Emotion and Deliberation: The Autonomous Citizen in the Social World
NOMOS LIII, Passions and Emotions, NYU Press (James E. Fleming, ed., 2013)
25 Pages Posted: 8 Dec 2013 Last revised: 27 Mar 2014
Date Written: January 7, 2013
The study of emotion’s role in politics has been hampered by the tendency to view emotion reductively, mainly as a set of quick, intense, uneducable and unreflective bursts of feeling. It has been hampered by the failure to distinguish among several different sorts of emotional phenomena, including immediate emotional reactions, long-term affective commitments, and complex emotional and moral appraisals. It has also been hampered by the tendency to view democratic participation as something that happens only at the ballot box. This approach overlooks formalized participation in electoral politics and legislative or administrative lawmaking, as well as more informal deliberative practices such as community organizing, social networks, and myriad other sites for argument, persuasion and mobilization. The optimal cognitive and affective tools for effective democratic participation may be as varied as the contexts in which that participation occurs.
The use of rhetoric and persuasion to convey political ideas is too often dismissed as an emotional, manipulative set of practices directed at the easily led. The populace is depicted as reaching political conclusions by way of emotion and intuition; elites and experts by way of reasoned deliberation. The reductive understanding of emotion also takes the form of a failure to distinguish the inquiry into individual, internal emotions from a set of macro-level questions about how emotion interacts with social structure. The notion of collective decision-making is too often equated with groupthink and herd mentality, and contrasted with the presumably thoughtful, deliberative behavior of the autonomous individual actor.
In order to address these assumptions and their impact on political philosophy it is helpful to distinguish individual from collective dynamics, the question of how persuasion and reasoning work from the question of what public reasons ought to look like, and the concept of emotion from the concept of intuition. In this commentary, which was written for the American Society for Political and Legal Philosophy’s 2010 meeting on the topic “Passions and Emotions” and published in the subsequent symposium volume PASSIONS AND EMOTIONS at NOMOS LIII, I develop these critiques in response to the paper George Marcus presented at the meeting, entitled Reason, Passion, and Democratic Politics.
Keywords: deliberation, deliberative democracy, rhetoric, intuition, emotion, institutional design, collective decision-making
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