Retour vers liste

Détail de la contribution

Auteur: Eva-Maria ENGELEN

The role of language for getting to know the emotions of oneself and the emotions of others

Abstract/Résumé: Language has a threefold function when it comes to emotions. It is (1) a precondition for identifying our own emotions as such and (2) for being able to feel for example joy as joy. In other words: Language is a condition for identification in the realm of emotionality and for phenomenal feeling. However language is not only a precondition for identifying our own emotions and for being able to feel a certain emotion as such but (3) also for empathy that is to say for understanding feelingly the emotions of others. The link between the three aspects is that one has to know one’s own emotions in order to get to know those of others. In order to know one’s own emotions it is not enough to feel something and in order to understand what another person is feeling it is not enough to perceive her emotional expression. I will present a model of language learning by Michael Tomasello and Donald Davidson that I adapt to the case of emotions. This model is suited to demonstrate in how far language acquisition is a prerequisite for learning to get to know our own emotional state and to feel it as such. This is not only essential for understanding and knowing our own emotional life but also for developing our empathic abilities. Emotional expression and feeling have not to be neglected in this scenario but their occurrences are not sufficient when it comes to understanding and knowing emotional expressions – not even when it comes to understanding and know our own emotional expressions and feelings. The bodily expressions of emotions ad feelings are signals that lead to reactions but in order to identify a signal as belonging to a certain kind the ability for denotation and conceptualization is needed. This is also the case when it comes to empathy. Animals may show empathic reactions without being language users but in order to understand and know what the other being is feeling one has to be a language user.