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The 'Placebo' Paradox and the Emotion Paradox: Challenges to Psychological Explanation

Hutchinson, Phil (2020) The 'Placebo' Paradox and the Emotion Paradox: Challenges to Psychological Explanation. Theory and Psychology. ISSN 0959-3543

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Abstract

Philosophical debates about how best to explain emotion or placebo are debates about how best to characterise and explain the distinctive form of human responsiveness to the world that is the object of interest for each of those domains of inquiry. In emotion research, the cognitive theory of emotion faces several intractable problems. I discuss two of these: the problem of epistemic deficit and the problem of recalcitrant emotions. Cognitive explanations in Placebo Studies, such as response-expectancy and belief-based explanations, also face the problem of epistemic deficit in addition to the problem of logically self-destructive true belief. While such considerations might motivate a retreat to affect, this brings its own problems. I argue that it is a particular version of cognitivism, representational cognitivism (Rep-Cog), that generates the paradoxes we encounter in emotion and placebo research. I propose that turning to nonrepresentational accounts of cognition will dissolve these paradoxes. As I move toward conclusion, I propose drawing on the ethnomethodological tradition to respecify human responsiveness to loci of significance in the lifeworld by undertaking ethnographies of members’ own situated methods for making intelligible and accountable their attitudinal and nonattitudinal responsiveness to loci of significance in their environment.

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