variations of strength and diversity of contrast (narrowness and width). In principle, every conscious feeling can be located somewhere in this space, because every feeling has some definite degree of harmonic intensity composed of definite degrees of strength and diversity of contrast. The key feature of this model is the way in which varying levels of strength and diversity combine to produce varying levels of harmonic intensity as well as different kinds of affective tone. To get an initial sense of how this works, imagine that affect can be manipulated by two dials or knobs, one for strength and one for diversity. The knobs can be moved independently—turning strength up and down, and diversity up and down—but they are connected by loose springs so that turning one knob way up tends to pull the other down unless force is applied. Both knobs can be up at once, but this takes the most force. The affective tone that results from these adjustments is determined by the overall level of harmonic intensity and the relative contributions of strength and diversity (narrowness and width). Let us begin by considering a few common types of affective tone (see Table  8.1). If we turn up strength while maintaining diversity so that harmonic intensity increases, the result is a narrow variety of positive affective tone. Strong sensory pleasure is like this. Alternatively, if we turn Table 8.1  Common types of affective tone Strength


Harmonic intensity

Affective tone

↗ ↗ ≈ ↘ ↘ ↗

≈ ↘ ↗ ↗ ≈ ↗

↗ ↘ ↗ ↗ ↘ ↗

+ narrow (e.g., sensory pleasure) − narrow (e.g., sharp pain) + wide (e.g., expansive feeling) + wide (e.g., relaxed feeling) − wide (e.g., depressed feeling) + rich (e.g., musical enjoyment)

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up strength and turn down diversity so that harmonic intensity decreases below the baseline, the result is a narrow variety of negative tone. Strong physical pain is like this. If an increase of harmonic intensity is driven by increased diversity without much change of strength, the result is a positive expansive tone. If an increase of harmonic intensity is driven by increased diversity and accompanied by lowering of strength, the result is a positive relaxed tone. If strength is turned down so that harmonic intensity falls below the baseline while diversity remains about the same, the result is a depressed feeling. If both width and strength are turned up, the result is a positive feeling marked by richness and vivacity. Intense enjoyment of music, sport, or festivity is like this. The table is not exhaustive; it is intended as initial sketch of the terrain to be explored in this chapter and the next. How does this view of affective experience compare with other perspectives in affective science? Those who are familiar with circumplex models of affect developed by James Russell and others (1980; Barrett and Bliss-Moreau 2009) will notice considerable overlap between these models and the variety of tones just described (see Fig. 8.1). Circumplex models are two-dimensional representations of the affective continuum that indicate how different affective variables—e.g., pleasantness and arousal—are related. Notice that in three of the four circumplex models shown here, one axis represents a purely hedonic dimension of pleasantness or valence while the other axis represents an independent “energetic” dimension of arousal, engagement, or activation. A common feature of circumplex models is that feelings of equivalent positivity or negativity can be very different in respect of this second dimension (e.g., compare “excitement” and “relaxation” in Russell’s 1980 model). Most of these features are registered by the harmonic theory, which can also be represented by a two-dimensional space (see Fig. 8.2). For example, the axis of arousal/activation/tension in the circumplex model roughly corresponds to the harmonic dimension of strength. However, for the harmonic model, strength and diversity are not opposite poles of a single axis that is orthogonal to valence/pleasantness. Rather, valence,


N. F. Barrett

Fig. 8.1  Circumplex models of affect. (From Barrett and Bliss-Moreau 2009, p. 183)

Fig. 8.2  A harmonic model of the affective continuum

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defined as harmonic intensity, depends on strength compounded by diversity. This particular arrangement is unique to the present theory. Furthermore, as presented here the affective space includes a threshold of harmonic intensity that divides consciousness from unconsciousness and an affective baseline that divides positive and negative affect. The conscious threshold is presumed to be fixed while, as explained above, the baseline may be somewhat adjustable. These features are also unique to the present theory: they result from my attempt to understand affect as an intrinsic trait of conscious experience and to place the entire affective continuum within a broader continuum of enrichment. These differences are not necessarily signs of incompatibility. The two-­ dimensional space presented in Fig. 8.2 is a heuristic aid for exploring implications of the harmonic theory and, unlike affect grids and circumplex models, it is not intended for the collection and analysis of data from self-reports. Although, in theory, all conscious feelings should be locatable somewhere in this space, in many if not most cases we have only a vague notion of the relative narrowness and width of particular feelings; these dimensions cannot be readily teased apart and reported as if they were distinct variables. Moreover, this model is not intended as an exhaustive representation of affect, let alone conscious feeling. It is possible for two distinct feelings to occupy the same location within this space (the mapping of conscious feeling to affect space is many to one). Common emotions such as anger and sadness may be strongly associated with certain regions, but feelings of emotion cannot be defined solely by their location in this space. Also, for reasons to be explored in the next chapter, many important varieties of affect cannot be reduced to a momentary value of harmonic intensity. With these qualifications in mind, let us consider this space (Fig. 8.2) as a model of the affective continuum. The main purpose of this model is to help us consider how different kinds of affective experience are related within a single continuum. In general, positivity increases as we move toward upper right corner of the space, and decreases or becomes negative as we move toward the lower right. But comparisons are complicated by the fact that the same overall level of harmonic intensity can be achieved by different combinations of strength and diversity that have very different types of affective tone.


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We can use this model to define three basic types of affective tone: narrow feelings (pleasures and pains); wide feelings (relaxation and depression); and complex feelings (richness and dissonance). According to this model, we should find similarities of tone between affective feelings of the same or neighboring region. That is, in certain respects, positive feelings should be more similar to their negative counterparts than to other kinds of positive feeling. With this hypothesis in mind, let us explore these types of affective tone in more detail.

Narrow Feelings: Strong Pains and Pleasures In this model, a strong physical pain is placed somewhere in the region of high strength/low diversity that falls on the negative side of the affective baseline. As an intense pain gets worse, it moves both upward and to the left, increasing in both strength and negativity. Meanwhile strong sensory pleasures can be placed in the neighboring region of high narrowness on the positive side of the baseline. As a pleasurable sensation becomes stronger it may become more positive, moving upward and to the right, or it may switch to negative, moving upward and to the left. Does this placement of pleasure and pain make sense in light of experience? What can we learn from this model about the nature of these feelings? At least from an experiential standpoint, an advantage of this model is that it registers the seemingly close relation between strong sensory pleasures and strong physical pains, including especially (1) similarities of character, tone, or shape (e.g. sharpness) and (2) the ease with which various kinds of strong but pleasant feelings can become negative and, sometimes, painful. First let us examine the similarity of strong sensory pleasures and strong physical pains. Then, later on, we will consider the transition from strong pleasure to pain. Despite their wide disparity with respect to affective valence, in other respects strong pleasures and pains seem very close, as if they shared a common tone. This similarity of tone is reflected in the way certain words can be used to describe both positive and negative feelings. For instance, the word pang usually refers to a brief, sharp, focused negative feeling

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(e.g., pangs of hunger) but is occasionally used to describe sexual pleasure. I am not convinced that sharpness applies to all strong sensory pleasures and physical pains, however. Perhaps the strongest physical pains have a sharp, piercing character, but strong pains can also be dull and constant. Also, if we expand our view of pain to consider other strongly negative feelings—nausea, disgust, and fear—we find many more instances of strongly negative feeling that are not well characterized by sharpness. Likewise, on the side of sensory pleasure, many relatively strong feelings—such as soothing warmth or a refreshing breeze—are the opposite of sharp. I suggest that sharpness is a species of the characteristic that unites all strong pleasures and pains: namely, the tendency to dominate consciousness. If so, strong pleasures and pains can be defined as states of consciousness that are dominated by a single strong feeling. Notice that the distinguishing feature of this class of feeling is not strength per se but the impact of this strength on consciousness. Strong feelings do not necessarily dominate consciousness, and when they do not, feeling lacks the distinctive hedonic tone of strong pleasure and pain. It follows from this definition that in the case of strong pleasures and pains degree of positivity or negativity (hedonic intensity) tends to correlate with the dominance of consciousness. The pleasantness of sensory pleasures is usually heightened when these feelings are savored and diminished when we are unable to give them our full attention.2 We find a similar pattern on the negative side of strong feeling: the negativity of pain closely corresponds to the dominance of consciousness by painful feeling. To the degree that we can ignore pain or at least keep it from dominating our attention, we are usually able to lessen its negative impact (Torta et al. 2017). How is it that the same characteristic—dominance of conscious feeling—is correlated with positivity, in the case of sensory pleasure, and negativity, in the case of physical pain?

 This relation between attention and positivity is a distinctive feature of strong pleasure. Other kinds of positive experience—especially the varieties of enjoyment examined in the next chapter— are diminished by attention to their positivity. 2


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For the harmonic approach, it is possible that feelings that are similar in respect of strength are very different in respect of the impact of this strength on the repertoire of consciousness. Specifically, when consciousness is dominated by a strong feeling, the repertoire may be expanding or contracting as a result. Accordingly, I suggest that the valence of a strong, dominating feeling is determined by its impact on our capacity to feel. On the negative side, this means that the suffering associated with strong physical pain is closely connected to the fact that our capacity to feel is impaired when and to the extent that we are actually in pain (Grahek 2007), that is, suffering from pain. The more our capacity for feeling is reduced, the greater the suffering. The converse is also true: severe pain is typically accompanied by a correspondingly severe incapacity to experience anything other than pain. Strong physical pain is a violently disruptive, incapacitating feeling, and its negativity is directly related to its power to incapacitate.3 Note that this reduction is manifested not just in the way that pain dominates present conscious feeling but also in the way that it hinders other feelings. When we are in severe pain, it is not just that we have a single, dominating feeling: effectively, we are this feeling. That is, we feel that our most intimate self, our feeling self, has been reduced to this feeling of pain. When in severe pain, it is as if our capacity to feel were reduced to a single crude contrast between this strong painful feeling and its absence, that is, any feeling that is free of this pain. Thus, for the present theory, the reduction of consciousness by severe pain is not just a reduction of its contents to single, strong feeling: in severe pain, our capacity to feel is so tightly constrained that consciousness resembles a pain detector. We remain trapped in this cramped space of restricted feeling as long as the pain holds us in its grip.4  When described in this way, it is tempting to say that the negativity of pain just is this reduced capacity. But this amounts to a functionalist account of negativity. For the present approach, because of the connection between harmonic intensity and changes of the conscious repertoire, changes in our capacity to feel can also be understood as changes of the felt value of experience. 4  Consciousness cannot literally become a single-contrast pain detector, like the light diode in Tononi’s thought experiment (2008). Rather, when gripped by pain, consciousness becomes as much like a single-contrast detector as possible within the limits established by the threshold of consciousness. This sudden reduction of the conscious repertoire may help explain why extreme pain can lead to black outs. 3

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The present approach confirms that the suffering of pain is not found in any inherently negative quality or even in the perception of bodily trauma. Rather, it consists in the extreme narrowness of contrast between painful feeling and nearly all other possible feelings lumped together as an indiscriminate whole. As the strength of pain increases, harmonic intensity approaches a minimum and consciousness is constricted until it approximates a single contrast. When in pain, the relief we crave is not a particular feeling but simply our release from the confinement of painful feeling and our return to the fullness of normal conscious experience.5 An important implication of this perspective is that any quality, trait, or object can be felt painfully if this feeling is constituted by a narrow contrast that diminishes the harmonic intensity of consciousness. Another importance implication is that our most powerfully negative feelings are also our most indiscriminate, poorly differentiated feelings. There is no such thing as a conscious feeling that is both powerfully negative and highly differentiated. Insofar as pain is a cause of suffering, we have no experience of finely nuanced pain. For the harmonic theory, such a feeling is impossible because the negativity of feeling is constituted by a reduction of the contrast space within which feeling is presently determined. This lack of differentiation is the inevitable concomitant of a decrease of harmonic intensity that falls below the affective baseline: it is the explicit side of the implicit deficiency that constitutes our most powerful feelings of negativity.6 Now let us turn to the positive side of strong feeling. At first, it might seem that the very same traits that I have just used to explain the negativity of pain could be applied to strong pleasure as well. Do we not describe some pleasures as “captivating,” implying that they too have a hold on consciousness? Certainly many positive feelings have the power to attract and hold our attention (recall James’s definition of “interest,” discussed in Chap. 5). According to the harmonic theory, however, this hold is different from pain in that it does not involve a reduction of the  This is why, when finally released from pain’s grip, we sometimes take pleasure in the most ordinary sensations—e.g., “it feels good just to be able to taste again.” 6  All negative feelings are poorly differentiated but, as we will see, it is possible to make rough distinctions between different kinds of negativity according to the deficiency that is responsible for lack of differentiation. 5


N. F. Barrett

contrast space within which present feeling is constituted. The burden of present discussion is to show that this difference is enough to account for the wide disparity of valence between strong pains and pleasures. On the surface, at least, it may seem that strong pleasures dominate feeling much like their painful counterparts. We have already noted the correlation between degree of positivity (hedonic intensity) and attention to sensory pleasure. Pleasure increases as we give ourselves over to pleasurable feeling: this is why we close our eyes while savoring an especially flavorful dish or bodily sensation. The strongest pleasures are immersive experiences, perhaps even to the extent that we can say that we become the pleasurable feeling. Is this not a reduction of the feeling self? Why does it feel good to be reduced to some feelings but not others? The claim of the present theory, however, is that strong, immersive pleasure is not a reduction of the feeling self, but rather just the opposite. As long as it lasts, strong pleasure includes a dimension of non-­objectifying self-enjoyment, which, as explained in the previous chapter, entails an expansion of the feeling self. When we take pleasure in a strong, immersive feeling, we are enjoying our self as strongly determined by this feeling. We are also enjoying, however briefly, the enrichment of our capacity to feel. In the case of most sensory pleasures, this enrichment remains latent (it is not realized by subsequent feelings, as in enjoyment proper— see next chapter), and may not last much longer than the sensory quality that is the explicit focus of pleasure. But as long as it lasts, it is this enrichment of experience by a strongly felt sensory quality, not the sensory quality per se, that is the real cause of pleasure.7 Thus, by virtue of their strength, strong pleasures are well differentiated within the present contrast space of conscious feeling and, by the same token, they contribute to the enrichment of the conscious repertoire and thus to our overall capacity to feel. Indeed, this is the source of all pleasure: relatively strong feelings, by virtue of their contrastive nature, give greater definition to our entire conscious repertoire, our whole “world of feeling.” Accordingly, we can say that we take pleasure in “becoming a feeling” only to the extent that this immersion increases,  Strictly speaking, one cannot separate the particular qualitative nature of a sensory pleasure from its impact on harmonic intensity. These are essentially interrelated aspects of experience. 7

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rather than decreases, the overall determinateness of the contrast space of consciousness in which feelings are determined. For the same reason, we can say that sensory pleasure gives a momentary boost to self-awareness, as we become more aware of our unique “feeling nature” as constituted by our conscious repertoire. An important implication of this explanation is that strong pleasures are always more finely differentiated than painful feelings of roughly equivalent strength. Another, closely related implication is that the positivity of strong pleasures increases as they become more differentiated and decreases as they become less differentiated. Also, we should find evidence that confirms that strong pleasures do not actually prevent us from having other feelings, even if they make other feelings less likely by holding our attention. Strong positive feelings are captivating but not incapacitating. Let us consider an example. One of the strongest, most immersive pleasures that we can have is sexual pleasure, especially as experienced during orgasm. Many would also judge the orgasm to be among the most positive feelings that we can have. But here we confront the difficulty of disentangling hedonic and qualitative intensity (see Chap. 4): it is difficult to say whether the pleasure of orgasm is distinguished by extremely high levels of strength and positivity or just by extreme strength coupled with moderate positivity. Maybe orgasm is just the strongest feeling that we can have that is distinctly positive. It is hard to say, as the mix of strength and positivity varies a lot. In any case, the strength of sexual pleasure is unquestionable, and this strength suggests a close relationship between sexual pleasure and pain, as widely attested in popular music. At its peak, sexual pleasure has an overwhelming power that seems to approach the forcefulness of pain. The close relation between orgasm and pain suggests that orgasm might be an exception to the “rules” of pleasure and pain that I have just stated above. Could it be that the overwhelming pleasure of sexual orgasm is a positive reduction of the feeling self by an exceedingly strong and narrow feeling? Could it be that the main difference between orgasm and pain that accounts for their opposite affective valence is purely “attitudinal,” that is, constituted by our willingness to be incapacitated by the power of orgasm?


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I will not try to settle these issues here. Rather, the point of this example is to indicate how the harmonic approach can help us to explore and articulate differences between various kinds of affective experience.

Interlude: Testing the Differentiated-ness of Feeling By now it should be clear that the differentiated-ness of conscious feeling is a key feature of the present theoretical approach and therefore critical to its testability. For the harmonic theory, the differentiated-­ness of feeling is a complex feature that includes both strength and diversity of contrast, making it subtly different from the differentiation of conscious states as described in information-theoretic terms (Edelman and Tononi 2000), and perhaps more difficult to measure (see Chap. 5). Certainly, it is not the kind of feature that we can readily verify through introspection. Indeed, differentiated-ness is so subtle that we have reason to wonder whether we have any awareness of it at all. Here, then, is an important test for experience: when, if ever, do we have even the faintest inkling of the differentiated-ness of feeling?8 Evidence that we do have some sense of differentiated-ness is indicated by the way in which uniqueness and related descriptors frequently show up in our accounts of highly positive experiences. For example, when Remy, the protagonist of Ratatouille, describes the intense pleasure of tasting strawberry and cheese separately (see Chap. 5), he says that “each flavor is totally unique,” and then describes the pleasure of their combination as “something new” (Bird 2007). Remy is a fictional character, of course, but his descriptions are worth noting insofar as they indicate a common connection in experience between pleasantness, uniqueness, and novelty. What is the reason for this connection? Why should something be pleasant just because it is different or new? Moreover, how do uniqueness and novelty actually show up in experience, if not as some vague sense of the way in which our feelings are differentiated?

 The harmonic theory claims that affect is related to changes of differentiated-ness insofar as the latter causes harmonic intensity to change. The present question is whether we have any direct sense of differentiated-ness. 8

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Differentiated-ness also shows up in descriptions of the particularity or “thisness” of strongly positive experiences. For example, a student once described to me an experience of drinking wine while watching the sunset with a friend somewhere on the coast of Italy—all fine ingredients for a strongly positive experience. But instead of focusing on fineness (the quality of the wine, the beauty of the sunset, etc.), her description emphasized the “thisness” of the elements (this wine, with this friend, at this place, etc.) and their singularly happy combination. Unlike a situation in which a coincidence of unusual events results in a positive experience, in such cases I think we are justified in saying that concreteness—and thus differentiated-ness—plays a prominent role in the experience and is closely associated with its positivity. Continuing along these lines, we might try to pursue the issue as follows. Can we think of any clear exceptions? Can we think of cases in which negative feelings are felt or described as highly differentiated? Can we think of cases in which highly differentiated feelings are not felt or described as positive? Straightforward as these questions may seem, I doubt they will lead to any clear test cases. There are lots of ways to confuse the issue. Vague feelings can be confused with highly-differentiated feelings insofar as both are hard to describe. Also, if all conscious feeling is highly differentiated (Edelman and Tononi 2000), we may not find any clear instances of undifferentiated feeling. It may be that we never have the same exact feeling twice, even when experience is monotonous. But differentiated-­ness is not the same as uniqueness: it is also a matter of strength of contrast, and it should be clear that most conscious feelings are lacking in the kind of strength that makes for a conspicuously unique feeling. The same is true of our experience of people: although we know for a fact that every person is unique, the uniqueness of some people is more readily noticed and appreciated. How would we go about detecting and comparing this stronger kind of differentiated-ness? All of this to say that while a good case can be made for differentiated-­ ness as a feature of experience it is extremely difficult to pinpoint, compare, and report in a way that could help us to test the present theory. It certainly does not have the traction of more commonly reported features


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such as positivity, negativity, intensity, and arousal. If introspection and self-report cannot provide a reliable test, what other options are there? For a naturalistic approach such as this one, differentiated-ness cannot be a “merely subjective” feature of experience. It should correspond to dynamic characteristics of whatever neural activity is correlated with consciousness and should, in principle, be measurable. However, as discussed in Chap. 5, it is not clear how differentiated-ness is related to the dynamic variables that have been the focus of recent empirical research (see Northoff and Lamme 2020). But perhaps there are other, more indirect ways to detect differentiated-­ ness. The following suggestion is based on the chocolate tasting experiment described in Chap. 3 (Small et al. 2001). Recall that in the original experiment subjects are given pieces of chocolate and asked to report on levels of pleasure and motivation after each piece. Predictably, both pleasantness and motivation decline after the first pieces and become negative after the subject reaches satiety. This experiment offers us the opportunity to track the effects of a fairly quick and dramatic change of affective valence (alliesthesia). One possibility is to combine this experiment with standard tests of cognitive scope (e.g., as in Gable and Harmon-Jones 2010b). It would be more telling, however, if we could establish a connection between negative sensory affect and lowered sensory discrimination. This connection might be tested by asking subjects to do an additional taste discrimination task after consuming each piece of chocolate. For instance, they might be asked to discriminate between two small samples of chocolate with different concentrations of cocoa (e.g., 55% vs. 70%). In this case we are interested to test for the possibility that as the pleasantness of a particular quality decreases, so does our ability to discriminate fine differences of this same quality. The same experiment could be run with discrimination tests of a different taste (e.g., lemon), and with discrimination tests of a different sense modality (e.g., hearing). The idea behind this experiment is that discriminatory capacity is closely related to differentiated-ness of feeling, which, according to the harmonic theory, is a key factor in the affective valence of experience. If we could find a consistent relationship between discriminatory capacity and valence, that would constitute an important empirical support for the present theory.

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Different Causes of Affective Change Earlier, in the initial discussion of strong pleasures and pains, it was remarked that a notable feature of our experience of affect is the way in which strong feelings—pungent tastes and smells, loud sounds, and bright colors—can switch from pleasant to unpleasant, or even become painful. Let us examine this phenomenon in more detail. To understand these changes of valence we need to tease apart different causes of affective change. For present purposes it will suffice to make a broad distinction between changes caused by specialized mechanisms of affective regulation and changes caused directly by the strength of feeling. Many changes of the former type are cases of alliesthesia (Cabanac 1971): changes of valence caused by the organism’s regulation of its metabolic state, as when satiety causes chocolate to become less pleasant or even unpleasant (see Chap. 3). A more abrupt change of valence may be caused by a pain response, as when we are warming our toes by the fire and the strong and pleasant feeling of heat suddenly becomes scorching and painful. In addition, however, there are many cases in which strong feelings become negative without the influence of these mechanisms. It is important to keep in mind that for the present theory the reason for the negativity or positivity of a strong feeling is not strength per se but rather the impact of strength on harmonic intensity. Thus, for increased strength to be felt as negative, it must be accompanied by an even greater decrease of diversity such that harmonic intensity falls below the affective baseline. Roughly, there are two main ways in which this can happen. One way is that the stimulus responsible for a strong feeling also triggers a mechanism that causes that feeling to become negative, as when our toes are burned by the fire.9 Alternatively, increased strength of a particular quality can modify other qualities in a way that lowers diversity and thus causes an overall loss of harmonic intensity. For example, too much of a  As I have admitted in other parts of this book, I am not prepared to give an account of how pain mechanisms impact consciousness in a way that usually (but not always) results in a narrow feeling accompanied by a sharp decrease of harmonic intensity. The best that I can offer is the suggestion that pain mechanisms are something like a throttle or choke mechanism on an engine, in that they alter energy flow in a way that “squeezes” consciousness. 9


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certain flavor can cover or clash with other flavors in a way that notably reduces pleasantness. Notice that this latter kind of affective change is a more direct consequence of the strength of feeling, as it is not mediated by any special mechanism. The point of this distinction is to show how similar feelings can be produced in different ways. Many pleasures are “hard-wired”: they are produced by mechanisms that momentarily boost the strength of feeling in response to certain stimuli. Similarly, many strong negative feelings are achieved by the body through mechanisms that impact harmonic intensity in a stereotypically negative way. Through conditioning this negative impact can be elicited in connection with any stimulus, including stimuli that we normally find pleasant. But negativity can also result from the impact of strongly felt qualities on other presently felt qualities. Just as too much salt can ruin a dish, too much yellow can ruin the effect of an entire painting, and too much of a certain instrument can ruin a piece of music. In each of these cases, the affective change is grounded in the contrastive nature of the component qualities of feeling. A particular shade of yellow is not intrinsically ugly—no quality is intrinsically negative—but because of its contrastive nature it may appear ugly in certain contexts because of its impact on harmonic intensity. If, however, a person is conditioned to have an adverse reaction to this same shade of yellow, its unpleasantness has little to do with its contrastive nature. Similarly, even though a painful feeling of extreme heat in our toes is an unconditioned response, we still cannot say that this heat is intrinsically negative—it is only felt as negative as long as our pain system succeeds in making it into a highly disruptive feeling that lowers harmonic intensity. Presumably, for persons with congenital analgesia, feelings of extreme heat are never felt as painful. To sum up, strong feelings that are normally pleasurable can become unpleasant or painful if they are accompanied by a pain response (as when we burn our toes by the fire) or if their contrastive nature has deleterious effect on the overall harmonic intensity of conscious feeling (as when strong flavors ruin a dish). This distinction supports one of the central theses of the present approach, namely that affective change is intrinsic to the contrastive nature of conscious feeling rather than

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something added to feeling by special mechanisms. Pain and pleasure systems take advantage of the intrinsically affective nature of experience to produce their stereotypical effects.

Feelings of Dissonance10 In this section, I use the harmonic theory to explain why dissonance is a common cause of negativity even though feelings of dissonance are not essentially negative. To understand dissonance in terms of the present theory, it is helpful to think of the dynamic correlates of phenomenal contrasts. Recall that strength of contrast corresponds to relative stability, while diversity of contrast corresponds to the number of stably differentiable states. This dynamic perspective can be used to highlight features that are easily overlooked from a purely phenomenological standpoint: the energetic demands of contrast, the tensile relation between strength and diversity, and the difficulty of combining high strength and high diversity. It also facilitates thinking about dissonance in contrastive terms as an inherent feature of experience. In short, contrastive dissonance can be defined as the destabilizing effect of two or more qualities within a single feeling. Why is dissonance felt as negative? By now the reason should be familiar: dissonance is felt as negative when it reduces the overall harmonic intensity of feeling. For the harmonic theory, all negativity boils down to this. However, different ways of bringing about the effect of reduced harmonic intensity may lead to different kinds of negative affective tone. If dissonance can be defined in terms of instability, its “threat” to harmonic intensity is clear: dissonance interferes with the stable differentiation of conscious feeling or of some part thereof.11 Dissonance tends to be more notable, and thus more negative, when it results from the incompatibility of strong feelings. The distinctive tone of feelings marked by dissonance  The positive complement of  dissonant feelings—rich feelings—will be  discussed in  the  next chapter. 11  Strictly speaking, a weak contrast is also a kind of relative instability. But the instability of dissonance is different, as its weakening of overall contrast is a consequence of the unstable interrelation of two or more qualities that cannot be combined in a stable complex contrast. 10


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is the jarring effect caused by the clash of two or more strong but poorly differentiated feelings. Once described as a destabilizing effect that interferes with contrast, dissonance may seem to be necessarily and intrinsically negative. It might even seem to be the main cause of negativity. However, as I will explain below, dissonance can be felt as a distinct quality that actually enhances the positivity of feeling. Thus, even if it is responsible for a common variety of negative feeling, dissonance is not the fundamental cause of negative affect.12 These general points about dissonance are perhaps best illustrated by musical dissonance. When considered in both phenomenological and dynamic terms, musical dissonance exemplifies the destabilizing effect that is common to all forms of dissonance. That is, we tend to hear dissonant pitches as being more unstable than consonant pitches, and this difference of perceived stability seems to be related to (though not strictly determined by) dynamical instabilities caused by interference patterns between different pitches. Although dissonance can be defined objectively, scientists are still trying to figure out the relationship between acoustical properties, psychoacoustics, and the perception of dissonance (see, e.g., Cousineau et  al. 2012). But even if the causal relationship between perceived and objective instabilities of sound could be determined, it is not clear how this would help to resolve a longstanding debate about whether the unpleasantness associated with musical dissonance is intrinsic or learned (see, e.g., McDermott et al. 2016). By trying to provide an account of when and why dissonance is felt as negative (and when it is not) perhaps we can help to resolve this debate while exploring further implications of the harmonic theory. When considered at the most general level, our concept of dissonance has a strongly negative connotation. At this level, it is widely assumed that no one ever seeks to increase dissonance, but rather just the opposite. Indeed, the negative valence of dissonance is a basic premise of cognitive dissonance theory (Harmon-Jones and Mills 2019). In a similar fashion,  In this section I hope to show how the harmonic theory of affect is able to connect with cognitive dissonance theory, a rich and still-growing field of experimental research (Harmon-Jones and Mills 2019). 12

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when we consider musical dissonance all by itself—usually by focusing on a particularly strong example, such as a minor second (e.g., C, C#)— it may seem to manifest this intrinsic negativity. Perhaps this is why dissonance in music is so often described as an unpleasant or ugly sound. When examined more closely, however, the question is not so simple. We find dissonance in music of all styles, traditions, and cultures. Moreover, we find that dissonance is essential to musical expression and cannot be defined categorically as negative. Perhaps we can concede that milder varieties of dissonance are sometimes pleasant while maintaining that the strongest dissonances are always unpleasant. But this qualified position also turns out to be untenable. There is no threshold at which dissonance becomes essentially negative, and even the most dissonant sounds are used to pleasing effect in some kind of music. For example, a tone cluster (three adjacent notes on a piano) is a strong form of dissonance that is widely employed in twentieth century music, including popular forms.13 And yet, the view that dissonance is intrinsically unpleasant, even if mistaken, is so common that it demands an explanation. Can we make sense of this phenomenon from the standpoint of the harmonic theory? I propose to explain the puzzle of dissonance as follows. First, even when dissonance interferes with the perceptual feeling of certain qualities, it also yields a particular quality of its own. This quality may be enjoyed in itself or paired with other qualities to make a pleasing contrast. For instance, to take our previous example, a sustained tone cluster (e.g., C, C#, D) may be enjoyed for the way it strongly evokes a particular mood (e.g., building tension or suspense), or it may be relished simply for its peculiar color or texture. Even if most people do not take much pleasure in these sounds, there are plenty who do, and that is enough to make the point: a dissonance that disrupts qualities for one listener may constitute a pleasing quality for another. Indeed, the same person who dislikes a tone cluster when it is sustained by itself might find it perfectly unobjectionable when played repeatedly over a boogie-woogie baseline.  Dissonance is not the only sound that can seem ugly when heard by itself but is widely enjoyed in various musical contexts: consider how noise and distortion have become part of the vocabulary of contemporary pop music. 13


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Second, as suggested by the previous paragraph, for a dissonance to be felt as pleasant (or at least as not unpleasant), it has to be heard as fitting. That is, it has to be heard as a particular quality that belongs with, rather than detracts from, the other qualities of the musical performance. In turn, the perception of fittingness depends to a large degree on the listener’s understanding of what belongs to a particular musical tradition or style. Now, in light of this last qualification, it may seem that the pleasantness of dissonance has been reduced to a matter of taste. But notice that it has been phrased in such a way that a truism of art—what pleases most is whatever seems most “fitting”—has been given a more precise meaning by the harmonic theory of affect. The pleasantness of a fitting quality and the unpleasantness of an unfitting quality have to do with their contribution to the overall harmonic intensity of experience. There are two basic features of our experience of musical dissonance that need to be accounted for. On the one hand, the fittingness of dissonance in a particular musical context is perceived as a feature of the music, not interpreted after the fact. On the other hand, this fittingness is determined by the listener insofar as it is a function of the way in which she hears music as music (as opposed to a collection of noises and vocalizations). I suggest that the determination of the fittingness of dissonance by a way of hearing music as such is a special version of the intentional parameters that guide all perceptual experience, as discussed in Chap. 6. Recall that in that discussion perceptual experience was described as essentially affective, guided by various micro-affective changes toward an optimal grasp of the perceptual object, where “optimal” is defined by the intentional parameters of perception. Our perception of music—especially our perception of dissonance in music—is an exceptionally vivid manifestation of the fundamental relationship between intentionality and affect in all perceptual experience. When we listen to music, we usually listen to it as an instance of a particular musical tradition and style. We do not listen to classical music and bluegrass the same way; within classical music, we do not listen to Bach and Bartok the same way. Just as there are certain kinds of sounds that we expect to hear in a musical context (fiddles and banjos, not lawnmowers), there are certain qualities of sound—certain consonances and dissonances—that we expect to hear within a piece of music, and these

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expectations play a key role in determining whether a particular dissonance is heard as disruptive and ugly or as fitting and pleasant. Moreover, according to the particular tradition and style, we have even more detailed expectations about how dissonances are used—expectations about intonation, timber and tone quality, harmonic progressions, etc.—which can be fulfilled or disappointed. Sometimes composers and artists play with our expectations to great effect; the result is a pleasing contrast whose strength comes in part from the way the music defies our expectations. Still, for the surprise to work we have to perceive it as such—we have to “get it”—or else the result is disruptive and unpleasant. For example, in the last movement of his Fifth String Quartet, Bartok plays a joke on the audience that tweaks expectations about dissonance in modern western art music. Composed in 1934, the quartet is full of the kinds of dissonances that are characteristic of atonal classical music of its period. However, near the end of the last movement (at measure 700), after a frenetic section that builds up to a series of loud dissonant chords, the music suddenly shifts tone: out of the blue appears a simple folk melody, which, according to the score, should be played with “indifference.” The comedic effect of this passage, referred to as the “barrel organ” or “hurdy-gurdy” episode, comes from the extreme contrast that it makes within the context of the piece. Not only do we hear “vulgar” tonality and consonance in the midst of a “high-brow,” modernist medium, but the mood and even the musical idiom has changed—we switch abruptly from serious and strenuous artistic expression to naïve and “indifferent” popular entertainment, as if someone had changed the dial on a radio. Furthermore, in the second half of the episode (measure 710), Bartok introduces dissonances that within the context of the hurdy-gurdy episode make it sound as if the melody is being played out of tune. The comedic effect of this dissonance depends on our understanding of how popular music is supposed to sound, just as the comedic effect of the entire “hurdy-gurdy” episode depends on our understanding of modernist art music and its dogmatic opposition to traditional kinds of tonality and consonance. To get this joke—which, as far as musical jokes go, is fairly broad—requires a complex set of expectations about when and how dissonance belongs in western music.


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This may seem like a lot of effort expended on a very special case of affective experience. But as I have just pointed out, our perception of dissonance as pleasing or unpleasing is a prominent example of the affective nature of all perceptual experience. Moreover, sorting through the puzzle of musical dissonance can be highly instructive in other ways. For those who define it as intrinsically ugly or unpleasant, dissonance appears to present an instance of an intrinsically negative quality. Instead, the harmonic theory claims that the opposite is true: the negativity of an unfitting dissonance is not due to the presence of a certain quality that is intrinsically negative (there is no such thing) but rather to the absence, or rather the deficiency, of certain qualities which are disrupted by dissonance. Furthermore, even qualitative deficiency itself is not necessarily negative: it is only felt as negative when its components are anticipated as important ingredients in present experience (e.g., the enjoyment of a certain piece of music). Depending on the context, hearing someone play badly out of tune can make you cringe or laugh. At the same time, the harmonic theory is able to register the grain of truth in the common view of dissonance as intrinsically negative. Insofar as dissonance is a disruptive and destabilizing effect, it always results in some qualitative deficiency, and can thus it can always be perceived as negative within some context in which this deficiency is disruptive to experience.

Wide Feelings To begin our exploration of this area of the affective continuum, our first task is to define the concept of width more precisely. Width, in the sense pertinent to present discussion, is not as easily grasped as narrowness. Also, in this and previous chapters, width and other related terms such as breadth and scope have been used repeatedly and in close connection. But these terms can have distinct meanings that should not be conflated. The concept of width comes from Whitehead: it refers to diversity of contrast (explicit or implicit), and is the complement (not opposite) to narrowness, strength of contrast. Breadth, on the other hand, is sometimes used by psychologists to describe attentional or “cognitive scope” (Gable and Harmon-Jones 2010a), and is defined most precisely as global/local bias measured by response times to certain perceptual discrimination tasks.

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Because this sense of breadth is also contrasted with narrowness of scope, it is easy to confuse width with breadth. How do changes of attentional or cognitive scope relate to strength and diversity of contrast? Let us consider an example. When looking at a cityscape at sunset, a broad view that takes in the entire skyline presents a strong but relatively simple contrast, while a narrow focus on details of the buildings seems to offer more diversity and less strength. Accordingly, it would seem that in this case strength pairs with breadth of scope while diversity pairs with narrowness of scope. This pairing is overly simplistic, however. It treats scope as if it were literally an aperture that narrows the field of vision, blocking some things from view. But narrowness of scope does not just circumscribe an area of detail, it picks out certain details so that they become more salient. It selects certain objects or features for attention so that they guide our engagement with a scene or situation (cf. Wu 2014). Thus, narrowness of scope seems to involve added strength of contrast between feature and ground, or between objects of interest and their context and surrounding. With this feature of selectively added strength of contrast in mind, we see that the more circumscribed focus of narrow scope is best understood as a consequence of selectively attending to certain features, as it is impossible to increase the salience of certain details in a broad view of a scene. For example, while viewing a crowd as a whole, we cannot make all those who are wearing hats stand out; to make hats more salient we have to scan the crowd, section by section, with this feature in mind. Accordingly, in the field of vision, differences of scope have more to do with how we pay attention to what we are seeing, and less to do with whether we look at the whole or successive parts (although these are related). Passing our eyes over different parts of a vast cityscape does not constitute narrowness of scope unless we are looking for a certain “local” feature or object. Also, I would also say that the “global bias” associated with breadth of scope should not be understood as a different kind of selectively increased salience so much as a more open-ended, bottom-up form of attending that allows for salient features to emerge.14  It does not seem that we can make attentional scope neatly correspond to common dichotomies of attention such as top-down/bottom-up, endogenous/exogenous, goal-driven/stimulus-driven, etc. (see Wu 2014 for an overview). Although there does seem to be a rough fit between these dichotomies and narrowness/breadth, there are plenty of exceptions that resist any simple partitioning of attention. 14


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Now, with these distinctions in mind, we can turn our attention more specifically to wide affective feelings. Not all feelings with high diversity of contrast actually feel wide—that is, expansive or richly textured. Pronounced width requires a combination of diversity and strength. When width is high and strength is deficient, the qualities of experience become dull, even trivial, and the flow of consciousness loses vitality. On the negative side, then, the main varieties of wide affective feelings include depression, lethargy, apathy, and sadness (insofar as sadness includes stronger feelings of grief it does not belong to this part of the affective continuum). On the positive side, wide feelings include relaxation, “musement” (free association of ideas), playfulness, and sleepiness. Notice that, differently from narrow or strong side of the affective continuum, the area of wide affective feeling seems to be predominated by moods and emotions rather than perceptual feelings. We do have wide perceptual feelings, however, and it will help to refine our understanding of this area of the continuum if we briefly consider some examples. Perceptual feelings characterized by high explicit width are feelings dominated by richly patterned contrasts, such as can be found in the spectacle of a large and elaborately choreographed dance. Pattern is essential to width because without some ordering of similarities and differences feelings of high diversity tend to transmute into more homogenous textures in which diversity is subdued or even subsumed by a single quality. A view of a large crowd or the sound of a forest carries with it vague sense of the teeming activity of many diverse individuals, but we cannot pick out these individuals without narrowing scope and losing this vague sense of width. The sound of white noise has a particular quality that subsumes a totally un-patterned diversity of frequencies. Thus, once again, we find that to feel width as such it is necessary to incorporate strength. Another important kind of wide feeling is the feeling of release that follows tension or the relief that follows pain. Here the pertinent width is implicit, and tends also to be more powerfully affective. Feelings of release and relief are constituted by non-perceptual feelings of the widening of the contrastive repertoire of consciousness following its constriction. This widening usually imparts to perceptual feeling a distinctly positive affective tone. The relief provided by cold water on a burned finger imparts a

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pleasantly soothing feeling, while in music the release of tension provided by the resolution of dissonance imparts a pleasant feeling of coming to rest. Note that in both cases the feeling of width is comparative and depends on the narrowing effect of what came before. Without this context, neither the cold water nor the resolving cadence will be felt as widening and neither will have the same affective tone. Closely related to the feeling of widening that constitutes relief is the positive “Aha!” feeling that accompanies our discovery of a solution to a problem, an intellectual breakthrough, or the passage from perplexity to understanding. In such cases, affective change comes from the discovery of a good fit that expands our grasp of the object of thought. This phenomenon is closely related to the transition from dissonance to consonance, and can be explained in roughly the same way. The change to a better fit may be explicit, as we suddenly “see” how things fit together. But the feeling of width may also come from an implicit feeling of the increased meaningfulness of what now fits together. The passage used by philosopher Bruce Mangan (2008) to demonstrate the “fringe” of meaning (see Chap. 6) can also be used to elicit the kind of positive wide feeling associated with “Aha!” moments. On the negative side, although the wideness of perceptual feeling is rarely if ever detectable as such, it may show up indirectly as a deficiency of strength. Sadness and languor are often marked by diminished acuity of perceptual feeling, just as certain strongly positive states—such as epileptic ecstasy—are marked by enhanced acuity (Picard and Kurth 2014). When persons suffering from chronic depression complain that life has lost its savor they seem to be indicating a kind of persistent dullness of experience that is at once sensory and hedonic. The harmonic theory helps to make sense of this connection. Earlier, in the discussion of the affective baseline, we considered how the incapacitation of experience on the narrow side serves us well (on average) as a response to imminent danger. What advantages can be found for incapacitation on the wide side that might account for existence of specialized regulatory mechanisms that are able to push consciousness into this area of the affective continuum? The psychologists Philip Gable and Eddie Harmon-Jones suggest that the dull but broad character of negative emotions like sadness may “assist


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with disengagement from terminally blocked goals and cause the organism to become open to new and previously irrelevant possibilities” (2010b, p. 214). The basic idea seems to be that often the best response to trauma is to withdraw from activity and disengage from one’s surroundings. After the strong negative feelings and emotions—fear, anger, grief—have taken their course, the organism may benefit from an overall diminishment of its capacity to experience, a period of relative quiescence and numbness that allows it to become “unstuck,” affectively and motivationally, from whatever situation has caused it pain. A more selective kind of experiential disengagement would be more effective, of course, but where this is not possible, a global “muting” or “turning down” of experience may be the best strategy. Because of its pronounced negativity, we often think of sadness as a kind of pain. But it could be that sadness is more accurately described as way of obtaining a partial release from more acute feelings of psychological pain. In their “motivational dimensional” approach to affect, Gable and Harmon-Jones focus less on the dullness of sadness, or its lack of perceptual acuity, and more on its “low motivational intensity.” Indeed, for their model, the distinguishing trait of all broad feelings, positive and negative, is low motivational intensity (recall that this is their main point of difference with theories that tie broadness to positivity and narrowness to negativity; see Chap. 4). Keeping in mind the subtle but important difference between broadness and width, it seems we can apply this characterization to wide affective feelings as well. Although some of the examples of wide feelings described above are strongly motivated—relief from pain is a highly desirable feeling—once obtained they are not strongly motivating. This brings us back to an important question that was raised earlier in Part I: What is motivation, and how does it belong to the affective continuum?

Feelings of Motivation As discussed in Chap. 4, a motivational feeling is not just a positive or negative feeling; not all positive and negative feelings are motivating. Thus, although a theory of affective valence is needed to explain

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motivation, it does not seem to be sufficient. In this section the aim is not to give a complete account of motivation, but rather to show how it fits within the present view of the affective continuum. How can the harmonic theory be used to distinguish motivation from other positive and negative feelings? According to the research of Gable and Harmon-Jones (2010a), intensity of motivation, whether positive or negative, correlates with a narrowing of cognitive scope, which suggests that feelings of motivation belong to same “narrow” region of the affective continuum occupied by strong pleasures and pains. This way of locating motivation within the affective continuum makes intuitive sense, as many if not most pleasures and pains are strongly motivating feelings. However, we should not conflate motivation with pleasure: there is a subtle but discernible difference between liking a chocolate and wanting to have another (see Small et al. 2001). Indeed, philosophers have long recognized a distinction between pleasure and desire (Dunker 1941), and this distinction has gained additional support from scientists in recent decades (Kringelbach and Berridge 2012). To distinguish motivational feelings within the narrow region, I suggest that we follow our commonsense notion of motivation as a feeling in which an inclination to act figures prominently. This notion suggests that motivation pertains to the prospective or anticipatory aspect of conscious feeling, or what phenomenologists call “protention.”15 Accordingly, I propose that that the sphere of motivational feeling can be roughly demarcated by defining motivation as feeling dominated by a strong anticipatory contrast. Perhaps the most common variety of anticipatory contrast in perceptual experience are those that go by the name of “affordances” in ecological psychology (Gibson 1979/1986). Generally speaking, an affordance is a relational feature of experience that specifies a possible action for an individual organism within its present environment. For example, a rock may be perceived as affording climbing, sitting, or hiding under,  Notice that this distinction indicates an important limitation of the affect space: strong motivational feelings overlap with other strong feelings within the region of “narrow” feelings and cannot be discriminated solely on the basis of strength and diversity of contrast. 15


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depending on the organism. In terms of the present theory, affordances are perceived meanings of the complex contrasts that make up the content of perceptual experience (see Chap. 6). Notice that by thinking of affordances as anticipatory contrasts we are able to register the “invitation character” that was part of the original meaning of the concept of affordance (ibid., p. 127). Affordances do not simply present possible actions: they invite the realization of these actions, albeit to varying degrees (Bower and Gallagher 2013). In harmonic terms, we can think of affordances as anticipatory contrasts that invite their own further determination through the initiation of some action. Given the affective dimension of all contrastive determination, this way of looking at affordances makes all action possibilities inherently motivating: the “invitation” in question is the affective reward promised by the determination of contrast entailed by every action as an experiential episode. That is to say, in the most general and basic case, the affective reward that motivates action is the act itself, not something obtained thereby.16 Now, insofar as all contrasts invite determination, motivation is a matter of degree that applies to all anticipatory feeling. The greater the affective reward promised by anticipatory feeling, the greater the motivation. Furthermore, insofar as all conscious feeling has an anticipatory dimension, we can also confirm that motivation pertains to all conscious feeling. This general sense of motivation should be kept in mind, as it guards against the notion that motivation is a special quality or force that is added to some feelings. But it does not prevent us from demarcating a sphere of motivational feeling that includes prominent feelings of desire and attraction and their opposite (aversion and repulsion). Many kinds of anticipatory contrasts have additional motivational significance insofar as they specify, together with an action possibility, a potential change of affective valence. For example, if we submerge our hand in ice water and hold it there, as the pain builds up we are presented with an increasingly strong contrast between current pain and the almost immediately attainable relief that would come from pulling our hand out  Another way to put this point is to say that all action is to some degree intrinsically motivated. In the next chapter we will discuss the especially powerful kind of intrinsic motivation that belongs to paradigmatic activities of enjoyment such as music, sport, and festivity. 16

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of the water. The sight and smell of a freshly baked chocolate-chip cookie presents to us the tantalizing affordance of eating accompanied by a surge of sensory pleasure. In more complex scenarios, anticipatory contrasts present our surroundings as having certain affective contours or gradients that influence our choice of behaviors. A child entering a playground runs toward the slide or swing that promises the most enjoyment; an adult entering a party veers away from the side of the room where the conversation is dragging. In these cases, notice that the motivational character of feeling includes immediately determinable contrasts presented by the anticipatory aspect of all feelings as well as a variety of contrasts that signify potential changes of affect. Thus, strong anticipatory contrasts contribute to motivation in two senses that are easily conflated: affective meaning and affective impact. A motivational contrast has a positive meaning when it signifies a positive affective change (positive anticipative feelings of eating a cookie); it has a negative meaning when it signifies a negative affective change (negative anticipative feeling of being pricked by a needle). At the same time, as strong feelings in their own right, motivational contrasts can dominate consciousness in ways that impact the overall harmonic intensity of present feeling. In some cases, motivational feelings have immediate affective impact simply by virtue of being strong contrasts—in this respect they are no different from strong pleasures and pains. In many cases this affective impact is amplified by a learned response to perceived meaning, as when we cringe at the sight of a syringe. Thinking of motivational feelings as strong anticipatory contrasts with their own immediate affective impact helps to explain the sudden change of valence that accompanies the frustration of desire. It seems that positive motivational feelings can quickly turn negative when experience is intentionally oriented in such a way that maintenance of harmonic intensity demands the realization of a particular, unattainable contrast. Although the pain of a frustrated desire may be quickly magnified by an emotional response, I suggest that the first pang of frustration is not emotional. It is closer to the feeling of disappointment that occurs when a badly played note suddenly intrudes on our enjoyment of a piece of music. In such cases, feeling is momentarily impoverished by the absence of an anticipated contrast. Desire is painful when the strength of


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motivational feeling becomes incapacitating, as consciousness is “trapped” by a strong anticipatory contrast that it cannot realize. Unlike the fleeting disappointment of a badly played note, however, these more sustained and powerful kinds of motivational experiences—as well as their positive counterparts—likely depend on specialized mechanisms of motivation. This brief exploration of motivational feeling began at the most general level that pertains to the anticipatory dimension of all conscious feeling and the “invitation character” of all action, then demarcated a sphere of pronounced motivational feelings distinguished by strong anticipatory contrasts and affective meaning. At the most general level, motivation is an intrinsic feature of conscious experience; more pronounced kinds of motivational feeling seem to depend in part on boosts of strength provided by specially dedicated mechanisms. As with other kinds of affective regulation, my intention is to provide a theory of affect that is able to respond to scientific knowledge of these mechanisms. Affective science has developed increasingly differentiated view of affective regulation in recent decades (see Chap. 4), and this trend demands a correspondingly differentiated phenomenological understanding of the experience of affect. One of the main goals of this chapter has been to show how the harmonic theory can respond to this demand by helping to distinguish between basic types of feeling within the affective continuum.

The Boundaries of Affect One last feature of the affective continuum warrants our attention. In the affect space that models the affective continuum (see Fig. 8.2 above), we see that the consciousness threshold established by a minimum level of harmonic intensity constitutes a lower boundary for the affective continuum. This arrangement suggests that states of unconsciousness can be reached through various trajectories that pass through different kinds of affective states. What are the implications of this feature, and do these implications fit with experience? I am wary of pressing these questions too far, because at this stage of my thinking it is not clear to what extent they might be overdetermined by my way of representing the space of affect. Here I will draw out three

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main implications, corresponding to a rough distinction between three sections of the consciousness threshold, each suggesting a distinct “passage” to unconsciousness. On the narrow side, the trajectory to unconsciousness passes through extreme pain. This seems to fit with experience, at least in a superficial way, insofar as passing out from extreme pain is a well-known phenomenon. However, notice that the reason for losing consciousness from extreme pain is different. From the perspective of the harmonic theory, the proximate cause of any loss of consciousness is lack of sufficient harmonic intensity, whereas from the perspective of medical science fainting is due to a sudden reduction of blood flow to the brain. These may be compatible. Because I do not yet have a theory of how pain mechanisms of the body impact the harmonic intensity of consciousness, I cannot specify how these mechanisms might overshoot and cause such extreme narrowness that we black out from pain. On the wide side, we know from daily experience that it is possible to reach unconsciousness via a positive pathway, namely the pleasant feeling of drowsiness that often precedes sleep. This regular occurrence indicates that the affective baseline has a slight asymmetry: on the wide side it makes contact with the consciousness threshold so as to leave an area of wide positive feeling that provides nice and easy passage to unconsciousness—the sweet embrace of sleep. What about the lower boundary in the central region of affective space, where narrowness and width are at low to moderate levels? What sort of passage to unconsciousness exists among feelings that have some strength and diversity of contrast but are deficient in overall harmonic intensity? Given that the negative space of this region is likely where we find the strongest feelings of dissonance, perhaps this is where we might encounter the splitting of consciousness and other fragmentary losses. The reasoning behind this speculation is that in this area there is a greater likelihood of maximizing harmonic intensity by breaking consciousness apart into smaller systems that may or may not be conscious. Finally: Does affect have an upper limit? The answer to this question may depend on whether and how the harmonic theory can be specified in terms of energy use and other conditions of consciousness (see following chapter). In principle, as I have defined it here, harmonic intensity


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has no inherent upper limit. On the other hand, in everyday experience, we do not seem to find any great disparity between normal everyday pleasure and peak experiences, which suggests that positive increases are asymptotic, approaching a limit. But perhaps anomalous experiences marked by supreme bliss—epileptic ecstasy (Martial et al. 2020; Picard and Kurth 2014), drug-induced euphoria, mystical experiences—can be taken as evidence for the possibility of attaining much higher levels of positivity than those found in everyday experience.

References Barrett, Lisa Feldman, and Eliza Bliss-Moreau. 2009. Affect as a Psychological Primitive. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology 41: 167–218. Berridge, Kent C. 2004. Motivation Concepts in Behavioral Neuroscience. Physiology & Behavior 81 (2): 179–209. Bird, Brad, dir. 2007. Ratatouille. Emeryville, CA: Pixar Studios. Bolles, Robert W. 1980. Some Functionalistic Thoughts about Regulation. In Analysis of Motivational Processes, ed. T.W. Toates and T.W. Halliday, 63–75. New York: Academic. Bower, Matthew, and Shaun Gallagher. 2013. Bodily Affects as Prenoetic Elements in Enactive Perception. Phenomenology and Mind 4: 78–93. Cabanac, Michel. 1971. Physiological Role of Pleasure. Science 173 (4002): 1103–1107. Cousineau, Marion, Josh H. McDermott, and Isabelle Peretz. 2012. The Basis of Musical Consonance as Revealed by Congenital Amusia. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 109 (48): 19858–19863. Dunker, Karl. 1941. On Pleasure, Emotion, and Striving. Philosophical and Phenomenological Research 1: 391–430. Edelman, Gerald M., and Giulio Tononi. 2000. A Universe of Consciousness: How Matter Becomes Imagination. New York: Basic Books. Fredrickson, Barbara L., and Thomas Joiner. 2002. Positive emotions trigger upwards spirals toward emotional well-being. Psychological Science 13 (2): 172–175. Gable, Philip A., and Eddie Harmon-Jones. 2010a. The Motivational Dimensional Model of Affect: Implications for Breadth of Attention, Memory, and Cognitive Categorization. Cognition and Emotion 24 (2): 322–337.

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Gable, Philip, and Eddie Harmon-Jones. 2010b. The Blues Broaden, But the Nasty Narrows: Attentional Consequences of Negative Affects Low and High in Motivational Intensity. Psychological Science 21 (2): 211–215. Gibson, James J. 1979/1986. The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception. Hills-­ dale, NJ: Lawrence. Grahek, Nikola. 2007. Feeling Pain and Being in Pain. 2nd ed. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Harmon-Jones, Eddie, and Judson Mills. 2019. An Introduction to Cognitive Dissonance Theory and an Overview of Current Perspectives on the Theory. In Cognitive Dissonance: Reexamining a Pivotal Theory in Psychology, ed. E. Harmon-Jones, 3–24. American Psychological Association. Kringelbach, Morten L., and Kent C. Berridge. 2012. The Joyful Mind. Scientific American 307 (2): 40–45. Leknes, Siri, Chantal Berna, Michael C. Lee, Gregory D. Snyder, Guido Biele, and Irene Tracey. 2013. The Importance of Context: When Relative Relief Renders Pain Pleasant. Pain 154 (3): 402–410. Mangan, Bruce. 2008. Representation, rightness and the fringe. Journal of Consciousness Studies 15 (9): 75–82. Martial, Charlotte, Héléna Cassol, Steven Laureys, and Olivia Gosseries. 2020. Near-Death Experience as a Probe to Explore (Disconnected) Consciousness. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 24 (3): 173–183. McDermott, Josh H., Alan F.  Schultz, Eduardo A.  Undurraga, and Ricardo A. Godoy. 2016. Indifference to Dissonance in Native Amazonians Reveals Cultural Variation in Music Perception. Nature 535 (7613): 547–550. Northoff, Georg, and Victor Lamme. 2020. Neural Signs and Mechanisms of Consciousness: Is There a Potential Convergence of Theories of Consciousness in Sight? Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews 118: 568–587. Papini, Mauricio R. 2014. Diversity of Adjustments to Reward Downshifts in Vertebrates. International Journal of Comparative Psychology 27 (3): 420–445. Picard, Fabienne, and Florian Kurth. 2014. Ictal Alterations of Consciousness During Ecstatic Seizures. Epilepsy & Behavior 30: 58–61. Russell, James A. 1979. Affective Space Is Bipolar. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 37 (3): 345–356. ———. 1980. A Circumplex Model of Affect. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 39 (6): 1161–1178. Small, Dana M., Robert J. Zatorre, Alain Dagher, Alan C. Evans, and Marilyn Jones-Gotman. 2001. Changes in Brain Activity Related to Eating Chocolate: From Pleasure to Aversion. Brain 124 (9): 1720–1733.


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Speakman, John R., David A. Levitsky, David B. Allison, Molly S. Bray, John M. De Castro, Deborah J. Clegg, John C. Clapham, et al. 2011. Set Points, Settling Points and Some Alternative Models: Theoretical Options to Understand How Genes and Environments Combine to Regulate Body Adiposity. Disease Models & Mechanisms 4 (6): 733–745. Tagliazucchi, Enzo, Robin Carhart-Harris, Robert Leech, David Nutt, and Dante R.  Chialvo. 2014. Enhanced Repertoire of Brain Dynamical States during the Psychedelic Experience. Human Brain Mapping 35 (11): 5442–5456. Tononi, Giulio. 2008. Consciousness as Integrated Information: A Provisional Manifesto. The Biological Bulletin 215 (3): 216–242. Torta, D.M., Valéry Legrain, André Mouraux, and Elia Valentini. 2017. Attention to Pain! A Neurocognitive Perspective on Attentional Modulation of Pain in Neuroimaging Studies. Cortex 89: 120–134. Wirtshafter, David, and John D. Davis. 1977. Set Points, Settling Points, and the Control of Body Weight. Physiology & Behavior 19 (1): 75–78. Wu, Wayne. 2014. Attention. New York: Routledge.

9 Enjoyment

In the previous chapter, we explored the affective continuum of conscious experience as represented by a simple space with two axes, strength and diversity of contrast. At best, this model offers a crude many-to-one mapping of affect, such that every conscious feeling should have a location somewhere in this space. But affect is more than the harmonic intensity of a single, momentary feeling. Especially as experience develops over time, affect is intimately related to other basic traits of consciousness— flow, meaning, and self. Because of this relation, many aspects and varieties of affective experience belong not to momentary feelings taken separately but to extended episodes of experience lasting from seconds to hours. Consider, for instance, our enjoyment of a two-minute pop song. Just like our perception of the song’s meaning, our enjoyment develops over the course of the entire song; it cannot be broken down into a chain of momentary pleasures. The continuous and organic character of our enjoyment of music is representative of a broad category of positive experience that is the focus of this chapter. Hereafter the term enjoyment will be used exclusively to refer to this category, while the term pleasure will be used to delineate a different but equally broad category of positive experience. Both © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 N. F. Barrett, Enjoyment as Enriched Experience, Palgrave Perspectives on Process Philosophy, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-13790-7_9



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enjoyment and pleasure are “natural kinds” of positive experience rooted in the intrinsically affective nature of consciousness, but enjoyment has a certain pride of place insofar as it more fully manifests the enrichment that constitutes all good feeling. Enjoyment is, in other words, the full flowering of experience. By now it should be clear that I view the enrichment of experience as a multidimensional phenomenon that manifests itself in different ways depending on the basic traits and the more specific feelings that take a leading role in experience. In Chap. 7, drawing from Sondra Horton Fraleigh’s phenomenology of dance, I discussed enriched self-awareness as one of the basic features of enjoyment. Here, in the first part of this chapter, I focus on enriched flow as the feature that best distinguishes enjoyment from pleasure. The idea that there are different kinds or levels of positive experience— for instance, higher and lower forms of pleasure—has many precedents in the history of philosophy (Gosling and Taylor 1982; Shapiro 2018). But it can also be found in contemporary psychology, for instance, in Barbara Fredrickson’s distinction between the kind of positive experience targeted by her “broaden-and-build” theory and everyday varieties of bodily pleasure (2009, p. 38). Here it will suffice to mention just two of most important influences on my concept of enjoyment. As discussed in the introduction, the most important philosophical precedent for the idea of enjoyment as enriched experience is John Dewey’s philosophy of experience, especially as presented his Art as Experience (1934/1980). In that work, Dewey’s main thesis is that experiences marked by aesthetic quality manifest essential traits of experience in intensified form (p. 46, passim). This chapter’s discussion of enjoyment aims to mark out a broader category of positive experience that includes Dewey’s notion of aesthetic experience along with other kinds of enriched experience. Toward that end, I will examine Dewey’s picture of the dynamic, cumulative, and rhythmic character of aesthetic enjoyment, highlighting key similarities and differences with the present harmonic approach. The idea of enjoyment as enriched flow also points to another key precedent, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s theory of optimal experience, more commonly known as “flow” (1990). To distinguish this kind of positive experience from the basic trait of consciousness discussed earlier, in this

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chapter I will capitalize the former: Flow refers to the kind of positive experience targeted by Csikszentmihalyi’s theory, while flow refers to the basic feature of consciousness that corresponds to awareness of change within the “specious present.” The overlap is intentional: roughly speaking, I understand Flow as enriched flow, and I suspect that Csikszentmihalyi would have agreed. His theory of optimal experience bears many of the distinctive marks of an enrichment approach, although to my knowledge he did not explicitly draw out the connection between traits of Flow and basic features of consciousness. One of the aims of this chapter is to make the enriched character of Flow more explicit. Flow may be a more restrictive category than enjoyment as defined here, but it is hard to tell because the terms of description and analysis are so different. Here is a brief summary of the main traits of Flow (from Nakamura and Csikszentmihalyi 2005, p. 89): 1 . Intense and focused concentration on the task at hand 2. Merging of action and awareness 3. Loss of reflective self-consciousness 4. Effortless control/absence of anxiety 5. Distorted sense of time 6. Intrinsic motivation (“autotelic”) Flow is also defined by its conditions, which can be summarized as follows (ibid.): 1 . A good match between skills and opportunities for action 2. Clear proximal goals and continuous feedback Interestingly, although a number of key insights into the nature of enjoyment can be found in Csikszentmihaly’s work, the positivity of Flow experience is not explained by any of its traits or conditions.1 Even  In Csikszentmihalyi’s original studies of optimal experience, these traits and conditions were distilled from self-reports of amateur athletes, chess masters, rock climbers, high school basketball players, composers, and other avid participants in strenuous activities that are largely without extrinsic rewards. The term Flow emerged as a metonymic designator of this category of positive experience because of the frequency with which it appeared in these self-reports. 1


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the flowing character from which the term Flow derives is more suggestive than explanatory. Why should an experience be more intrinsically rewarding by virtue of the fact that it flows? Another task of this chapter is to answer this question by providing a fuller account of what it means to have a flowing experience in terms of the harmonic theory developed in previous chapters. This account will also serve to distinguish enjoyment as a broad category of positive experience characterized by enriched flow.

Pleasure and Enjoyment Although the categories of pleasure and enjoyment are not primarily defined by the objects of experience, to orient the following discussion we begin with typical examples of each. Pleasure is typified by sensory delights like the sweet taste of strawberry while enjoyment is typified by more lively and extended activities such as music, dance, sport, and festivity. According to this initial rough distinction, then, Steven Pinker’s famous quip that music is “auditory cheesecake” (1997, p. 528) conflates two different kinds of positive experience, as if music and cheesecake were simply two different ways of pushing our “pleasure buttons.” Contra Pinker, I want to show that music and cheesecake are sources of different kinds of positive experience based in different kinds of causal enrichment. The difference between the pleasure of cheesecake and the enjoyment of music may seem obvious at first blush. But our task is not simply to distinguish these two experiences, but to divide up the vast realm of positive experience into two categories—two “natural kinds”—for which these experiences are representative examples. In light of the enormous heterogeneity of pleasure and enjoyment and the problem that this heterogeneity has posed for philosophers (see Chap. 3), it is not at all clear how this should be done. The trick is to prescind from the particular qualities involved—such as the sweet and creamy taste of cheesecake—and consider the overall dynamic character of experience. From this perspective, it seems that pleasure and enjoyment can be distinguished by the duration and richness of experience. Many sensory pleasures last only a few seconds, while

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episodes of enjoyment develop on timescales ranging from minutes to hours. Also, pleasure tends to be focused on the nature of individual qualities taken by themselves, while enjoyment tends to be focused on (or supported by) the rich compositional character of multiple qualities. Compare the enjoyment of a piece of music with the pleasure of eating a ripe strawberry—is not the former noticeably longer and richer than the latter? If we try to make duration and richness into definitive traits of pleasure and enjoyment, however, we soon run into difficulty. Remember that our task is to define pleasure and enjoyment as distinct “natural kinds” of positive experience. Such definitions should not be based on arbitrary distinctions, and they should not exclude outliers. How can we define enjoyment in terms of duration in a way that is not arbitrary? We can eat a bowl of strawberries in the same amount of time that it takes to enjoy a piece of music. And if our enjoyment of music is interrupted, does that change it to pleasure? As for defining enjoyment in terms of richness, even if it works as a rule of thumb, it clearly has many exceptions that should not be ruled out. For example, consider the enjoyment some find in the primitivist paintings of Mark Rothko or in the austere tranquility of a Japanese rock garden. If richness were the definitive feature of enjoyment, then these examples would have to be less enjoyable than, say, the more vibrant paintings of Van Gogh or the more abundant style of English gardens. Yet many would say that they enjoy the former more. Even so, I suggest that differences of duration and richness are important clues that point to the nature of enjoyment. Specifically, they point to more fundamental differences in the way in which enjoyment endures. Some extended experiences are evidently more coherent than others. For an engaged listener, the enjoyment of an hour-long symphony has the unity of a single experience. In contrast, a massage that lasts the same amount of time, though pleasurable throughout, is perhaps better described a long succession of pleasures rather than a single experience. But on what basis can we make this distinction? Following Dewey’s account of aesthetic enjoyment (1934/1980), we could argue that insofar as each successive pleasurable feeling of a massage is not altered in any significant way by its relation to others, there is no unified experience. As long as it is pleasant, a massage is not


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monotonous in the pejorative sense. But it is, or at least can be, a repetitive pleasure whose component feelings are effectively unrelated and interchangeable: they could be reordered or extracted from their context without significant alteration. The same goes for the sustained pleasure of eating a bowl of strawberries. It seems, then, that what distinguishes pleasure from enjoyment is the way in which the latter endures through constant change. Like the sustained pleasure of a good massage, the positivity of enjoyment is continuously replenished, but not by mere repetition. Thus, even when it is interrupted, enjoyment can be distinguished from pleasure by its potential to evolve, grow, or otherwise persist through constant change.2 Let us briefly check this initial distinction against experience. It is evident that many prototypical enjoyments, especially music, festivity, and sport, never remain exactly the same. Moreover, we can confirm that this constant change is essential. Monotony and sheer repetition are usually detrimental to these kinds of enjoyment. Meanwhile, at the other extreme, we find that the duration of many feelings of sensory pleasure is constrained by their limited capacity to persist through change. A feeling that exemplifies this limitation of pleasure, at least in my experience, is the sweet taste of candy. Admittedly, to a certain degree, the distinction that I have just drawn is determined by perceptual skill and the physiology of perception. For instance, sensory pleasure may be limited in part by the desensitization of receptors, synaptic fatigue, and the loss of appetite that accompanies satiety. In a moment I will explore how certain kinds of aesthetic enjoyment depend on finding ways around the physiological constraints that limit sensory pleasure. But first it is important to emphasize the fundamentally dynamic nature of enjoyment as I am defining it here. I am proposing to define enjoyment as a kind of positive experience whose positivity is sustained by an intensification of the dynamic contrasts—the higher-order

 It is easy to think of ways to modify the example of a long massage so that it approximates the unity of a symphony performance. But such counter-examples would only reinforce the distinction that I am making between continuous episodes of enjoyment and chains of pleasures. It should be clarified that my intention is not to relegate certain activities to the status of “mere” pleasure. The same activity can provide pleasure or enjoyment (or both). 2

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contrasts—that belong exclusively to conscious awareness. In other words, enjoyment is a positive experience sustained by enriched flow. To be clear, what is enhanced in enjoyment is not necessarily awareness that consciousness is constantly changing. Rather, in enjoyment the flow of consciousness is enhanced in a way that intensifies its continuous and cumulative character and, through these changes, increases the overall harmonic intensity of experience. Thus, in enjoyment, the positivity of any moment depends, at least in part, on the continuous and cumulative character of experience. In contrast, even when highly pleasurable experiences are sustained for long periods of time, they could be broken up or rearranged without diminishing their moment-to-moment positivity. The continuously changing and cumulative nature of enjoyment is neatly summarized in Dewey’s account of what he calls having “an experience.” In the following passage, Dewey is describing the conditions for having any experience with unitary character, not the conditions for enjoyment per se, but the connection to enriched flow is evident: In such experiences, every successive part flows freely, without seam and without unfilled blanks, into what ensues. At the same time there is no sacrifice of the self-identity of the parts. A river, as distinct from a pond, flows. But its flow gives a definiteness and interest to its successive portions greater than exist in the homogeneous portions of a pond. In an experience, flow is from something to something. As one part leads into another and as one part carries on what went before, each gains distinctness in itself. The enduring whole is diversified by successive phases that are emphases of its various colors. (1934/1980, p. 36)

Now let us return to Csikszentmihalyi’s theory of Flow. Recall that the missing piece in this theory is the connection to positivity. The present argument indicates how we might fill this gap by understanding the positivity of Flow in terms of dynamic contrast and harmonic intensity. By the same token, we can understand how Flow relates to other kinds of positive experience, including the kinds of sensory pleasure which Csikszentmihalyi himself sharply distinguished from Flow (1990). And we can confirm that Flow can be considered as a kind of “optimal experience” insofar as it arises from the enhancement of flow, an essential trait of consciousness (see Chap. 6).


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Defining enjoyment as enriched flow also helps us to better understand why explicit richness is an important clue to the nature of enjoyment but not its definitive feature. In general, feelings that are marked by richness are more likely to support enriched flow because their abundance of explicit contrast invites successive determinations of high-­ contrast feeling. In short, rich feelings often lead to more rich feelings. For instance, consider how the enjoyably rich texture of a panoramic mountain vista is easily sustained, while the pleasure of looking up at a clear blue sky usually fades within a second or two. These are tendencies, however, not laws: a rich feeling might not lead to more rich feelings, and it is possible to sustain high dynamic contrasts without richness. Let us consider an example of the latter possibility. I suggest that the genius of Rothko’s signature “multiform” paintings—large canvases filled with two or three contrasting blocks of color— lies in the way they allow us to find sustained enjoyment in a simple sensation of color. Importantly, the experience of vivid color offered by these paintings is not marked by richness qua abundance of explicit contrast. Indeed, some of these paintings afford the singular experience of being immersed in a single color, in which case the strength of contrast must be implicit. If we look at a wall painted with one or two richly saturated colors, we may feel momentary pleasure, but the experience is flat and cannot be sustained. How is enjoyment sustained by the Rothko paintings? The answer must come from the way that the paintings are structured. Most of Rothko’s signature paintings feature a contrast between two or three blocks of color, although the contrast between blocks varies from striking to gentle. Additionally, within each block, the paint is applied in layers that give the colors subtle hints of shading and depth: the colors are not uniform. With these structural elements in mind, the paintings can be understood as a lesson in how to sustain the high causal contrast of perceptual feelings dominated by strong sensations of color. The trick, it seems, is the movement afforded by the contrast between blocks and the subtle shading of the colors, which gives to experience a gentle rhythm, or dynamic contrast. In short, Rothko’s paintings allow us to become absorbed in a simple sensation of color by keeping this sensation from becoming static and inert.

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The point of this detour into the aesthetics of Rothko’s signature works is to clarify the importance of dynamic contrast, and to explain why many but not all experiences of enjoyment are marked by explicit qualitative richness. The sustained enjoyment of Rothko’s paintings, Japanese rock gardens, minimalist music, and countless other varieties of “simple” or “austere” enjoyment are exceptions that prove the rule of enriched flow. Even if enjoyment is not always sustained by explicit richness, it must be sustained by some form of enriched dynamic contrast or rhythm.

Enjoyment and Rhythm The preceding discussion of enjoyment has led us once more to Dewey, for whom rhythm is both the germ of experience and the definitive trait of aesthetic enjoyment. This section explores the rhythmic character of enjoyment in more detail while, at the same time, confronting a major flaw in Dewey’s influential characterization of this character in his Art as Experience (1934/1980). This may seem like a surprising turn, given how much the present work owes to Dewey’s philosophy of experience. But it is not a quibble. At the heart of Dewey’s theory of aesthetic enjoyment is the classic “homeostatic” model of pleasure as the recovery of health from a state of deficiency. And the problem with this model is that it does not allow for any impulse toward the positive increase of satisfaction; it precludes the possibility of pursuing enrichment for its own sake. Moreover, if feelings of disturbance and satisfaction are defined as such only in relation to a particular state or configuration—the “normal or healthy state”—their value is not intrinsic and they can be reduced to value signals like the sails of Theseus. Remarkably, however, this weakness in Dewey’s account of satisfaction does not prevent him from articulating the enrichment of flow in terms that confirm the centrality of contrast and harmonic intensity. This “wise inconsistency” in Dewey’s philosophy of experience (to flip the famous phrase of Emerson) is worth a closer look, as it will help to clarify the points of the previous section as well as the main arguments of this book.


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The truncated nature of Dewey’s view of satisfaction is most apparent when he introduces the concept of rhythm in the first chapter of Art as Experience. Here he describes the basic rhythm of life and experience as “beats of want and fulfillment, pulses of doing and being withheld from doing” (1934/1980, p. 16)—that is, as the organism’s recurrent efforts to recover from constant disturbance by a changing environment (p. 17). Importantly, for Dewey, recovery nearly always leads to growth, as it nearly always entails some modification of the organism and its relation to its environment: “Life grows when a temporary falling out is a transition to a more extensive balance of energies of the organism with those of the conditions under which it lives” (p. 14). But here is the problem. Strictly speaking, on this account, growth is not an aim of the organism, but a by-product of its one and only true aim: recovery from disturbance. This point is easily missed, as change and disturbance can be counted on as nearly constant conditions of life. In a complex and changing world, an organism is rarely lacking in opportunities for growth, and with growth comes the possibility of enriched satisfaction, as cycles of disturbance and recovery become increasingly complex and refined. But again, according to the terms of Dewey’s account, this enrichment of satisfaction is not what drives the constant readjustment of organism and environment: it is, rather, the happy consequence of repeatedly successful efforts at recovery from disturbance. So far it would seem that Dewey’s concept of rhythm is impossible to reconcile with the concept of harmonic intensity. But Dewey makes a critical leap that bridges the gap. He glosses the aesthetic value of recovery—that which actually gives satisfaction—in terms of the contrast between states of disturbance and recovery: Contrast of lack and fullness, of struggle and achievement, of adjustment after consummated irregularity, form the drama in which action, feeling, and meaning are one. The outcome is balance and counterbalance. These are not static nor mechanical. They express power that is intense because measured through overcoming resistance. (p. 16)

It may seem that I am pouncing on a passage that happens to contain the term contrast in order to square my view of experience with Dewey’s.

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In a moment I will discuss how Dewey’s elaboration of the concept of rhythm in the context of aesthetic experience resonates even more strongly with concepts of contrast and harmonic intensity. But first I want to pick apart this passage in order to show how Dewey made the leap from homeostatic recovery to harmonic intensity. This is a critical detail, because by correcting Dewey on this point I am also able to clarify the Whiteheadian concept of harmonic intensity that grounds the theory of affect that I have developed in this book. The basic point that I wish to make is that in this passage Dewey’s composite picture of organic satisfaction (“the drama in which action, feeling, and meaning are one”) allows him to conflate two aspects of experience that should be carefully distinguished: intensity of contrast and vitally important meaning. In Dewey’s case, this conflation is fortunate, as it eases his transition to a fuller understanding of satisfaction. Nevertheless, it constitutes one of basic fallacies that plague our understanding of value—the conflation of affect and meaning (see Chap. 2). Dewey may be right that recovery from disturbance is a prototypical occasion for intense feelings of satisfaction. The critical question is whether we attribute the feeling of satisfaction that is so occasioned to the intensity of dynamic contrast between disturbance and recovery qua successive states of the organism or to the fact that the transition between these states is a matter of vital importance for the organism. In other words, is satisfaction given by the contrast itself or its meaning? As I have argued in previous chapters, these are closely related features of experience. But, strictly speaking, intensity of dynamic contrast can obtain any number of ways, and the import of a contrast does not necessarily correspond to its intensity. Meanwhile, relations of meaning can be abstracted from the contrasts of experience that instantiate them and considered as a pure relations (i.e., as semantic information). To be clear, I am not denying that vitally important meaning and harmonic intensity often go together in experience. A narrow escape from a life-threatening situation is very likely to leave us in a state of elation. But the harmonic intensity of living through a harrowing experience has more to do with its meaningfulness than its meaning per se. This last point is likely to be confusing, but as it is critical for later discussion, let us pause to consider the difference between meaningfulness and vital importance.


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In subsequent sections of this chapter, we will investigate the connection between meaning and enjoyment in human experience. The general thesis to be argued is that because meaning is carried by the contrasts of feeling the enrichment of meaning usually constitutes a kind of enjoyment. In other words, because the present theory allows us to understand meaningful experiences as literally full of meaning, that is, full of the contrastive relations that constitute meaning for experience, it is also able to explain the connection between meaningfulness and enjoyment. Now, in general, only certain kinds of meaning resonate powerfully in our experience—only certain kinds of meaning are experienced as meaningful—because only certain meanings are deeply connected with past experience. For example, the taste of oatmeal and cinnamon is, for most of us, just that and nothing more, while for some it may be deeply connected with childhood memories. Some meanings are like central arteries running through the networks of meaning built up by culture and experience. Accordingly, although there is no essential connection between meaning and intensity of contrast, in practice we often find that certain meanings are experienced with special intensity because of the richness of their connections. Near-death experiences are nearly always occasions of increased harmonic intensity because they nearly always involve the kinds of widely connected meanings that are experienced as meaningful. Nevertheless, no matter how common, this connection between the vital importance of a meaning and its affective resonance is not essential or intrinsic. So, returning to Dewey, we can affirm his claim that “the moment of passage from disturbance into harmony is that of intensest life” (p. 17). And we can affirm that one of the reasons for the intensity of this experience is its meaningfulness. We can also affirm that the most meaningful experiences are often the most intense, and that the most meaningful experiences often involve meanings of vital importance. Nevertheless, for the present theoretical approach, the fundamental determinant of intensity is the abundant contrast that is entailed by felt meaningfulness. Accordingly, in principle, any experience that attains equivalent contrast—with or without the same meaning—thereby attains the same intensity. For the same reason, it is possible that an experience of vitally important meaning is lacking in intensity.

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Dewey’s mistake was to understand the basic rhythms of life as the original source of intensity in experience as if it were their meaning that gave them intensity. But because he understood this original intensity in energetic terms—as “overcoming resistance,” and so forth—he was able to elaborate on this concept of rhythm in the context of aesthetic experience without being hindered by this mistake. When Dewey discusses the role of meaning in great works of art, he insists that this meaning must be experienced; accordingly, his focus is on the way in which meaning is carried by the particular “organization of energies” (pp.  162–186), or rhythm, that the artwork gives to experience. It is in Dewey’s discussion of the rhythm of aesthetic experience that we find the clearest connection to harmonic intensity. Critically, for Dewey, rhythm is not mere repetition. Defined as “ordered variation of changes” (p. 154), it must also include variety. But sheer variety is also not enough: there must be “opposition,” or “energies resisting each other” (pp. 155,157; see also p. 160). Thus, Dewey confirms that the increased satisfaction that rhythm gives to experience is a function of both diversity and strength of contrast, i.e., harmonic intensity. Dewey’s affirmation of harmonic intensity as the sine qua non of enjoyment—albeit in rhythmic form—is most explicit in his remarks on the classical aesthetic “formula” of “unity in variety”: The formula has meaning only when its terms are understood to concern a relation of energies. There is no fullness, no many parts, without distinctive differentiations. But they have esthetic quality, as in the richness of a musical phrase, only when distinctions depend on reciprocal resistances. (p. 161)

“Distinctive differentiations” and “reciprocal resistances” are Dewey’s terms for diversity and strength of contrast. However, in this and many other passages of Art as Experience, Dewey does much more than affirm the centrality of contrast and harmonic intensity for the enrichment of experience: he gives to these concepts a distinctly energetic and dynamic character that has been largely missing from my argument so far. The energetic demands of contrast were only briefly touched upon in Chap. 5. Dewey deepens this connection between contrast and energy by proposing that strength of contrast has a tensile character that manifests the intrinsically dynamic character of experience.


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The implication of Dewey’s account is that the contrasts of experience, qua “organized energy,” are constraints that constitute momentary cumulations of potential energy or energy gradients. Different from most constraints, however, the contrasts of consciousness are dissipated almost as soon as they are created as their energy is used to create more contrasts. When viewed in this way, the flow of experience is quite literally a rhythmic flow of energy.

 he Conditions of Enjoyment: Energy, T Engagement, and Skill Up until now the treatment of enjoyment in this chapter—and of affect in this book—has been decidedly one-sided. The argument has focused almost entirely on features of consciousness with little regard for their embodied and embedded context. In this section we shift perspective, if only briefly, in order to consider the wider conditions of enjoyment. The following discussion continues to draw on pragmatist theories of experience (Dewey 1929/1958; Neville 1981, 1989) but it adds to these perspectives from ecological psychology (Gibson 1979/1986; Swenson and Turvey 1991; Fultot et al. 2019). The main point I wish to make is that enjoyment, much more than pleasure, is an ecological phenomenon that depends on the skillful engagement of the organism with its surroundings. This dependence was already suggested by the discussion of “optimal grip” in Chap. 6 and by our brief introduction of the energetic aspects of enjoyment at the end of the last section. Dewey’s view of the energetic, rhythmic character of aesthetic enjoyment is rooted in his understanding of all experience as a manifestation of the essentially energetic nature of life itself: experience exhibits the same energetic dependence of the organism on its environment (1929/1958; 1941/1988, p.  125), albeit in a highly elaborated form. Accordingly, the most basic condition of enjoyment implied by previous discussion is an adequate supply of energy. If contrast requires energy, then experiences of enjoyment must spend more energy to sustain their high levels of harmonic intensity. For the same reason, we should expect

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that ordinary, baseline consciousness to be quite costly relative to unconscious states. These implications are in keeping with evidence that the brain is the most energy-hungry organ of the human body, accounting for over 20% of total energy consumption (Watts et al. 2018). Additionally, there is evidence that the brain’s energy use varies both temporally and spatially and that this variation is connected to activity (ibid.). Some have suggested that the transition to consciousness is connected with greater energy use (Shulman et al. 2009). It is tempting, therefore, to use this evidence to claim empirical support for the harmonic theory. But the matter is not so simple. Much like integrated information (Tononi 2015), harmonic intensity is not a straightforwardly measurable property of brain activity. Rather, it is a property of the causal events that make up the stream of consciousness, which may be differently constituted by parts and processes of the brain from moment to moment. Accordingly, just to identify the “system” to which hypotheses about harmonic intensity are supposed to apply is a tricky business. Furthermore, it is not clear how harmonic intensity should correspond to measurable properties related to energy use: two systems might use the same amount of energy but achieve very different levels of harmonic intensity. Even so, if we were to find that the energy use of the brain increases during enjoyment, that would be a promising find, although far from conclusive. In fact, the exceptionally high differentiated-ness of conscious states suggests that experience is energy-hungry in two senses. One is the sheer quantity of energy consumed by conscious brains. The other has to do with conditions for the organization of this flow of energy (Pepperell 2018) as a stream of highly complex, highly differentiated contrasts. For this, it seems that experience depends on engagement with richly structured sources of energy. According to ecological psychology, this condition is amply met by intricately structured “ambient arrays” of energy found in our surroundings, especially those constituted by light and sound (Gibson 1979/1986). Without going into much detail, I want to highlight the importance of this ecological concept of “ambient array” for our understanding of the conditions of enjoyment. Unlike most information-processing theories of perception, which tend to assume an impoverished view of the


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structures that are directly engaged by organs of perception, ecological psychologists claim that ambient arrays—especially when purposefully engaged through movement—are sufficient to specify objects, events, and many other complex meanings of perceptual experience (Turvey and Carello 1981). This is a radically different approach to perception, and so it is understandable that most discussions of the ecology of perception focus on describing the “informational” aspects of the ambient arrays (invariant structures and the meanings that they specify). An important implication of this approach, however, is that the richly structured ambient arrays of perception provide a complexly ordered source of energy on which experience quite literally “feeds” (Swenson and Turvey 1991). The perceiving organism does not depend on ambient energy in the same way that it depends on energy-rich sources of food. We cannot live off the ambient light in our surroundings, for instance. However, in essence, the ambient arrays on which perceptual experience depends are complex energy gradients, fundamentally no different from the gradients on which metabolic processes depend. When deprived of this special source of energy, no matter how well fed and rested we may be, our life is impoverished in a very real and important sense, and we feel “starved.” Insofar as each individual is differently attuned to the ambient arrays of their environment, what counts as a “healthy diet” varies from person to person. Nevertheless, we can say that engagement with richly structured sources of energy is a basic condition for “healthy experience.” In turn, the richly structured patterns of energy in our surroundings depend on the far-from-equilibrium conditions of our universe, whose immense, cascading flows of energy have given rise to an abundant variety of complex structures at all scales and, at least in our vicinity, to a world teeming with life and activity. It seems that similar points should hold for enjoyment. The most basic condition for enjoyment is a world filled with opportunities for enjoyment, as ours seems to be. We are not always and everywhere able to take advantage of these opportunities, however. What conditions determine whether enjoyment is possible here and now? Although the specific conditions for enjoyment vary from person to person, it should be possible to give a general description of the ecological conditions for the enriched

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flow that I have argued is essential to all enjoyment. To put the question in Gibsonian terms, what constitutes an “affordance” for enjoyment? Where enjoyment involves overtly active, sensorimotor engagement with observable structures and events of the environment, we can begin to answer this question by describing the affordances of the various actions being enjoyed. For example, a tree’s affordance of enjoyment to a child is supported by the way in which the tree affords climbing, swinging from branches, and so on. The affordance of enjoyment is more than the sum of these action possibilities, however: it has to do with the way in which these affordances support the kind of sensorimotor engagement that yields enriched flow. It also has something to do with the individual conscious repertoire of the child: two children with more or less the same physical abilities may be very differently disposed toward the affordances of a tree. The question of how to define the conditions of enjoyment is complicated by the fact that so many kinds of human enjoyment are not directly sustained by sensorimotor engagement with the environment. Consider the enjoyment of the mathematician musing over an elegant proof. Also, it is evident that many persons with disabilities that limit their direct sensorimotor contact with the world are able to enjoy life as much as the rest of us—provided that a channel of communication is established. I suggest that the key to understanding these cases is our capacity for the enjoyment of meaning, to which I will turn in the next section. First, however, we need to fill out our picture of engagement as a condition of enjoyment. In this context, the term engagement refers to the causal connection between organism and environment that is the basis of all experience. More specifically, it refers to the continuous, dynamic, and interactive or “transactional” nature of this connection. In the pragmatist tradition, all experience is a form of engagement, and thus, by extension, so is enjoyment. So far I have said very little about engagement in general (although see Chap. 6). Nevertheless, if enjoyment is to be understood as enriched experience, and engagement is an essential condition of experience, something more needs to be said about the kind of engagement entailed by enjoyment.


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In the previous section I have argued that enjoyment is characterized by enriched flow. A reasonable conjecture, then, is that this enriched flow corresponds to a kind of enriched engagement, although the nature of the latter is not clear. From a pragmatist standpoint, there must be a close connection between flow and engagement: while enriched flow focuses our attention on the subjective side of experience, engagement, like experience, is a “double-barreled” term that includes both subject and world. How should we characterize the kind of enriched engagement on which enriched flow depends? For starters, I think we can confirm that many if not most experiences of enjoyment are characterized by increased attentiveness, or absorption. Also, we can confirm that in typical experiences of enjoyment, our involvement is active and continuous, as opposed to passive and sporadic. Yet neither of these conditions is sufficient to characterize the kind of enriched engagement that yields enjoyment. Notice that the question at hand is not just phenomenological. If we try to give a more precise phenomenological account of the character of this engagement, we soon fall back on enriched flow and other more subjectively weighted traits. To do justice to the “double-barreled” nature of engagement, we have to step outside the first-person perspective and consider the kind of mind-world relationship that it entails. In other words, we have to characterize enjoyment as a cognitive activity. In this respect, I suggest that the term that best defines enjoyment as a kind of engagement is skill. Enriched engagement is skillful engagement. Let us consider whether it makes sense to make skill an essential condition and definitive trait of enjoyment. Does it fit with experience? There is plenty of evidence that skill mastery entails enjoyment as one of its most prominent features. Also, within the context of skillful activity, usually the greater the skill, the greater the enjoyment. A connection between peak enjoyment and peak performance is widely reported by athletes, musicians, and dancers. However, the problem with making skillful engagement a condition of enjoyment is that the reverse does not seem to hold: enjoyment does not seem to entail skill mastery. We can and do find enjoyment in activities that we have not mastered. Indeed, it is even possible to find enjoyment in activities distinguished by a conspicuous lack of skill. For example, it seems that a lot of people are able

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to enjoy dancing without being good at it. What to make of the fact of unskillful enjoyment? Perhaps we can confirm that all enjoyment is skillful if we expand our view of the kinds of skills that are involved. Consider the enjoyment of someone trying to ice skate for the first time as compared to that of a world-class figure skater. In the latter case, much of the skill that facilitates enjoyment is evidenced by the power, speed, and fine control of the skater’s movements. In the case of the novice skater, however, although we may observe expressions of enjoyment—laughter, for instance—the skills that make this enjoyment possible are not so evident. Presumably a good part of the enjoyment of skating for a first-time skater is the novelty of the experience. Even if it lasts only a few seconds, the first sensation of gliding on ice can be wonderful. And though it may seem that there is no skill involved in the enjoyment of novel sensations, it is often observed that some people are more open to new experiences than others, and surely the ability to appreciate novel sensations is part of this openness. Also, given that first-time skaters spend a lot of time falling down, another important requirement for enjoyment is the ability to laugh at oneself. And again, evidently some people are better at this than others. Accordingly, it seems that what distinguishes the enjoyment of the novice ice skater from that of the expert is not degree of skill but rather the kind of skill that is involved. Different kinds of skills enable different kinds of enjoyment. It is possible to formulate a general definition of the kind of skill required for enjoyment using the terms developed in Chaps. 6 and 7. At the most general level—the level that includes the enjoyment of both experts and novices—the requisite skill refers to our capacity to find a “good fit” between our conscious repertoire and the world. More precisely, the enriched flow of enjoyment depends on finding a way to engage the world such that our conscious repertoire’s capacity to be richly specified “gears with” available opportunities for the rich specification of feeling. For any given person, any given environment offers as many opportunities for enjoyment as there are opportunities for making a good fit in this sense. Notice that this understanding of the basic skill required for enjoyment encompasses all the various skills required for expert enjoyment as well as openness to new experiences, the ability to laugh at


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oneself, and whatever other skills may contribute to the enjoyment of a novice. But it goes one step further to include the ability to find the kind of fit that is likely to give rise to enjoyment. Our ability to find enjoyment in any given situation often depends on the degree to which we are able to change or adjust our present mode of engagement.3 One could say that the ability to make these adjustments on the fly is itself a kind of skill—a “meta-skill,” if you like. Thus, it can be argued that all enjoyment—even the delight of a baby in the movements of her own hands—involves some kind of skillful engagement, although the kind of skillfulness involved may not be readily apparent. Moreover, on this view, it seems that humans are specially gifted with the “meta-skill” of finding enjoyment in a limitless range of environments and activities.

Human Enjoyment One of the main theses of this book is that the capacity for enjoyment is inherent to conscious experience. Therefore, any being—animal, alien, or artificial—that is capable of consciousness should also be capable of enjoyment. The evidence in support of animal enjoyment is worth considering, however briefly. Probably the overwhelming majority of people take it for granted that animals experience enjoyment. And for good reason, as many animal behaviors seem to have no other purpose. When we see elephants sliding down a muddy hill, or a whale calf making clouds in the water with its mother’s milk, the evidence for animal enjoyment seems plain: animals play for the fun of it, just like us (for a more comprehensive collection of examples, see Balcombe 2006). However, although enjoyment may seem like the most straightforward explanation of play behavior, it is not the one favored by scientists (for a review of the field, see Burghardt 2005). It is not so much that scientists deny animal enjoyment. But if they acknowledge it at all, they tend to treat enjoyment as merely a first step toward a fuller, more scientific explanation, which  We cannot change our repertoire at will, but we can choose between the various aspects of our repertoire that are engaged by the present situation. 3

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usually involves a functionalist-adaptationist account of the play behavior in question (see Prum 2017 for a critique of this tendency). As I will discuss in the conclusion, this stance is related to the problematic status of all affective causes of behavior. Here we are interested in a different question: given that the capacity for enjoyment is shared by all animals, what if anything distinguishes human enjoyment from other kinds? At the close of the previous section, I pointed out that one of the most conspicuous features of human enjoyment is its seemingly limitless variety. Another conspicuous feature is that some of the most ancient and universal kinds of human enjoyment—music, dance, art, story-telling— seem to be unique to the human species, or nearly so. Many forms of human enjoyment depend on our linguistic ability and the worlds of meaning that are opened to us through this ability. But other important kinds of human enjoyment, especially music, dance, and art, do not seem to be dependent on language per se, although they may share something of its symbolic character. I suggest that the factor that best explains the distinctiveness as well as the limitless variety of human enjoyment is our capacity for the enjoyment of meaning. To be clear, I am not claiming that humans are the only animals that experience meaning. Although the human experience of meaning may be distinctive (Langer 1942/1996; Deacon 1997), here I am more interested to explore the possibility that we are the only species that actively and persistently seeks enjoyment in the experience of enriched meaning, that is, in meaningfulness. Meaningfulness is a distinct kind of harmonic intensity that, I suggest, is unique to human experience. I believe that the key to this distinctly human form of enjoyment is our highly flexible capacity to “prescind” meaning—that is, to select out situational meanings of interest from all the meanings that are presently available to experience. Perhaps all conscious animals can shift their attention from one kind of meaning to another, depending on their current interest. But as indicated by the famous “invisible gorilla experiment” (Simons and Chabris 1999), humans have a special ability to withdraw their attention entirely from certain aspects of experience, a phenomenon known as “inattentional blindness.” It is not just that we are gifted with special powers of inattention, however: inattentional


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blindness is the downside of our capacity to shift on the fly between different perceptual construals of the same scene.4 That is, depending our interest, we can change between different ways of perceiving that are geared to different available meanings. For present purposes, I am primarily concerned with the experiential implications of this ability to switch between different ways of perceiving. In Chap. 6 I discussed the contrastive nature of perceptual meaning and the active role of consciousness in determining the contrasts of perceptual feeling. The points of the preceding paragraph go one step further, suggesting that we are endowed with exceptional dexterity of attention that, much like our exceptionally fine hand motor control, allows us to pick through the abundant meanings made available to us in experience. This dexterity of attention seems to be among the key cognitive abilities involved in language acquisition (Deacon 1997) but, again, here I am primarily interested in its role in our enjoyment of music and other arts. Like language, experience of music and other arts requires that attention is intentionally directed toward meanings that are being expressed through a particular medium, such as the sounds of music, the colored surfaces of painting, or the movements of a dance. The meanings to which I am referring are not necessarily things represented by these sounds, colors, or movements. All of the arts can be “non-­representational.” But to enjoy music of any kind it is necessary to hear its sounds as musical, that is, as having certain meaningful relations within the medium. For example, the sounds of a melody are heard as meaningfully related to one another. After all, from the standpoint of physics a musical sound is no different from other sounds: it is the consequence of a physical event, and it can be heard as such.5 Normally, when we listen to sounds in our  I realize that the term “perceptual construal” may seem contradictory both for those who make construal of a situation subsequent to perception and for those who insist on a form of direct realism. A perceptual construal does not determine content so that, if told to inspect a simple colored shape, you could see a blue circle where I see a yellow square. Rather it determines how we engage perceptually with a situation by selecting out certain meanings of interest. Interest not only organizes perceptual content (e.g., foreground and background), it also determines how it evolves. 5  Musical instruments are specially made to resonate in ways that are rare in nature but not unheard of. Also, it is possible to make music with naturally occurring sounds. What makes sounds musical, therefore, is not so much the quality of the individual sounds taken separately—there is no such thing as an intrinsically musical sound—but the way we hear them as meaningfully interrelated. 4

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everyday environment, we pay attention to their “physical meanings” and they specify for us the presence of various events, materials, objects, and agents in our surroundings—for example, we hear someone knocking at the door. When we listen to music, however, we prescind from these physical meanings and attend selectively to the musical meanings that obtain between the sounds themselves—a person striking a wooden door becomes musical rhythm. Importantly, from an ecological standpoint, the second experience is not the result of a “higher-level” interpretive process laid over a perceptual experience that is identical to the first experience. It is a different perceptual construal, a different kind of perceptual engagement geared to different, dynamic features of the sounds in our environment. According to how you understand our experience of musical meaning, it may be difficult to see the connection between this example and the special human dexterity of attention indicated by the “invisible gorilla experiment.” I see them as different manifestations of the same phenomenon: both are indications of our exceptionally fine control over the perception of meaning. In both cases, the key assumption is that meaning is directly perceived, not just interpreted by higher-level processes on the basis of prior detection of discrete bits of color and sound. However, to say that meaning is directly perceived does not mean that there is only one meaning, “objectively present,” available for perception. Depending on past experience, perceptual skill, interest, and intention, diverse meanings are specified by our perceptual engagement with the world and, accordingly, we can hear and see very differently. Experiences of music and other arts are perceptual experiences that focus on the meanings specified for us by the way in which the elements of a particular medium are interrelated. So far I have only discussed the experiential basis of art, not its raison de être. In art the goal is not simply to gain access to the meanings that can be specified by a particular medium. Rather the primary goal is the intensification of meaning for the sake of enjoyment. Selective intensification of meaning is inherent in the basic underlying capacity of attentional dexterity on which art depends—this capacity is what makes art


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possible. Normally we intensify our perceptual grasp of meaning for the sake of engaging with certain aspects of our current situation and carrying out some task at hand (see Chap. 6). In music and other arts, however, enjoyment of meaning is primary. Of course, music and other arts are used for many purposes other than pure enjoyment. Music can be used to incite men to battle or put a baby to sleep. But even in such cases musical enjoyment of meaning is still primary insofar as it is a condition for these other uses. All the varied purposes to which the affective powers of music are applied cannot be explained without first understanding its affective power—that is, why it is such an effective source of enjoyment. Note that the present attempt to explain the enjoyment of music and other arts does not tell us why a particular performance or work of art is so enjoyable. Nor does it offer much help to musicians and other artists trying to create a more enjoyable experience. Telling an artist that they should increase harmonic intensity is about as helpful as telling them that they should make their work more pleasing, expressive, or moving. The success of a performance or work of art has to do with the way in which it manages to intensify meaning in experience, and for the production of a vividly fine experience of meaning there is no formula. It is also important to note the huge range and diversity of meanings that are made available to experience through music and other arts. Meanings range from those particular to the medium, such as the interrelations of sound or color that are the focus of so-called “pure” forms of art, to all the meanings that can be expressed through artistic media, as found in so-called “representational” forms of art. The diversity and depth of meaning that can be specified by musical sound alone is astounding (see Clarke 2005), and every kind of meaning that can be specified by music offers the possibility of a distinct kind of enjoyment. Our enjoyment of baroque counterpoint is rather different from our enjoyment of a folk song. Across every culture and tradition, shared enjoyment of emotion is one of the most common varieties of musical enjoyment, and included in this category is the enjoyment of being deeply moved by sad music.

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The Enjoyment of Sadness We now return to the “paradox of tragedy” that was briefly discussed in the Introduction (Chap. 1) as a way of illustrating the thesis of harmonic enrichment. This section serves both as recapitulation of that argument and as a transition to the final topic of this chapter, existential enjoyment. Recall that my approach is to take this problem at face-value: we can be saddened by music and yet at the same time find this experience deeply gratifying. The apparent paradox comes from our commonsense notion of sadness as an inherently negative emotion, such that it seems impossible for us to have a positive—that is, gratifying and richly rewarding— experience of sadness. To make matters more complicated, this problem is tangled up with debates about the nature of sadness and other emotions: How do we know when we are sad? In brief, my view is that typical experiences of sadness combine the experience of certain kinds of negative meanings—usually having to do with loss, injury, solitude, or failure—with a negative affective tone,6 and it is this combination of negative meaning and affect that grounds our commonsense understanding of sadness as a negative emotion, whatever responses may be involved at the physiological or bodily level. However, given that negative meanings do not by themselves constitute or cause negative affective tone—this is a central point of the present argument— physiological mechanisms may play a key role, establishing a connection between the experienced meaning and the affective tone of sadness. With these points in mind, we can respond to the paradox of enjoyable sadness in music as follows. Music affords powerful experiences of sadness by specifying the kinds of meanings7 and eliciting the kinds of bodily responses that are normally associated with sadness, but because the experience of meaning it affords is so richly differentiated, music is able to reverse the negative impact of these responses on the harmonic intensity of conscious feeling. In short, music affords enriched experiences of sadness.  Sadness can be experienced with different kinds of affective tone, but perhaps the tone most characteristic of sadness is the “wide” or “depressed” variety marked by deficiency of strength. See Chap. 7 for further discussion. 7  This explanation skips over the critical question of how music specifies meaning—see Clarke (2005) for a thorough and, to my mind, convincing treatment of this question. 6


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Note that this view of musical sadness builds on the more general view of aesthetic enrichment that was sketched in the preceding pages. Music affords an enriched experience of sadness because of the richness of the meanings specified by musical sound. At the same time, being moved by music introduces an additional ingredient, the elicitation of powerful emotion, which gives extra strength as well as various bodily sensations (chills, etc.) to the overall experience. But enrichment of experience remains the key to enjoyment, and as in other cases the most basic requirement is enhanced dynamic contrast. More precisely, as discussed in the Introduction (Chap. 1), musical enrichment of sadness and other emotions involves what I call the perceptualization of emotion. Our ordinary experience of emotion may be laden with meaning, but insofar as this meaning is constituted by quasi-­ perceptual bodily feelings (interoception) and non-perceptual affective feelings, it is available to us only as a vague and suffuse “coloring” of perceptual experience. When we say that someone is “seeing red” with anger, we do not mean that they literally perceive their emotion, but rather that vague emotional feelings suffuse and shape their experience of the world. When we are moved by music, presumably we have these same vague bodily feelings, but with the difference that they are simultaneously presented to us by the richly detailed content of perceptual experience. The result is that we seem literally to perceive the emotion as it takes on musical form. Musical experience of sadness is thus both emotional and perceptual, and it is the enriched perceptual dimension that “flips” its valence from negative to positive. This phenomenon of perceptualization can be understood in light of my earlier discussion of the intensification of meaning in music and other arts. It seems that nearly all forms and varieties of art involve some kind of perceptualization of meaning by taking advantage of the abundance of perceptual contrast afforded by various media. This is what makes art so powerfully expressive. Indeed, it seems that perceptualization—the enrichment of experience by vivid perceptual imagery—is key to artistic expression, even in prose. What the term perceptualization adds to the concept of intensified or enriched meaning in art is the perceptual articulation of meanings that are normally just beyond our grasp (Langer 1942/1996). The perceptualization of emotion in music is a prime

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example of this aspect of artistic expression, but there are countless other varieties, especially if we think of perceptualization as a matter of degree and not just a transition from one kind of feeling to another. The musical perceptualization of sadness is an enormously popular form of artistic expression and enjoyment. Many people feel compelled to sing about their sorrows, regardless of who will listen, and some variant of sad emotion is featured prominently in most if not all popular musical traditions. Why is this? The most common explanation is that sad music helps us to feel better when we are sad. More specifically, sad music is said to be cathartic. I do not deny that music can be used for catharsis, but my view of enjoyment points to a different explanation. According to the standard homeopathic view, the goal of catharsis is to purge oneself of an unpleasant emotion by undergoing a specially prepared experience of that very same emotion. In contrast, I suggest that powerful musical experiences are more often used to transfigure emotion. In musical experience sadness is intensified and enriched, and by virtue of this enrichment it is made into a deeply gratifying experience. Moreover, I suggest that the transfiguration of sadness in music offers more than just relief from the pain of sadness. It can also provide us with relief from existential suffering, as I explain in the final section of this chapter.

Existential Enjoyment To begin, let us stipulate that an experience is existential insofar as it refers to or intimates our existence or life as a whole, or even all of life, the world, or existence as such. Accordingly, an experience is existentially satisfying if it is felt as life-affirming, while an experience is existentially troubling if it is felt as having the opposite effect. For the moment, my focus is on the latter experience, because I want to use the harmonic theory to make a point about what is required for relief from existential suffering. We can experience existential suffering because our own suffering is so great as to be unbearable. But suffering is not existential by virtue of its greatness alone: it must have some felt impact on our experience of the


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value of our existence or even the value of existence itself. One can be troubled existentially by other people’s suffering, such as when we are confronted by some tragic event or aspect of life that seems impossible to justify, resolve, or otherwise “make right.” A classic example of this kind of existential distress is found in Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov when Ivan Karamazov argues that he cannot accept a world in which the suffering of children is a condition for “truth.” Existential suffering has many varieties: it can be occasioned by a profound sense of the fragility or chanciness of life or an acute sense of one’s own personal failings. It also has many gradations: it need not take the form of a full-blown crisis, and its meaning need not even be consciously articulated. Most of the time, existential suffering enters into experience in subtle shades, whenever and to the extent that our view of life is darkened by something deeply troubling. A critical feature of existential suffering is that its existential import is not just something inferred from experience. One does not simply deduce that the goodness of life is diminished; one feels it. For the same reason, I suggest that relief from existential suffering cannot be brought about by the justification of suffering. Sometimes suffering is existentially troubling in part because it is perceived as meaningless, which implies that some kind of justificatory meaning is wanted. But I am suggesting that meaningless suffering is existentially troubling only insofar as this meaninglessness diminishes the felt goodness of life. Therefore, any attempt to provide justificatory meaning—that is, to explain suffering—is, at best, ancillary to relief. For such attempts to succeed, ultimately it is the experience of life that matters.8 With these points in mind, it should now be easier to appreciate the suggestion that the enjoyment of sadness in music can provide us with existential relief. Generally speaking, music does not add justificatory meaning to an experience of sadness; rather, it enriches the meanings already inherent to this experience in a way that transfigures suffering.

 Perhaps this is why, in The Brothers Karamazov, Ivan’s challenge is not answered directly. Instead, Dostoevsky attempts to respond with the novel as a whole, and the greatness of the work is measured by the extent to which he succeeds.


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Simply put, music allows us to have a beautiful experience of sadness and, through this experience, music implicitly affirms the beauty of life. The term beauty, which I have avoided until now, is not intended here in the sense of a formal property or conventional standard. Especially when we talk about the beauty of life, we are not referring to any formal property but rather to its intrinsic value. We are affirming that life is worth living. Similarly, while a musical experience of sadness might include some such formal property, what matters is the increased intrinsic value of the enriched experience—the fine and vivid character of its meaning, not its meaning per se. We feel, at least for a moment, that our sorrow is an experience worth having, an instance of having lived more deeply or fully. To be clear: in this case, a sorrowful experience is not worth having because of some lesson taught, but because of its singular character as it takes on the operatic grandeur of a song by Adele or the knowing wit of a song by Willie Nelson. This idea of existential relief is made more plausible if it is extended over our experience of all the arts, and if we keep in mind the many kinds and gradations of existential suffering and its counterpart, existential enjoyment. Occasionally we are driven to artistic expression and experience by an acute existential crisis. More often existential needs are felt only as faint yearnings for a fuller or more zestful experience of life. Perhaps, most of the time, the arts are pursued not because of any felt need but simply for the sake of enjoyment. Even so, the enjoyment of art has an existential dimension whenever and insofar as it serves to enrich our experience of life. And it does seem that we often find ourselves unexpectedly rewarded by an experience of aesthetic enjoyment that goes beyond the work of art to include an affirmation of life, or at least some aspect thereof. Aesthetic enjoyment has a tendency to “spill over” into our experience of the rest of life, at least for a little while. I suggest that any enjoyment that has this extra, life-affirming dimension can be called existential enjoyment. Again, with regard to the existential relief and enjoyment found in the arts, the critical point on which I am insisting is that these existential dimensions need not consist in the addition of any kind of justificatory or explanatory meaning that causes us to understand our experience of life in a new way. For instance, if we find relief from existential suffering


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caused by a broken heart in a song about heartbreak, it is not because the song explains our suffering to us. Or when we see our own most troubling flaws reflected in the character of a novel, this illumination does not provide us with existential comfort because it is expiatory. In both cases, relief comes, almost paradoxically, from a sharpening of the troubling experience itself. It is often remarked that great writers present to us our own thoughts and feelings in greatly enhanced form. I suggest that this common experience of enhancement is closely related to the way in which our own suffering can be transfigured by aesthetic enrichment without the addition of any compensatory meaning. Of course, the arts can also reveal to us a different perspective and provide us with new insight and understanding—I do not deny this. I am only arguing that these additional meanings are not necessary for obtaining existential satisfaction in art. These points about the existential satisfaction of art are worth highlighting, as they reinforce the central thesis of this book: the harmonic nature of satisfaction. They also clarify the complex relationship between affect and meaning. Our commonsense notion of good and bad feeling is so tightly bound up with meaning that it is difficult to separate these aspects of experience. Indeed, most of the time, they are so closely interrelated as to be inseparable: a feeling that means something bad usually feels bad, and a feeling that means something good usually feels good. But, according to the present theory, any meaning that can be experienced in enriched form can be experienced as beautiful and thus, at least in this sense, as good. * * * The preceding arguments have implications for our understanding of how religious meanings are experienced in the context of religious practice. Now, without any pretense of making a comprehensive or conclusive statement about religion, I want to trace out these implications to show how the preceding discussion of existential enjoyment in the arts can be extended to common varieties of “ordinary religious experience” (Barrett 2017), by which I mean the experience of regular practitioners engaged in common religious activities such as prayer, worship, ritual, and festivity.

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Many religious practitioners attest to the existential satisfaction provided by their practice. Needless to say, the kind and depth of satisfaction provided by religious practice varies widely, depending on the tradition, the practice, the setting, the participant, and so forth. But, generally speaking, it is usually assumed that religion offers existential satisfaction through the addition of special meaning to our experience of life.9 In what follows I will use the harmonic theory to question this assumption in a manner that builds on the preceding discussion of existential enjoyment. First, to continue with this discussion, we need to address—however briefly—the following question: What distinguishes religious meaning from other kinds? Perhaps the most common way to demarcate a special sphere of religious meaning is to say that religion deals with “supernatural concepts”: concepts of entities, forces, or dimensions that transcend the normal, everyday world in which we live (Purzycki et al. 2014). For present purposes, I propose to modify this definition by specifying that supernatural concepts are religious only when they are used to engage existentially important matters: world-founding and world-destroying powers, the fragility of life and its dependence on forces beyond our control, and so forth (cf. Neville 2019). Next, let us stipulate that religious satisfaction depends, at least in part, on the experience of religious meaning as I have just defined it. It follows that one of the main purposes of religious practice is to make religious meaning present to experience. This purpose can be met in myriad ways: some practices focus on the inner visualization of meaning, while others make use of various media to support experience of religious meaning in perceptualized form (Barrett 2014). The “making present” of religious meaning for shared perceptual enjoyment is an especially important part of public religious ritual and festivity.  Probably most religious people would say that the main source of satisfaction is the object of religious experience—a divine being, ultimate reality (e.g., God, in theistic traditions), or whatever aspect of reality is taken to be the focus of religious practice (e.g., “emptiness,” in some Buddhist traditions). But whatever special object is intended in the midst of religious practice, usually the goal is not merely to detect the presence of this object but to experience its special meaning (for life, etc.). Although it is important to acknowledge the religious claim that engagement with religious reality is an essential condition for the experience of religious meaning, the present discussion prescinds from this matter in order to focus on the experience of religious meaning as specified by events and materials of religious practice. 9


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Now, let us suppose that when religious meanings are “made present” in perceptualized form by ritual or festivity, experience of existential matters is also thereby intensified. If this is the case, according to the view developed in this chapter, whatever else is accomplished by religious practice, existential satisfaction may be provided simply by making these existential meanings present in enriched, perceptualized form. Again, my aim here is not to present a comprehensive or conclusive argument about the nature of religious experience. I merely wish to show how the theory of enjoyment developed in this chapter can be extended to common varieties of ordinary religious experience. To clarify and refine this application, let us consider how it fits with the experience of religious festivity as analyzed by the German philosopher Josef Pieper in his short book on the subject (1965/1999). According to Pieper, festivity cannot be understood without appreciating its connection to “the whole of the world and of life” (p.  3). The foundation of festivity is “an absolutely universal affirmation extending to the world as a whole,” which can be summarized by the phrase, “everything that is, is good, and it is good to exist” (p. 26). Thus, in the terms that I have been using in reference to the arts, the central purpose of festivity is to have a shared experience of existential enjoyment. The difference, it seems, is that in the arts we usually find existential enjoyment through enriched experience of certain aspects of life, rather than experience of life as whole. In many other respects, however, the experiences seem to be similar, as indicated by the features of festivity that Pieper considers to be essential to the fulfillment of its purpose. First, the existential affirmation of festivity is not something formulated, but something experienced together and “lived out” (p. 30). And it is primarily a sensuous rather than an intellectual experience: it is something seen (p. 15), as well as heard, smelled, tasted and felt. Its most distinctive meanings must be available to perception, just as in aesthetic experience. Festivity is usually a joyous occasion, marked by exuberance and a degree of “lavishness”—though not for the sake of ostentatious display of wealth, but rather to evoke a sense of abundance or “existential richness” (p. 19). Importantly, however, festivity cannot be mere frivolity or escapist entertainment. It must also be a serious occasion, because it must be felt as embracing all of life, as facing up to reality. In particular,

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the darker and more painful sides of life cannot be omitted. Pieper insists that existential affirmation “is not won by deliberately shutting one’s eyes to the horrors in this world” (p.  27). “Consolation exists only on the premise that grief, sorrow, and death, are accepted, and therefore affirmed, as meaningful in spite of everything” (p. 28). How can festivity encompass all this and still be experienced as joyous and life-affirming? One possibility is that the imagery of festivity—as presented in song and dance, costumed drama and pageantry, and so forth—represents enough of life to give a sense of life’s totality. Historically, at least, it was common for all members of a community take part in festivity. In addition, through symbolic imagery, it is possible to experience the participation of other peoples, legendary figures, animals and elements of nature, forces of good and evil, and much more. However, as important as this imagery of the “life-world totality” may be, there are other, perhaps more effective ways to evoke a sense of life or existence as a whole: images of world-founding elements and forces, or images of the “higher realities on which the whole of existence rests” (p. 17). These latter images typically include supernatural entities and forces, but their most essential feature is the way in which they make existentially fundamental dimensions of reality present to perceptual experience. By “existentially fundamental,” I mean anything on which life as we know it depends. For example, the rituals of many ancient societies were centered on the sun and its yearly cycle, as evidenced by the way that so many prehistoric monuments are designed to focus attention on and magnify our experience of the sun’s movements (Marchant 2020). If these and other fundamental aspects of reality can be intensely experienced in some “perceptualized form,” then perhaps the presence of the world as a whole is also implicitly evoked. Thus, what is experienced is not the totality of the world per se, but that on which the existence and prosperity of the entire world depends. The preceding points allow us to clarify the role of religious imagery in the experience of existential affirmation that, according to Pieper, is at the heart of festivity. Of course a host of other meanings are also made present in festivity. In particular, when festivity is an occasion for homage to a deity or other religious entity, it may seem as if the main focus of celebration is the deity rather than the world as a whole. Also, even if we


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grant that the whole world is made present, because festivity often includes rituals that petition divine support, it may be assumed that its central purpose is not simply to “live out…universal assent to the world as a whole” (p. 30) but rather to preserve the world against chaos and evil. Yet these meanings—affirmation and preservation of the world—are not mutually exclusive. And in any case, my intention is not to exclude these other purposes and meanings from religious festivity. I only want to highlight the possibility that the special satisfaction of festivity can be obtained without providing assurance of divine favor and support. Insofar as a deity or divine power is connected with some existentially fundamental aspect of reality, just its symbolic presence at the heart of festivity may be enough to turn an experience of collective enjoyment into an experience of world affirmation. In summary, there are two basic requirements for festivity as an experience of existential affirmation. The first is an experience of “the whole of the world and of life” (p. 3). Included in this experience of the whole are existentially important meanings related to tragic aspects of life, the precariousness of the world, the dependence of life as we know it on forces beyond our control, and so forth. The preceding paragraphs have discussed how “perceptualized” experiences of these meanings might be achieved through the religious imagery of festivity. The second requirement is an experience of festivity as abundantly “meaningful in itself ” (p. 9). The latter includes both fullness of meaning and the intrinsic value of enjoyment, which, as I have argued in previous sections of this chapter, often go together. When these requirements are met in a single experience, we have the makings of a special kind of existential enjoyment that is distinctly religious, although it is closely related to, and indeed overlaps with, the kinds of existential enjoyment more widely found in the arts. As discussed here, the main distinction between the two is the greater degree to which the former fulfills the first requirement: experience of the whole “life-world,” including its most existentially troubling aspects. What does this account bring to our understanding of religious ritual and festivity? It is often noted that regular attempts to propitiate a deity, especially when made at great expense to the community, present a special challenge to naturalistic explanation (this challenge is sometimes

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called the “cost puzzle”; see Sosis 2009, p. 327). For example, given that an elaborate festival celebrated in honor of the sun god at the winter solstice cannot have any effect on the following year’s harvest, what sustains this costly practice for hundreds of years? Most attempts to answer this kind of question with a functional explanation—e.g., social solidarity— do not address the actual experience of religious ritual as such, and beg the question of why this function is achieved in such a costly manner. They usually do not consider the possibility that a religious ritual can offer unique experiential benefits that are directly procured through the ritual itself. The present theory suggests that if a religious ritual offers an enriched experience of the fragility of community life, this enriched experience is itself an immediate and powerful source of existential comfort. This explanation may seem counterintuitive at first, as it runs counter to what many presume to be the experiential benefits of religious ritual. That is, when we consider the relief from existential anxiety provided by religious ritual, we usually presume that it comes from an assurance that misfortune will be avoided, not by accentuating our feeling of dependence on powers beyond our control and thus intensifying our experience of the fragility of existence and the contingency of fortune and misfortune. Yet according to the argument of this chapter, any ritual event that involves an intensified experience of the precariousness of life can provide existential comfort solely by virtue of this intensified experience. Thus, just as music can offer a transfigured experience of sadness, religious ritual may offer a transfigured experience of existential anxiety that works by sharpening rather than assuaging this anxiety.10 If I am right, participants should not need to understand the experiential benefits of ritual and festivity this way—as products of intensification rather than assurance—in order to obtain them. The only requisite would be that the existential meaning of the festivity is experienced with intensity. In this respect, at least, this account of the experiential benefits of ritual is closely aligned with participants’ own understanding of the goodness and power of their experience.

 For this view of how religious ritual works through the accentuation of existentially troubling matters I am indebted to William Jordan (e.g., 2003) and Robert Neville (e.g., 2019). 10


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References Balcombe, Jonathan. 2006. Pleasurable Kingdom: Animals and the Nature of Feeling Good. New York: Macmillan. Barrett, Nathaniel F. 2014. The Perception of Religious Meaning and Value: An Ecological Approach. Religion, Brain & Behavior 4 (2): 127–146. ———. 2017. Ordinary Religious Experience, Learning and Adaptation: A Call for Interdisciplinary Inquiry. Palgrave Communications 3 (1): 1–4. Burghardt, Gordon M. 2005. The Genesis of Animal Play: Testing the Limits. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Clarke, Eric. 2005. Ways of Listening: An Ecological Approach to the Perception of Musical Meaning. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly. 1990. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. New York: Harper Row. Deacon, Terrence W. 1997. The Symbolic Species: The Co-Evolution of Language and the Brain. New York: W.W. Norton & Co. Dewey, John. 1929/1958. Experience and Nature. New York: Dover. ———. 1934/1980. Art as Experience. New York: Putnam. ———. 1941/1988. The philosophy of Whitehead. In John Dewey, The Later Works, 1925–1953. Volume 14: 1939–1941, ed. J.A.  Boydston, 123–140. Carbondale and Edwardsville, IL: Southern Illinois University Press. Fredrickson, Barbara. 2009. Positivity. New York: Crown Publishers. Fultot, Martin, P. Adrian Frazier, M.T. Turvey, and Claudia Carello. 2019. What Are Nervous Systems For? Ecological Psychology 31 (3): 218–234. Gibson, James J. 1979/1986. The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception. Hills-­ dale, NJ: Lawrence. Gosling, J.C.B., and C.C.W.  Taylor. 1982. The Greeks on Pleasure. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Jordan, William R. 2003. The Sunflower Forest: Ecological Restoration and the New Community with Nature. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. Langer, Susanne. 1942/1996. Philosophy in a New Key. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Marchant, Jo. 2020. The Human Cosmos: Civilization and the Stars. New York: Dutton. Nakamura, Jeanne, and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. 2005. The Concept of Flow. In Handbook of Positive Psychology, ed. C.R. Snyder and S.J. Lopez, 89–105. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Neville, Robert C. 1981. Reconstruction of Thinking. Albany: SUNY Press.

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———. 1989. Recovery of the Measure. Albany: SUNY Press. ———. 2019. The Metaphysics of Goodness. Albany: SUNY Press. Pepperell, Robert. 2018. Consciousness as a Physical Process Caused by the Organization of Energy in the Brain. Frontiers in Psychology 9: Article 2091. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02091. Pieper, Josef. 1965/1999. In Tune with the World: A Theory of Festivity. Trans. R. Winston and C. Winston. South Bend, IN: St. Augustine’s Press. Pinker, Steven. 1997. How the Mind Works. New York: W.W. Norton & Co. Prum, Richard O. 2017. The Evolution of Beauty: How Darwin’s Forgotten Theory of Mate Choice Shapes the World. New York: Doubleday. Purzycki, Benjamin Grant, Omar Haque, and Richard Sosis. 2014. Extending Evolutionary Accounts of Religion Beyond the Mind: Religions as Adaptive Systems. In Evolution, Religion, and Cognitive Science: Critical and Constructive Essays, ed. F. Watts and L.P. Turner, 74–91. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Shapiro, Lisa. 2018. Pleasure: A History. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Shulman, R.G., F.  Hyder, and D.L.  Rothman. 2009. Baseline Brain Energy Supports the State of Consciousness. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106 (27): 11096–11101. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0903941106. Simons, Daniel J., and Christopher F. Chabris. 1999. Gorillas in Our Midst: Sustained Inattentional Blindness for Dynamic Events. Perception 28 (9): 1059–1074. Sosis, Richard. 2009. The Adaptationist-Byproduct Debate on the Evolution of Religion: Five Misunderstandings of the Adaptationist Program. Journal of Cognition and Culture 9 (3–4): 315–332. Swenson, Ron, and Michael T.  Turvey. 1991. Thermodynamic Reasons for Perception-Action Cycles. Ecological Psychology 3 (4): 317–348. Tononi, Giulio. 2015. Integrated Information Theory. Scholarpedia 10 (1): 4164. Turvey, Michael T., and Claudia Carello. 1981. Cognition: The View from Ecological Realism. Cognition 10 (1–3): 313–321. Watts, Michelle E., Roger Pocock, and Charles Claudianos. 2018. Brain Energy and Oxygen Metabolism: Emerging Role in Normal Function and Disease. Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience 11: 216.

10 Conclusion

By way of a summary of the preceding arguments, let us return to the desiderata listed at the close of Part I and consider how each has been met by the theory developed in Part II. §1 How affect is felt: The harmonic theory claims that affect is primarily a non-perceptual feeling of how the contents of consciousness are differentiated within the present dynamic repertoire of consciousness. The differentiated-ness of feeling cannot appear to us as a distinct feature that can be picked out from the contents of feeling. However, insofar as changes of differentiated-ness can be felt as changes of harmonic intensity and its component dimensions of strength and diversity, affect can be felt as a suffuse but unmistakable tone-like feature that can be readily gauged and reported. §2 Intrinsic connection to value: The harmonic theory of affect entails a particular version of the classic idea of value as unity-in-diversity. For this version, value is achieved not simply by having diverse things together but by the intensity of the contrast made by diverse things brought together in a particular way. In other words, the value of

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 N. F. Barrett, Enjoyment as Enriched Experience, Palgrave Perspectives on Process Philosophy, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-13790-7_10



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unity-in-diversity lies in the way in which diverse things are realized as unique individuals such through contrastive relations. This claim about the harmonic nature of the feeling of value rests on an appeal to experience: insofar as we can detect changes of harmonic intensity in perceptual feelings, we should be able to confirm its connection to the intrinsic value or goodness of experience. §3 Intimate but variable relation to the qualitative content of consciousness: Non-perceptual feelings of changing differentiated-ness suffuse the qualitative content of consciousness because they are feelings of the contrastive determination of this content. Affective tone is therefore not something added to conscious feeling; it is intrinsic to its constitution. Moreover, because affect is directly related to the concrete individuality or “thisness” of content, attempts to describe affective tone usually merge with detailed qualitative descriptions. At the same time, it is possible for qualitatively different feelings to have similar kinds of affect tone, just as it is possible for qualitatively similar feelings to have very different kinds of affective tone. Also, affective tone can change while qualitative content seems to stay the same (alliesthesia). §4 Causal power: For the harmonic theory, the causal power of affect is rooted in the connection to value described above. Because of this connection, the forcefulness of affect always has the prima facie validity of the intrinsic value or disvalue of feeling. Moreover, strictly speaking, for the harmonic theory, affect is not a feeling of causation; rather causation and feeling are “thought together” as occasions of contrastive determination. For this perspective, all feelings/causal events are governed by an optimality principle: they are determined so as to achieve a maximum of harmonic intensity, and in many contexts the choice among possible maxima is sufficiently restricted as to be “forced.” The energetic connotations of harmonic intensity suggest a connection to a physical optimality principle such as the Principle of Maximum Entropy Production (Swenson 1988). §5 Relation to motivation: The harmonic theory understands motivational feelings as anticipatory contrasts. The stronger the anticipatory contrast, the stronger the motivational feeling. Insofar as all conscious feelings include some anticipatory contrast, the harmonic theory rec-

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ognizes motivation as a basic feature of consciousness while at the same time demarcating a sphere of motivational feelings marked by strength of anticipatory contrast. It is also able to register the finding that “motivational intensity” is linked to narrowness of cognitive scope (Gable and Harmon-Jones 2010), regardless of valence, as well as the possibility that feelings can be notably positive or negative without inclining us to act. In short, motivational feelings are a subclass of strong feelings distinguished by strong anticipatory contrasts and whose valence—like other strong feelings—is determined by the impact of this strength on harmonic intensity. §6 Polarity of valence: The harmonic theory of affect claims that the difference between positive and negative feeling is a matter of degree determined by the overall harmonic intensity of feeling. However, valence is not just relative: it also involves reference to an “affective baseline” corresponding to the harmonic intensity of normal conscious resting states. Moreover, because of the connection between harmonic intensity and our capacity to feel, this affective baseline is not entirely arbitrary. Positive feelings entail increased capacity to feel and thus increased cognitive capacity, while negative feelings involve decreases of the same, although in many situations this decrease is conducive to an appropriate course of action. §7 Relation between valence and other dimensions of affect: The harmonic theory registers the existence of multiple components or dimensions of affect, including: (1) valence; (2) an energetic component, described variously as intensity, arousal, activation, or tension; and (3) motivational force. It allows for these dimensions to vary somewhat independently, but unlike other models it understands them as different mixtures of two basic “ingredients” of feeling: strength and diversity of contrast. Valence corresponds to overall harmonic intensity of feeling in relation to the affective baseline; various kinds of intensity/ arousal/activation/tension correspond to different combinations of strength and diversity; and motivation corresponds to strength of anticipatory contrast. §8 Unity and variety: The harmonic theory is able to account for our commonsense view of affective tone as a simple scalar property or “common currency” that supports comparisons of value across dispa-


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rate kinds of experience. The hedonic value of an experience—not to be confused with other kinds of value—is determined by its overall level of harmonic intensity. At the same time, because harmonic intensity comprises two dimensions of strength and diversity of contrast, it also accounts for the difficulty of comparing experiences that belong to different regions of the affective continuum (e.g., “wide” vs. “narrow”). §9 Relation between affect and consciousness: According to the harmonic theory, there can be no consciousness without affect, and no affect without consciousness. It also clarifies that consciousness is not just the appearance of qualities, and affect is not just a feeling of harmonic intensity. Consciousness is an actively self-constituting, affectively regulating stream of feelings, and affect is a comparative feeling that both directs and depends on flow, awareness of change. Other basic traits of consciousness—awareness of meaning and self—also depend on and contribute to this active interrelation between flow and affect. Thus, affect is one of several co-dependently arising traits that distinguish conscious from non-conscious feeling. §10 Relation between affect and meaning: The harmonic theory accounts for the close connection between affective tone and the meaning of experience by understanding these as two aspects of the same basic feature of contrast. Meaning pertains to contrasts as relations extending beyond the present, while affective tone pertains to contrasts as presently achieved harmonic unities. All conscious feelings have both meaning and affective tone; the enrichment of contrast increases both meaningfulness and harmonic intensity. Because of this connection, the harmonic theory is able to account for the positivity of meaningful experiences, our propensity to seek existential relief and enjoyment in enriched experiences of meaning, and the transfiguration of sadness and other negative emotions through the arts and religious ritual. §11 Role in other aspects of experience: According to the harmonic theory, because all conscious feelings and components thereof are contrastively determined with some level of harmonic intensity, affect necessarily conditions and is conditioned by all other aspects of conscious experience. As the impetus of all feeling, the aim at maximum har-

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monic intensity is the beating heart of the perception-action cycle and the motive force that drives and directs all learning and cognition. In the case of conscious feeling, however, it is possible to choose between different maxima, allowing for intentional choice and, occasionally, the critical self-control of perception, thought, and behavior. §12 Differentiation and explanation of various types of affective experience: The harmonic theory is able to differentiate between (at least) six basic types of affective tone—positive and negative narrow feelings, positive and negative wide feelings, and positive and negative complex feelings—and to show how these are related to one another. Other explanatory payoffs include: differentiation between causes of affective change; explanation of the connection between positive affect and intimations of novelty and uniqueness; inclusion of motivational feelings as a variety of affect; and the articulation of enjoyment as a broad category of positive experience that depends on enriched flow and skillful engagement. Now, lest the preceding summary be taken as a complete and final statement of the nature of affect and its role in experience, the following sections highlight unfinished tasks and unresolved questions related to the topics of feeling, value, and causation—the very same topics that were singled out at the beginning of the book as the main “entanglements” of the problem of affect. The goal of this final discussion is to show how the harmonic theory is situated within a much wider context of inquiry and, within this wider context, to indicate some of the ways in which the theory might be further developed and tested. But before we consider this wider context, let us review some of the ways in which the harmonic theory of affect can be tested against experience and various programs of scientific research.

Testing the Theory With respect to experience, the test of a theory of affect is not a simple matter of faithful representation. The theory should not be contradicted by experience, of course. But given how much of our experience is


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“obscure and ambiguous” (Dewey 1941/1988, p. 125), the more important test is whether and how the theory helps to improve our understanding of experience. As a case in point, consider how the enrichment of enjoyment and the impoverishment of suffering are explained by the harmonic theory as the expansion and constriction of conscious activity, respectively. These explanations can be said to fit with experience insofar as we can confirm that we do have expansive and constrictive feelings. I have argued, however, that at best we find only vague and inconsistent support for these tendencies. The more important contribution of the theory, therefore, is its specification of what expands and contracts— differentiated-­ness of feeling and the conscious repertoire—as well as its proposal of a connection between these changes and our feeling of value, along with changes of cognitive scope, meaningfulness, and skillful engagement. In other words, the harmonic theory does not simply affirm our experience of joy to be enriching and our experience of pain to be impoverishing; it helps us to understand what it means for experience to be enriched or impoverished. Also, the theory helps to make sense of subtle, complex, or perplexing aspects of experience such as dissonant feelings and the enjoyment of sad music. The latter experience has special importance for the harmonic theory because of what it reveals about the connection between enrichment and enjoyment as well as the complex relationship between affect and meaning. Along these lines, one of the most distinctive features of the present theory is the account it provides of the power of art and religious ritual to transfigure emotionally troubling experiences. It is worth reiterating that the harmonic theory entails a number of falsifiable claims and implications, even if direct falsification is not a simple matter. As a specification of the enrichment approach, it strictly excludes enriched bad feelings and impoverished good feelings. For example, insofar as pain is a cause of suffering, there can be no such thing as a finely nuanced pain. It should be remembered, however, that for the present theory these rules apply to the causal enrichment of feeling—to its differentiated-ness—not to its content. To make matters more confusing, what may feel like a deficiency of discriminable content for one person can be felt by another as a highly differentiated quality (e.g., as when dissonance and noise are enjoyed in music). Falsification of the theory is also

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complicated by the fact that the most easily gauged and reported affective variables—valence and arousal—are not readily discriminated as changes of harmonic intensity, differentiated-ness, and strength and diversity of contrast. The latter features are not meant to be tested directly by self-­ report, but rather to articulate the affective continuum and to account for the relationship between whatever variables can be reliably reported (cf. Kahneman 2000; Barrett and Bliss-Moreau 2009; Kuppens et al. 2013). Finally, as discussed in Chap. 5, harmonic intensity and its component dimensions of strength and diversity should pertain to features of the dynamic correlates of conscious experience in a way that is empirically testable, at least in principle. Especially relevant are studies of how changes in the complexity of neural dynamics—defined in various ways (see Northoff and Lamme 2020)—relate to different levels or types of consciousness. The harmonic theory predicts that positive feelings should correspond, on average, to higher levels of complexity, with the important caveat that harmonic intensity is not strictly equivalent any currently available measure of complexity.

 he Mystery of Qualities and the Importance T of Importance In contemporary philosophy, qualities are widely considered to be the definitive traits of conscious feeling. Indeed, many analytic philosophers define consciousness simply as the presence of qualia.1 In this book qualities have not disappeared from view, but they have taken a back seat to contrast. The present pan-experientialist approach identifies feelings with causal events and understands both as acts of contrastive determination. One of the advantages of treating qualities as contrastively determined is that inquiry into the nature of conscious feeling can move forward even as basic questions about the existence of qualities and their connection to consciousness remain unanswered. In Chap. 5, I merely gestured toward the possibility that qualities are entailed by all varieties of contrastive determination and left it at that.  For criticism of this view, see Crane (2019), Putnam (1999, pp. 151–175).



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But why should qualities exist at all, in this or any other universe? Here again the connection to contrast may help to move inquiry forward. Qualitative richness is often singled out as a trait of conscious feeling; with just a slight change of focus we can also say that consciousness is marked by contrastive richness. Indeed, at least in the case of conscious feeling, we can say that qualitative richness is contrastive richness. Perhaps, then, the raison d’être of quality has to do with its role in the production of contrast. But what is the raison d’être of contrast? As discussed in Chap. 6, the reason for the contrastive richness of conscious feeling is twofold, corresponding to the two kinds of optimality continually pursued by experience: maximal harmonic intensity and maximal “grip.” In conscious feeling these two kinds of optimality are closely related, as both are dependent on contrastive richness, but only the first is posited by the harmonic theory as a fundamental optimality common to all causal events. Thus, the reason for contrastive richness— and thus for contrast—is found in the harmonic concept of value as enriched unity-in-diversity. Now, as I have just suggested, the coincidence in conscious feeling of contrastive richness and qualitative richness suggests that the latter may be essential to the former, so that the existence of quality in our universe is explained by its role in contrast. But why should it be so? Is there anything more we can say about contrast and quality that would support this idea of an essential connection between them? There is a third trait, common to our experience of quality and contrast, which has been largely omitted from previous discussion. This is the trait of importance. Although importance may be readily accepted as indispensable to our descriptions of natural phenomena, it is seldom considered as basic to how these phenomena are actually constituted “in themselves.” That is, insofar as importance is perspectival, it is assumed to belong to our experience of relations but not to relations as they actually obtain in nature. For Whiteheadian pan-experientialist cosmology, however, importance is essential to the relational nature of all actual entities (e.g., see Whitehead 1938/1968). The connection between importance and contrast, especially strength of contrast, should be readily apparent. The connection to quality is much less evident, however, especially if we are in the habit of

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prescinding qualities from experience and considering them as simple, unrelated essences. But once we return qualities to their “native habitat”—together with other qualities in the constant flux of experience— importance emerges as a basic feature of their existence as well. Just as we have no experience of quality that is not contrastive, we have no experience of quality that is not structured by importance. For example, it has to do with the way in which some qualities “stand out” more than others when arranged in a contrast. It also has to do with the determination of the overall quality achieved by contrast. Once importance is added to the picture, contrast can be defined more precisely by adding vagueness and triviality to the primary dimensions of strength and diversity (Whitehead 1978, pp. 111–112). Closer consideration of vagueness and triviality as necessary complements of strength and diversity reveals the essentially hierarchical and complex character of all contrastive relations (Barrett 2016). Importance has to do with what comes forward and what is left in the background in the production of contrast. It is worth reiterating, however, that these notions of “foreground” and “background” are matters of selective emphasis, not just proximity. Importance is a causal concept pertaining to how things are actually constituted as individuals, not just a matter of how things are ordered in space and time. The trait of importance was omitted from previous discussions of feeling in an attempt to simplify the exposition of contrast and harmonic intensity and their application to experience. This strategy is justified insofar as this simplified account of contrast preserves its most essential features (mutual conditioning, strength and diversity). Bringing importance back into the picture does more than just add complexity and depth, however. It suggests a number of ways in which the contrastive view of feeling and causation should be amended. With respect to the scope of causal events (see first postulate in Chap. 5), consideration of importance points up the possibility that the delimitation of causal scope is a matter of degree—that is, a matter of importance—rather than a sharp cut-off. Perhaps the full scope of every event is the entire universe (Nobo 1986) but for most events nearly all of this context is so trivial that it might as well be excluded. In that case, the


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“enormous constraint” of locality demands an explanation (Smolin 2013, p. 182; Barrett and Sánchez-Cañizares 2018). With respect to quality and contrast, the “importance of importance” for the achievement of contrastive richness seems to bring us one step closer to understanding how these two basic features of experience are connected. The hypothesis under consideration is that importance, quality, and contrast, are essentially interrelated features all stemming from the same basic axiological imperative—the aim at maximal harmonic intensity (Whitehead 1978). Admittedly, it is doubtful whether this interrelation can be examined sub specie aeternitatus so that we can ascertain whether qualities are metaphysically necessary for the production of maximal harmonic intensity. Perhaps the best we can do is to examine how qualities are involved in the production of contrast in our own experience. In this way, although we may not be able to claim that quality is metaphysically necessary, we may at least find some reason to believe that its existence in our universe is not entirely arbitrary.

Value and the Critique of Experience The harmonic theory of value as unity-in-diversity plays a central role in the present approach to affect, including its correlate theories of feeling and causality. Despite this centrality, the justification of the harmonic nature of value has been rather slight, consisting almost entirely in a brief appeal to experience. In my defense, the main objective of this book is to explain the feeling of value and the role of this feeling in conscious experience, not investigate the nature of value per se. In an effort to keep the argument on track, I have steered clear of questions about moral and aesthetic judgment, happiness, and the good life. I will not try to tackle these questions here, but I do want briefly to indicate how they might be pursued from the standpoint of the present theory. The key issue is the relation between the feeling of value and value per se. Does value exist outside of feeling? And, if so, how does the feeling of value relate to its “objective” existence? Those who hold to some variety of value realism or objectivism normally suppose that value exists outside of feeling. In addition, value

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realists commonly suppose that the feeling of value is merely the subjective appearance of value as it “really and truly” exists. As a result of this distinction between feeling and value, discussions of moral and aesthetic judgment and eudaimonic notions of happiness tend to be preoccupied with bridging the gap between feeling and value or to pass over the feeling of value altogether (e.g., because happiness is a matter of virtue, not a subjective state). For this view, the modern identification of value and subjectivity (see Chap. 2) is a catastrophic error. Another common view, often opposed to value realism, is the subjectivist or hedonist position for which (1) value does not exist outside of feeling and (2) feeling is confined to conscious subjects. Usually there is no need to add this second part, of course, as it is so widely assumed. But from a pan-experientialist perspective, the assumption that feeling is confined to consciousness makes standard varieties of value subjectivism and value realism into strange bedfellows. What these two seemingly disparate views have in common—one subjectivist and hedonist, the other objectivist and realist—is the assumption of a deep divide between feelings and the rest of reality. Pan-experientialism suggests a third possibility. Perhaps, just as the subjectivist holds, value does not exist outside of feeling, but feeling is not confined to conscious subjects. For example, as stipulated in this book, perhaps feeling is coterminous with causal events. This position effectively makes pan-experientialism into a pan-axiological view of nature. Accordingly, it can be used to support an oddly “subjectivist” form of value realism: values do exist independently of our feelings, but not independently of all feelings. Finally, a fourth possibility is to make value into a transcendental feature pertaining to all determinations of being. This position can be termed “axiological metaphysics,” and it is my preferred approach to questions about the nature and reality of value (for extended discussion, see Neville 1989). Axiological metaphysics is not simply an argument for the goodness of being or the value of all things. In its most productive form, it guides and stimulates inquiry into the nature of value and other topics by “thinking value together” with other matters of equivalent importance and generality. For instance, as discussed in the Introduction, for the speculative tradition from which this book derives, value is thought together with relation.


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Also, it should be emphasized that axiological metaphysics is not just a speculative theoretical endeavor: it can be motivated by practical considerations. The thesis that value is a universal transcendental property does not provide any guarantee for our judgments of value, and it certainly does not support the “status quo.” But it may offer new and increased leverage on our questions about value by expanding the context in which they are pursued. From a pragmatist standpoint, the most important motivation for doing axiological metaphysics is the fundamental role played by value in all forms of inquiry (Barrett 2022). Supposing this to be the case, axiological metaphysics is necessary if inquiry is to become fully self-critical. To be clear, the contribution of axiological metaphysics is not to provide a foundation for inquiry but to enable inquiry to expose its most basic presuppositions to criticism. Returning to the subject of this book, the upshot of these practical considerations is to underscore the importance of value not just for understanding the nature of affect but also for its critique. The critique of affect as a tool of political influence is the main focus of the field known as affect theory (Schaefer 2019). I have not engaged with this field for a variety of reasons, some having to do with differences of orientation, others having to with the challenge of disentangling my view of experience from the Deleuzian perspective that currently dominates affect theory. But perhaps the biggest difference is the way in which affect theory has eschewed the question of value. From my perspective, understanding affect as a feeling of value is essential to its critique. Insisting as I do on the connection to value does not necessarily make affect transparently rational. The harmonic theory is able to confirm Pascal’s observation that “the heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing.” But it goes further to assert that all feelings, perceptual and non-perceptual, conscious and non-conscious, have their reasons. From any given perspective, some reasons are more accessible to critique than others, but there is no firm and fixed line that divides reasons that can be interrogated and critiqued from those that cannot. More to the point, because experience is affective through and through there is no non-­ affective ground on which we can stand so as to critique affect. If that is the case, either the reasons inherent in affect can be exposed to criticism or no criticism of any kind is possible.

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Causation and Other Unfinished Groundwork To meet the complex challenges posed by the problem of affect, I have undertaken an abbreviated form of systematic argument that involves a distinctive way of thinking about causation in relation to feeling and value, and yet I have bypassed the usual contexts in which theories of causation are normally developed. Specifically, a number of hypotheses about causal events were introduced in Chaps. 5 and 6 that were explained only as needed for the development of the harmonic theory. To be given more serious consideration, these claims need to be elaborated and brought into conversation with relevant fields of philosophy and science—no small task, to be sure. Let us revisit the reasons for leaving this work unfinished. As argued in the Introduction, I do not believe that systematic arguments should always start by tackling the most general and basic kinds of questions and then “build from the ground up.” Rather, in many cases it is acceptable and even preferable to make rough sketches of systematic frameworks within which more specific theories can be advanced and then circle back to develop these frameworks as needed. It may be the case that we cannot understand experience without thoroughly reconstructing our view of nature, but we should not require that the latter task be carried out to our satisfaction before we can entertain new hypotheses about experience as a natural phenomenon. For the dialectical form of inquiry that cycles between investigations of nature and experience, there is no single authoritative “ground” on which to build. Nevertheless, the arguments of this book have serious and wide-­ ranging implications that should be acknowledged. To review, the main claims about causation can be summarized as follows: 1. Causation is contrastive: Every causal event in nature is an instance of the contrastive determination that has been applied here to the analysis of conscious feeling: each event comprises a co-determined multiplicity and results in an actual state that (a) has the complex, unitary character of a presentational contrast and (b) makes a causal contrast with other possible states.


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2. Causation occurs across different scales: Causal events are not confined to a fundamental spatiotemporal scale but can vary across many orders of magnitude. 3. Causation involves a “choice”: Every causal event in nature is self-­ determined insofar as it can be determined in more than one way, requiring a “choice” between possible states. In most cases, this self-­ determination is not sufficient for conscious choice, as the latter depends on awareness of reasons for choosing between states with nontrivial consequences. 4. Causation maximizes harmonic intensity: Every causal event in nature achieves a definite level of harmonic intensity comprised of definite degrees of strength and diversity of contrast, and for each event this level is always among the maxima afforded by the context in which it occurs. 5. Causation entails feeling: Every causal event constitutes a unique, unitary perspective on the co-determination of its component multiplicity, and this perspective may include the same qualitative features that we find in conscious feeling. The causal events that constitute consciousness are distinguished from others not by their qualitative nature but by their greater spatiotemporal extension and their higher level of harmonic intensity, and by several interrelated features that emerge when these variables pass a certain threshold: affect, flow, meaning, and self-awareness. Perhaps the most important feature of this view of causation is the claim that each and every event achieves a maximum of harmonic intensity. This is a version of the idea that causation is directed by a kind of optimality principle, and thus points toward a form of metaphysical optimalism that needs to be filled out. In particular, some of the main gaps to be filled are: (1) a more detailed treatment of the relationship between this optimality-based view of causation and other varieties of metaphysical optimalism (e.g., Leibniz 1989; Whitehead 1978; Neville 1989; Rescher 2010); (2) an exploration of possible connections between this view of optimality and various extremal, variational, and optimality principles in physics (e.g., Rojo and Bloch 2018), including especially the Law of Maximum Entropy Production proposed by Rod Swenson

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(1988); (3) a more detailed articulation of the implications of this optimality-­based view of causation for our understanding of evolution, life, mind, and behavior. When the full implications of the harmonic theory are laid out in summary fashion, it may seem ridiculous that so much could follow from a theory of affect. Is this not an extravagant case of the tail wagging the dog? Again, there is no hiding the fact that the present approach attempts to explain the affective nature of experience by means of a radically reformist but also still largely undeveloped approach to causation. But the apparent extravagance of this approach depends on our view of the authoritativeness and finality of prevailing scientific and philosophical theories of causation as well as our view of how inquiry into such matters should proceed. Many would say that prevailing theories of causation are far from settled and not so well grounded as they appear; I have just pointed out that inquiry need not and perhaps should not start with the most basic questions (from a cosmological standpoint). Also, we should not forget that affect and motivation are indispensable to our causal understanding of life, mind, and behavior (including our own, of course). The theory developed in this book can therefore be described as a first step toward the naturalization of this fundamental aspect of our commonsense causal understanding, that is, a first step toward the construction of a more coherent view of the world as a “causally closed” system that includes affect and motivation. If the deep incoherence between our causal understanding of animal and human life and our causal understanding of the rest of the world is taken as our starting point, the search for a radical approach that can bring these together should not seem so extravagant—especially if the search is initially conducted in philosophy, where the cost of failure is so low. Moreover, the potential benefits of admitting an affective-valuative dimension into our view of causation are manifold. For starters, this view of causation, together with the view of consciousness as an affectively self-­ regulated stream, suggests a value-centered approach to the theory of mind, the outlines of which were adumbrated in Chap. 6. The main benefit of this approach is the opportunity it affords to incorporate motivation into our basic picture of cognition (see Barrett 2020a). Meanwhile, on the widest scale, this view of causation points toward the introduction


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of value—in the form of a fundamental optimality principle—into our most basic frameworks of physical explanation, helping to account for the complexity and law-like order of our universe as probable outcomes of an evolutionary process rather than the predetermined consequence of highly improbable initial conditions (Unger and Smolin 2014; Barrett and Sánchez-Cañizares 2018). But perhaps the most practical and readily realized benefit is the opportunity to broaden and enrich our understanding of animal and human behavior, as I will elaborate below. In all of these contexts, the main promise of an affective-valuative view of causation is the possibility of considering additional reasons within nature for the diverse kinds of order, structure, and pattern that we find everywhere around us. If the aim at harmonic intensity can be connected to an empirically verifiable optimality principle—such as the Law of Maximal Entropy Production (Swenson 1988)—then any recurring trait that we find in nature can be understood in terms of its causal antecedents and functional properties as well as its “intrinsic value” as the realization of a physical optimality within certain conditions.

Nature as a Process of Perpetual Enrichment In the final pages of this book I want to draw out some of these implications by making a brief sketch of the view of nature in which our experience of enjoyment is the manifestation of a universal impulse toward increased harmonic intensity—just as mountain peaks “are the earth in one of its manifest operations” (Dewey 1934/1980, p. 3). When contemplated as the beginnings of a philosophy of nature, the optimalist slant of the harmonic theory may seem to point toward an extreme Panglossian view of the world in which everything is always trending upward toward a state of maximal flourishing and ecstatic enjoyment. There is a definite strain of “joyful naturalism” in Whitehead’s philosophy (Jones 1998, p. 44). But according to Whitehead himself, as well as most of his interpreters, the world is far from Panglossian. Indeed, it is more aptly described as tragic. Universal and perpetual flourishing is necessarily precluded by the limits imposed by the aim at intensity. As a result, every achievement of intensity is transient and “perpetually

10 Conclusion 


perishing” (Whitehead 1978, p. 340); every enrichment is attended by destruction and loss (see Kraus 1987). These are important considerations. As I have discussed elsewhere (2016, 2020b, 2022), Whitehead’s “aesthetics of intensity” has profound repercussions for our understanding of our precarious place in the natural world, the limitations of human flourishing, and the kinds of moral and existential problems that arise from these limitations. Here I am concerned to guard against a facile reading of the Whiteheadian idea that “everything always seeks enrichment.” To avoid misunderstanding, we need to be sufficiently clear and precise about what is being enriched by the aim at harmonic intensity. Strictly speaking, the thing that always seeks enrichment is just the present causal event qua “fact in the making,” and the enrichment that is sought is just its own contrastive determination with whatever maximal harmonic intensity is permitted by the context in which it is determined.2 Given that we are talking about a theory of causation that is supposed to cover all the constituent causal events of human experience, this may seem like a extremely self-centered view of enrichment that precludes the possibility of genuine altruism. It is true that for this picture of nature all enrichment is first and foremost a kind self-enrichment, just as all enjoyment is also, at least implicitly, a kind of self-enjoyment. But depending on the meanings included within the self-enrichment of experience and the context in which it occurs, genuine concern for others is possible. The intended future consequences of self-enrichment may even include the sacrifice of one’s own life for the benefit of others. All that is required is that the intention to sacrifice oneself for others is among the available opportunities for the present maximization of harmonic intensity. Taking a step back, the question of altruism can be seen as a special case of a more general question: If all that is sought in the present moment is the maximization of harmonic intensity, how is it possible that anything survives? It seems that we cannot account for any kind self-interest that extends beyond the present moment, much less altruism. If intensity  Actually, this is a greatly simplified view of Whiteheadian causation, as it assumes the constraints of a “local context” as if these were predetermined and externally imposed. A full-fledged theory has to account for the causal context of an event as internal constraints belonging to a particular history. On locality as an emergent historical feature of causal events, see Smolin (2013). 2


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is the sole aim of every causal event, the persistence of any structure from moment to moment is a matter of sheer circumstance. At least without further elaboration, then, Whitehead’s claim that the fundamental impulse of nature is the aim at intensity (1978) amounts to a blunt refutation of Spinoza’s claim that “each thing, as far as it is in itself, endeavors to persevere in its being” (1677/2000, p. 171). Granted, at face value, neither claim seems to be well supported. But the evidence is not so easily weighed, as both claims are not about what does and does not persevere, but how best to account for the patterns of enduring identity that we find in nature—including cycles of growth, persistence, destruction, and decay. In the case of Whiteheadian cosmology, the key idea is that the aim at intensity can have diverse consequences for structure depending on the context in which it occurs. Structures can and do manage to persevere— sometimes for billions of years—but only as long as they constitute a local maximum of whatever physical optimality corresponds to intensity. Let us suppose that this optimality has to do with the flow of energy, along the lines of the Law of Maximum Energy Production (Swenson 1988). According to this view, non-living processes are distinguished by an indifference to structure, as they tend to create, maintain, or destroy structures according to immediately available opportunities for optimal flow of energy. Just as the structure of a whirlpool endures only as long as it optimally facilitates the flow of water in its vicinity, perhaps the structure of a star endures only as long as it optimally facilitates a different kind of flow. But insofar as both are maintained by optimalized flows of energy, neither perseveres for the sake of perseverance. And in a certain sense this is true of all things, living and non-living. The distinguishing feature of living things is not that they are somehow able to choose self-­ preservation over the optimal flow of energy but rather the greater degree to which they control the parameters that make the preservation (or growth) of their own structure into a local optimality. Life is not indifferent to structure, as living beings are able to control local parameters of optimization in service of the preservation, growth, development, and reproduction of their own constitutive structures. Thus, from a Whiteheadian perspective, it is possible to affirm that self-preservation is a basic characteristic of living things while denying the common view of life as fundamentally concerned with self-preservation. A form of life perseveres only as long as

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it is able to make its survival coincide with the aim at intensity (Barrett 2020a). The difference between living and non-living things is the degree to which the former are able to control optimality so that it coincides with their own self-preservation. Once the trick of self-controlled optimality is discovered, however, the aim at intensity can be steered toward a variety of ends other than self-­ preservation. Mind depends and builds on this self-controlled pursuit of optimality—indeed it can be seen as an elaboration of the very same continuum of self-control that distinguishes life from non-life. Behavior is a dynamic structure that (when successful) realizes a situation-specific optimality within parameters partially chosen and controlled by the organism. Thought is a kind of behavior that moves within a realm of meanings partly detached from overt activity: it harnesses the capacity of self-controlled optimality for purposes of semiotic self-control. The point of this very rough sketch of the evolution of life and mind is to indicate some of the more far-reaching implications of the theory of affect as enriched experience. Much nearer at hand, the theory points to the possibility of exploring a wider range of affective and motivational explanations for the astounding diversity of animal life and behavior. In particular, it points to the possibility that a substantial portion of this diversity is the product of a basic affective “drive”: the pursuit of enjoyment. In the animal kingdom, at least, evidence for the pursuit of enjoyment can be found almost anywhere: “See how the minnows come out and dart around where they please! That is what fish really enjoy!”3 There is always room for skepticism, of course. Even so, questions about animal enjoyment should not be decided a priori by theories that rule out the possibility that behavior is caused by the enjoyment it provides. Actually, as I have tried to point out (Chap. 2), the problem is not that affective causes of animal behavior are categorically denied by scientists. Rather, the deep questions posed by these causes are simply ignored or papered over with explanations of their adaptiveness. There can be no denying the importance of natural selection for our understanding of animal behavior, but once enjoyment and other kinds of motivation are given their  From the Zhuangzi, Chapter 17, “Autumn Floods.” See Watson (1964, p. 110).



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due, it should be clear that natural selection cannot be the only explanation (Köhler 1944/1971). Along these lines, a strong case for acknowledging the importance of enjoyment in animal life alongside other kinds of explanation has been made recently by the ornithologist Richard Prum (2017). Prum is sharply critical of the tendency among his fellow ornithologists and other biologists to assume that adaptationist explanations are the only kinds of explanation that count. He argues that the evolution of colorful bird plumage, elaborate birdsongs, and other features important to mate selection is driven primarily by female birds’ preference for beauty and pleasure rather than fitness. Animals have “aesthetic agency”: they have aesthetic preferences that matter. What is more, species may be able to influence their own evolutionary trajectory through choices based on these preferences. As Prum is careful to point out, aesthetic selection is not incompatible with natural selection. On the contrary, by adopting a more pluralistic view of the mechanisms of evolution—one that includes aesthetic agency as well as natural selection—we are able to respond to a fuller range of evidence. Prum’s “aesthetic view of life” deeply resonates with the enrichment approach developed in this book, but there is a key difference. For Prum, aesthetic preferences are simply posited as primitive facts: “beauty happens” and “pleasure happens.”4 Perhaps, like many scientists, he does not fully recognize the challenge of incorporating affective causes into frameworks of scientific explanation. Granted, in principle, it should be acceptable to use aesthetic preferences and other affective causes as a basic explanans of biological phenomena without accounting for these preferences themselves. But it should be recognized that these causes also constitute a fundamental explanandum of biological science. Moreover, it should be recognized that the causality of affect, insofar as it cannot be divorced from feeling and value, is not readily subsumed by standard concepts of causation. Thus, statements like “pleasure happens” should not be regarded as mere placeholders indicating a gap in an otherwise complete explanation. They signal deep rifts in the modern view of nature.  These phrases are actually intended by Prum as a shorthand for what he argues is the “null hypothesis” against which adaptive hypotheses should be tested. 4

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As for the importance of enjoyment in human life: really, what could be more obvious? In the words of Dewey, “human experience in the large, in its coarse and conspicuous features, has for one of its most striking features preoccupation with direct enjoyment” (1929/1958, p. 78). And yet this striking feature is often overlooked by scientific inquiry, perhaps because we assume that enjoyment and other good feelings are merely a façade hiding the true causes of our behavior. But even if good feelings were a clever trick devised by nature, they would still need to be explained as one of nature’s “manifest operations.” At present, we are even less prepared to account for enjoyment than the sensation of red. Red is a comparatively trivial feature—it is probably not essential to experience per se—but it has drawn far more attention from those seeking to unravel the mysteries of experience. If nothing else, I hope that the effort I have expended in trying to explain enjoyment has served to call attention to the possibility that it holds the key to understanding what experience is.

References Barrett, Nathaniel F. 2016. The Problematic of Harmony in Classical Chinese Thought: A Whiteheadian Analysis. In Through a Prism: Neglected Aspects of Alfred North Whitehead’s Metaphysics, ed. H. Maasen and A. Berve, 161–185. Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. ———. 2020a. On the Nature and Origins of Cognition as a Form of Motivated Activity. Adaptive Behavior 28 (2): 89–103. ———. 2020b. The Aims of Intensity and Agreement: A Response to Robert C. Neville’s Metaphysics of Goodness. The Pluralist 15 (3): 8–17. ———. 2022. Pragmatist Inquiry and the Problem of Value. In Religion in Multidisciplinary Perspective, ed. L. Shults and R.C. Neville, 79–104. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. Barrett, Lisa Feldman, and Eliza Bliss-Moreau. 2009. Affect as a Psychological Primitive. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology 41: 167–218. Barrett, Nathaniel F., and Javier Sánchez-Cañizares. 2018. Causation as the Self-­ determination of a Singular and Freely Chosen Optimality. The Review of Metaphysics 71 (4): 755–788.


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Crane, Tim. 2019. A Short History of Philosophical Theories of Consciousness in the 20th Century. In Philosophy of Mind in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries, ed. Amy Kind, 78–103. London: Routledge. Dewey, John. 1929/1958. Experience and Nature. New York: Dover. ———. 1934/1980. Art as Experience. New York: Putnam. ———. 1941/1988. The Philosophy of Whitehead. In John Dewey, The Later Works, 1925–1953. Volume 14: 1939–1941, ed. J.A.  Boydston, 123–140. Carbondale and Edwardsville, IL: Southern Illinois University Press. Gable, Philip A., and Eddie Harmon-Jones. (2010) ‘The motivational dimensional model of affect: implications for breadth of attention, memory, and cognitive categorization’, Cognition and Emotion 24 (2), pp. 322–337. Jones, Judith. 1998. Intensity: An Essay in Whiteheadian Cosmology. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press. Kahneman, Daniel. 2000. Experienced Utility and Objective Happiness: A Moment-Based Approach. In Choices, Values, and Frames, ed. D. Kahneman and A. Tversky, 673–692. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Köhler, Wolfgang. 1944/1971. Value and fact. In The selected papers of Wolfgang Köhler, ed. M. Henle, 356–375. New York: Liveright. Kraus, Elizabeth M. 1987. God the Savior. In New Essays in Metaphysics, ed. R.C. Neville, 199–215. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. Kuppens, Peter, Francis Tuerlinckx, James A. Russell, and Lisa Feldman Barrett. 2013. The Relation between Valence and Arousal in Subjective Experience. Psychological Bulletin 139 (4): 917–940. Leibniz, G.W. 1989. Philosophical Essays. Ed. R. Arlew and D. Garber, 213–225. Cambridge: Hackett Publishing. Neville, Robert C. 1989. Recovery of the Measure. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. Nobo, Jorge Luis. 1986. Whitehead’s Metaphysics of Extension and Solidarity. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. Northoff, Georg, and Victor Lamme. 2020. Neural signs and mechanisms of consciousness: Is there a potential convergence of theories of consciousness in sight? Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews 118: 568–587. Prum, Richard O. 2017. The Evolution of Beauty. New York: Anchor. Putnam, Hilary. 1999. The Threefold Cord: Mind, Body, and World. New York: Columbia University Press. Rescher, Nicholas. 2010. Axiogenesis: An Essay in Metaphysical Optimalism. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books. Rojo, Alberto, and Anthony Bloch. 2018. The Principle of Least Action: History and Physics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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Schaefer, Donovan. 2019. The Evolution of Affect Theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Smolin, Lee. 2013. Time Reborn. New York: Mariner. Spinoza, Baruch. 1677/2000. Ethics. Trans. G.H.R. Parkinson. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Swenson, Rod. 1988. Emergence and the Principle of Maximum Entropy Production: Multi-level System Theory, Evolution, and Non-equilibrium Thermodynamics. Proceedings of the 32nd Annual Meeting of the International Society for General Systems Research, 32. Unger, Roberto Mangabeira, and Lee Smolin. 2014. The Singular University and the Reality of Time. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Watson, Burton, trans. 1964. Chuang Tzu: Basic Writings. New York: Columbia University Press. Whitehead, A.N. 1938/1968. Modes of Thought. New York: Macmillan. ———. 1978. Process and Reality: Corrected Edition. Ed. D.R.  Griffin and D.W. Sherburne. New York: Macmillan.



Adele, 4, 325 Adverbial approach to affect, 78 Affective baseline, 256–263 Affective space, 267 Affective tone, 264 Affective-valuative circle, 58, 118 Affect theory, 346 Affect zombies, 5, 6, 12, 62, 67–72, 101, 112, 114 Affordance for enjoyment, 313 Affordances, 289 Alliesthesia, 62, 63, 66, 75, 276, 277, 336 Animal enjoyment, 316, 353 Anticipatory contrast, 289, 291

Approach and avoidance behavior, 93 Arnold, Magda, 61, 65, 97, 103n3, 207n9 Arousal, 83, 85, 90–92, 96, 104, 112, 261, 262, 265, 276, 337, 341 Attitudinal theories of pleasure, 75 Attractor landscape, 145 Axiological metaphysics, 345, 346 Aydede, Murat, 3, 9, 61, 63, 72–74, 76–78, 92, 100, 125, 129, 162 B

Barrett, Lisa Feldman, 97 Bartok, Bela, 283

 Note: Page numbers followed by ‘n’ refer to notes.


© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 N. F. Barrett, Enjoyment as Enriched Experience, Palgrave Perspectives on Process Philosophy, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-13790-7


360 Index

Berridge, Ken, 55 Bifurcations, 145 Bipolarity, 21, 161, 181, 222, 255, 256, 262–263 Blips of feeling, 182 Brentano, Franz, 73 Bundle picture of experience, 182 C

Cabanac, Michel, 62, 63, 65, 65n1, 88, 92, 277 Catharsis, 323 Causal contrast, 138–140, 155–162, 195, 206, 249–251, 304, 347 Causal events, 131–134 Causation, 8–11, 13, 19, 33, 113, 130–136, 139–142, 176, 197, 197n4, 200, 336, 339, 343, 347–351, 351n2, 354 Chalmers, David, 25, 54, 55, 71, 99–101, 176, 241n7 Charland, Louis, 87, 95 Chocolate, 3, 15, 20, 45, 63–67, 75, 76n4, 77, 94, 111, 121, 136, 137, 147, 276, 277, 289, 291 Circumplex models, 265 Cognitive capacity, 257–259, 259n1, 337 Cognitive scope, 102, 104, 105, 260, 276, 284, 289, 337, 340 Colombetti, Giovanna, 86, 87, 92, 98 Common currency thesis, 88, 89, 112, 223, 337 Complexity-richness thesis, 179, 180 Complexity thesis, 178 Complex nonlinear dynamics, 143

Conscious repertoire defined, 157 uniqueness of, 247–252 Constraints, 146–148 Continuity thesis, 177 Contrast defined, 121 defined as strength and diversity, 122–123 Contrastive determination, 135–141 Contrastivity, 139 Contrast space, 156 Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly, 14, 115, 180, 237, 298, 299, 299n1, 303 D

Damasio, Antonio, 5, 42, 48–58, 53n2, 94 theory of biological value, 51–58 Degrees of freedom, 146 Demand character, 50, 51, 92, 111, 189, 194 Depression, 286, 287 Dewey, John, viii, 11, 13, 14, 20, 31, 32, 115, 158, 175, 179, 180, 183, 191, 194, 195, 203, 208, 245, 298, 301, 305–310, 340, 350, 355 Differentiated-ness, 18–23, 113, 120n2, 157–161, 166, 169, 204, 236, 246, 247, 247n11, 274–276, 274n8, 311, 335, 336, 340 Differentiation, 18, 19, 152, 156, 162, 166, 195, 242, 271, 271n6, 274, 279, 339 Dissipative systems, 145


Dissonance, 279–284 Dynamic repertoire, ix, 19, 20, 136, 143, 149–157, 159, 162n11, 163–169, 249, 250, 335 E

Ecological psychology, 289, 310, 311 Enactive theory, 30 Energy use, 258, 293, 311 Engagement, 313–316 Enjoyable sadness, 21, 98, 321 Epileptic ecstasy, 287, 294 Existential suffering, 323–326 F

Fact/value dichotomy, 42, 43, 45 First Postulate, 134 Flow and affect, 197–204 Flow experience, 298, 303 Fourth Postulate, 202 Fraleigh, Sondra Horton, 237–240 Fredrickson, Barbara, 14, 101, 102, 298 Free Energy Principle, 202n6 Freeman, Walter, 18, 163, 164, 215 Frijda, Nico, 6, 61, 65, 97 Fringe, 207, 208, 210–213, 287 G

Gable, Philip, 76n5, 84, 85, 104, 260, 276, 284, 287–289, 337


Gagné, Michel, 120n2 Gallagher, Shaun, 232 H

Hard problem, 41, 54, 55, 176 Harmonic intensity defined as contrast, 124 definition, 14–15 in perceptual feeling, 118–129 Harmon-Jones, Eddie, 76n5, 84, 85, 91, 104, 260, 276, 280n12, 284, 287–289, 337 Harmony, 15n2, 33, 117, 118, 118n1, 128, 308 Hedonic flipping, 3, 66 Hedonic intensity, 90 Higher-order causal contrasts, 156 Higher-order contrast, 204 Hurdy-gurdy, 283 I

Importance, 342 Impulsive quality, 188 Inattentional blindness, 214, 215, 218, 317 Informational theories of consciousness, 99–101 Integrated Information Theory, 6, 178 Intentionality, 180, 203, 215, 238n5, 282 Interaction dominant dynamics, 143 Interoception, 97, 98, 322

362 Index J

Jackson, Frank, 54, 67, 68 James, William, viii, 8, 14, 32, 101, 114, 121, 133, 175, 179, 183–196, 197n4, 198, 199, 201, 207–209, 223, 227, 230, 232–236, 234n2, 265, 271 interest, 188–195 Joas, Hans, 43–45 K

Kahneman, Daniel, 2, 84, 87, 89, 90, 220n15, 341 Köhler, Wolfgang, 9, 48–58, 92, 189, 194, 354 Kringelbach, Morten, 84, 88, 93, 94n2, 167, 289 L

Law of consciousness, 202n6, 258 Law of Maximal Entropy Production, 350 Law of Maximum Energy Production, 352 Law of Maximum Entropy Production, 202n6, 348 Leibniz mill argument, 179 Lorenz, Konrad, 94 M

Mangan, Bruce, 211, 287 Meaning conflation with value, 46–48 relation to affect, 204–221 Meaningfulness, 244, 287, 307, 308, 317, 338, 340

Melody, 198, 209–211, 213, 283, 318 Mendelssohn, Felix, 22 Merleau-Ponty, Maurice, 216, 220 Metaphysical smallism, 132 Metastability, 151n9, 168, 168n12, 169 Mineness, 231 Minimal self, 230 Minimal self-awareness, 228 Moore, G.E., 72, 74, 75 Motivation, 41, 49, 53n2, 55, 56, 63, 75, 76n4, 77, 83, 89, 92–95, 93n1, 111, 112, 115, 180, 185, 231, 260, 276, 288–292, 290n16, 299, 336, 337, 346, 349, 353 Motivational intensity, 76n5, 85, 91, 104, 112, 288, 337 Multistability, 145 Music, 3, 13, 15, 21–24, 46, 55, 87, 98, 102, 112, 114, 115, 119, 120, 125, 126, 132, 198, 236, 237, 239, 240, 242, 252, 257, 258, 265, 278, 281–284, 281n13, 287, 290n16, 291, 297, 300, 302, 305, 317–324, 318n5, 321n7, 331, 340 Musical self, 241, 242 N

Neville, Robert C., 27, 117, 127n5, 138, 141, 158, 199, 203, 205n8, 215n12, 248n12, 310, 327, 331n10, 345, 348 Nonlinearity, 142 Non-objectifying awareness, 229 Non-perceptual feeling, 9, 18–21, 24, 113, 130, 131, 152, 158, 159, 195, 223, 243, 245, 248, 335





Optimal grip, 216–221 Optimalism, 202, 348 Orgasm, 273

Qualia, 6, 8, 68, 99–101, 111, 182, 341 Qualitative intensity, 90, 273



Pain, 268–272 Pan-experientialism, 11, 25, 31, 32, 176–182, 200, 345 Paradox of tragedy, 3, 21, 22, 46, 321 Peak performance, 238, 239, 244, 257, 258, 314 Peirce, Charles S., viii, 14, 20, 26n4, 32, 61, 63, 74, 122n3, 186, 194, 205–207, 205n8 Perceptualization, 24, 322, 323 Peripheral affect, 246 Perturbational complexity index, 168, 178 Philosophy of pleasure, 72–79 Photodiode comparison, 165 Piecemeal philosophy, 25–26 Pieper, Josef, 328, 329 Pinker, Steven, 300 Pleasure, 271–273 Presentational contrast, 138, 140, 141, 155, 158, 161, 195, 206, 222, 251, 347 Principle of structural coherence, 99–101 Prinz, Jesse, 74, 88, 93, 96 Prum, Richard, 354 Psychedelic states, 167, 169 Psychological hedonism, 187 Putnam, Hilary, 42, 341n1

Ratatouille, 119, 125, 126, 128, 274 Reflexivity thesis, 228 Relief, 286 Religious festivity, 328–331 Religious meaning, 327, 327n9 Reward downshifts, 257 Rosenberg, Gregg, 10, 176 Rothko, Mark, 128, 301, 304, 305 Royce, Josiah, 194, 202n6 S

Sadness, 4, 21–24, 98, 104, 115, 169, 267, 286–288, 321–325, 321n6, 331, 338 Schaefer, Donovan, 3 Second Postulate, 138 Semiosis, 205 Settling point hypothesis, 260 Sexual pleasure, 9, 14, 269, 273 Skill, 314 Sleepiness, 286 Solomon, Robert, 63, 66, 87, 88, 95, 96 Specious present, 199 Spinoza, 92, 352 Spivey, Michael, 18, 143, 163, 164 Stability, 144–146 Star Trek, 69 Stream of thought, 114, 175, 183, 184

364 Index

Swenson, Rod, 202n6, 310, 312, 336, 348, 350, 352 Systematic philosophy, 24–31


Value realism, 344 Value-sensations, 44, 45 Value, theory of, 344–346


Theseus, 47–48, 56, 305 Third Postulate, 200 Thisness, 275 Time-consciousness, 197n4, 235 Tomato flavor, 123 Tononi, Giulio, 6, 18, 19, 163, 165–167, 178, 179, 184, 270n4, 274, 275, 311




Uniqueness, 275 Unity-in-diversity, 117, 118, 335, 342, 344

Whitehead, Alfred North, ii, vii, viii, 8n1, 14, 15, 15n2, 18, 20, 25–29, 26n4, 31–33, 44, 117, 118n1, 122, 138, 158, 179n1, 197n4, 203, 211, 284, 342–344, 348, 350–352

Zahavi, Dan, 114, 199n5, 228, 229, 231–235 Zhuangzi, 43, 353n3