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The Others in Me: the Impact of Others on Self-Conscious Emotions and Self-Understanding

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - The Others in Me (The Others in Me: the Impact of Others on Self-Conscious Emotions and Self-Understanding)

Période du rapport: 2020-09-01 au 2022-08-31

MAIN ISSUE
“The Others in Me” sheds light, from a philosophical perspective, on the intersection between self-consciousness and sociality by focusing on the social dimensions of self-conscious emotions, such as shame, envy or pride. While the human capacities to relate to oneself (self-consciousness) and to relate to others (sociality) have often been treated as separate, this research project suggests that they are importantly linked. Accordingly, its overarching aim was to investigate the nature of this relation. To achieve this, the project focused on a specific class of emotions where this link becomes obvious: self-conscious emotions that seem to target others (i.e. that are based on group identification). Self-conscious emotions typically evaluate the one who feels them: in shame one feels degraded, in pride, one feels commendable. But sometimes these emotions seem to evaluate others: we often feel ashamed of our political leaders or proud of our children. The project argued that this is possible by activating a social identity, an identity that we share with them and that they can affect (we “group-identify” with others as belonging to the same group). We therefore feel ashamed or proud insofar as we are members of a “we”. What does this tell us about the social nature of persons? And how do this emotions affect individual self-understanding?

IMPORTANCE FOR SOCIETY
Understanding the emotional dynamics at the intersection between self-consciousness and sociality is important both in the socio-political arena and for individual self-understanding. In the socio-political arena, emotions are key forces that drive action and shape discourse. This includes self-conscious emotions based on group-identification, such as shame, pride and envy. Understanding the role these emotions play in phenomena like inter-group discrimination or climate activism requires investigating the structure of such emotions and their impact on behavior: one of the main aims of “The Others in Me”. As for individual self-understanding and well-being, investigating these emotions can help us elucidate which kinds of connections with others potentially have an impact on our self-evaluations and why, thus helping us address some social sources of distress or well-being.

OBJECTIVES
The project sought, first, to clarify and spell-out what our capacity to experience self-conscious emotions based on group-identification reveals about the social nature of persons, by investigating the differences among such emotions and their impact on behaviour. Secondly, the project aimed at describing the kind of self-understanding that such emotions can afford, which sort of insights we can gain from them, and how relevant and reliable these insights are.

CONCLUSIONS
The project concluded that social selves come in different forms that express themselves in different varieties of self-conscious emotions based on group identification. All varieties impact on the subject’s identity as a target of ascriptions and descriptions, but only some varieties impact on their sense of self as a (collective) agent. Furthermore, these emotions can afford knowledge of the specific associations that are (still) relevant for a subject’s sense of who they are in the world, whether they actively embrace those ties, passively accept them, or are in the process of loosening or severing them. Finally, the project concluded that emotions such as envy and shame exert pressures towards self-deception, but if individuals and groups are able to surmount them and achieve self-understanding, these emotions can become sources of motivation to improve, both individually and collectively.
First, the postdoc conducted exploratory and critical reviews of recent literature on group-based self-conscious emotions, the emotional dynamics of sociality, and self-knowledge and its affective underpinnings. She co-organized with the mentor an online reading group on emotions and self-knowledge.
First Part, "Social Ontology": As a result of these reviews, it became evident that more work was needed to comprehend how self-conscious emotions are impacted by group-identification. What are the differences between group-identifying with a single individual (e.g. a family member) and identifying with different sorts of groups? How do these differences translate to shame and pride based on group identification? And what does that tell us about our social identities? These questions were explored in 2 co-athored publications (Montes Sánchez and Salice 2022, forthcoming) where we examine the differences between feeling ashamed or proud of an individual, and experiencing these emotions towards a group framed as a “you” or framed as an “us”. These issues were also addressed at the Workshop on “Political Emotions” held in Cork on 24 March 2022, and in the Research Topic of Frontiers in Psychology / Frontiers in Sociology, which the postdoc and mentor co-edited with other colleagues.
Second Part, "Self-Knowledge": The postdoc produced a paper on the key contribution of emotions to acquiring self-knowledge of certain opaque mental states, such as desires (Montes Sánchez forthcoming). The postdoc and mentor are also co-editing a collective volume on “Emotional Self-Knowledge”, including 10 high-profile contributors, which will be published by Routledge in 2023. The volume contains chapters on the constributions that emotions as a general class of phenomena make to self-knowledge and its absence, as well as on the links between self-knowledge and specific emotions (e.g. love, boredom). The project team’s research features in the co-authored Introduction and a chapter on the way in which envy, a main example of a hetero-induced self-conscious emotion, exerts pressure towards self-deception in the context of racism and xenophobia (Salice and Montes Sánchez forthcoming). The volume was enriched by a workshop with all contributors in Cork on 4-6 May 2022. Two future events are planned to publicize the volume: a book symposium at the conference of the European Philosophical Society for the Study of Emotions (June 2023), and a book launch at UCC (Sept. 2023).
The postdoc presented her research at 15 academic events and communicated the results to a wider audience in an interview for the podcast “About the Mind” (August 2022, https://www.mindfulife.de/podcast-about-the-mind/)
The project has advanced well beyond the state of the art on group-based self-conscious emotions. It has offered, for the first time, a taxonomy of varieties of shame and pride based on group-identification and explored how they impact the public sphere and moral psychology (Montes Sánchez and Salice 2022, forthcoming), and tackled the largely overlooked political role of envy (Salice and Montes Sánchez forthcoming). This novel work advances our understanding of how individuals and groups impact our social identities at varying depths. As for emotions and self-understanding, through the volume and workshop on "Emotional Self-Knowledge", the project has fostered an exchange of ideas between philosophers working in related areas with little mutual dialogue: philosophy of emotion, philosophy of self-knowledge, phenomenology, etc. The project has also gone beyond the state of the art in spelling out the ways in which examining our emotions can help us attain self-understanding of other mental states (Montes Sánchez forthcoming).
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