Research Projects
Situated Theory of Emotions

The renewed interest for emotions gave rise to different philosophical positions about the nature of emotions as well as their relation to a multitude of other philosophical topics such as the place of emotion in a theory of mind, their role in rationality, their connection to the self, their relation to motivation, their interference with desires, beliefs and values.


A lot of theorists use emotions’ situational embodiment to better describe them, but few have taken upon themselves to research more specifically why is it that the context and situated cues are so crucial for emotions’ identity.


The first appearance of the insights of a situated approach to emotions can be found in De Sousa’s notion of “paradigm scenario” (De Sousa 1987) but it is only more recently that situated approaches to emotions have been on the rise (Mendonça 2012a; Stephen 2012; Stephen, Walter & Wilutzky 2014).


Following a Deweyan insight about the dynamic and active nature of ideas, Mendonça builds a pattern of emotional activity “Pattern of Sentiment” (Mendonça 2012a) and then points out a series of advantages that follow from a Situated Theory of Emotions:


First, the pattern is a way to grasp the intentionality of emotions and avoid attaching them solely to the sentient subject.
Second, it may provide a way to analyse more carefully the narrative structure of emotions, and better understand the importance of details in such narratives.
Third, because every situation carries with it a family of emotions, it forces us to think of emotions as they appear: in bunches.
Fourth, because the emotional situation entails families of emotions within a specific situation we can start to clarify some of the ambiguities attached to emotion words.
Fifth, the Pattern allows for the emotional character of a situation to change with subsequent events as well as reflection upon it.
Sixth, designing emotional situations in this manner opens the way for an explanation of emotional maturity, for as it was state above experiencing sad situations will hopefully change the effect of sadness when sadness is part of the family of an emotional situation of grief, opening a deeper understanding of meta-emotional processes.
Seventh, it provides a more complex way to explain how emotions resonate. In the amazing capacity for empathy and resonance of emotions there is the mysterious fact that not all emotions resonate the same way.
Finally, is offers a way to explain why certain emotions are clearer and more denotable than others. (Mendonça, 2012a)


The Situated Theory of Emotions as already provided luminous insights. For instance, the use of the philosophical structure of the pattern of sentiment (Mendonça 2012a) offered a further understanding of meta-emotions role in emotion theory (Mendonça, 2013a), and provided a new solution to the paradox of fiction (Mendonça 2012b) and the paradox of suspense (Mendonça 2013b).


The richness of taking emotion as dynamic and active situational occurrences is already apparent and the novel hypothesis will promote a better understanding of the nature of emotions, its puzzles and provide insights in for other philosophical topics promising to lead to a deeper dialogue among the different scientific fields that will greatly contribute for the development of the study of emotion.




De Sousa, Ronald. (1987) The Rationality of Emotion, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
Mendonça, Dina. (2012a) “Pattern of Sentiment-following a Deweyan suggestion” Transactions of Charles Peirce Society, Vol 48, No. 2 Spring 2012, pp. 209-227
Mendonça, Dina. (2012b) “Absolutely Positively Feeling that Way and More – Paradox of Fiction and Alexander’s Stories” in Philosophy and Children’s Literature (editor Peter Costello) Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books, 2012, pp. 41-62
Mendonça, Dina. (2013a) “Emotions about Emotions” Emotion Review vol.5, No.4 (October ) 1-7
Mendonça, Dina. (2013b) “Existential Feelings – How Cinema Makes Us Feel Alive” Cinema – Journal of Philosophy and the Moving Image (2013)
Stephan, Achim. (2012) “Emotions, Existential Feelings, and their Regulation” Emotion Review Vol. 4, No. 2 (April 2012) 157–162
Stephan, Achim, Sven Walter & Wendy Wilutzky (2014) Emotions beyond brain and body, Philosophical Psychology, 27:1, 65-81.