Areas of SpECIALIZATIONs
Phenomenology, PHILOSOPHY OF EMOTIONS, LATIN AMERICAN PHILOSOPHY
Areas of COMPETENCE
SOCIAL & POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY, ETHICS
“Moods are Not Colored Lenses: Perceptualism and the Phenomenology of Moods” (2017). Philosophia, forthcoming. DOI: 10.1007/s11406-017-9820-5.
Abstract: Being in a mood—such as an anxious, irritable, depressed, tranquil, or cheerful mood—tends to alter the way we react emotionally to the particular objects we encounter. But how, exactly, do moods alter the way we experience particular objects? Perceptualism, a popular approach to understanding affective experiences, holds that moods function like "colored lenses," altering the way we perceive the evaluative properties of the objects we encounter. In this essay, I offer a phenomenological analysis of the experience of being in a mood that illustrates the limitations of the colored lens metaphor and demonstrates the basic inadequacy of the perceptualist account of moods. I argue that when we are in a mood, it is common to experience a kind of "emotional disconnection" in which we perceive evaluative properties that would normally elicit strong emotional reactions from us, but nonetheless we find that, in our present mood, we remain emotionally numb to these perceptions. Such experiences of "seeing but not feeling" are difficult to understand from within the perceptualist paradigm. Building on the work of Martin Heidegger, I sketch an alternative, phenomenological analysis of moods that can better account for experiences of emotional disconnection. On this alternative account, being in a mood does not merely alter the content of our perceptions but, rather, alters the way we interpret the overall significance of what we perceive, relative to a certain situational context.
“Surviving Social Disintegration: Jorge Portilla on the Phenomenology of Moods” (Forthcoming)*. APA Newsletter on Hispanic/Latino Issues in Philosophy.
* winner of the 2017 APA Essay Prize in Latin American Thought
Abstract: In the wake of the extremely divisive 2016 presidential election, many US Americans are feeling deeply unsettled by the sense that the basic norms that govern life in our society are in a state of flux. How might we best describe and analyze the experience of living in a society that is so divided, a society whose very normative structure seems to be disintegrating? What problematic behaviors might arise in this situation? And how might we continue to work for positive social change without further disrupting the normative order of our society? In this paper, I explore some insights into these issues that can be found in the work of Mexican phenomenologist Jorge Portilla, whose fascinating essays on cultural politics are just beginning to be translated into English. Portilla lived at a time in which his society’s normative structure was also in a state of flux. He argues that this state of normative disintegration generates a widely shared sense of zozobra—a profound anxiety that is not a psychological state but a state of existence, and that tends to provoke a number of defensive reactions that may be familiar to us today. I argue that Portilla's analysis of zozobra is a valuable resource for navigating the contemporary world.
“Seriousness, Irony, and Cultural Politics: A Defense of Jorge Portilla” (2013). APA Newsletter on Hispanic/Latino Issues in Philosophy 13.1: 11-18.
Abstract: This essay discusses Jorge Portilla’s phenomenological analysis of values and freedom in his essay, “The Phenomenology of Relajo.” Portilla argues that genuine freedom requires seriousness and sincerity; it requires wholehearted participation in cultural practices that one finds truly valuable. To support his argument, Portilla examines the ways that values and freedom are undermined when cultural practices are disrupted and break down as a result of the antics of the so-called "relajiento," a kind of “class clown” figure in Mexican culture who refuses to take anything seriously. Carlos Sánchez has criticized Portilla's rejection of the relajiento, suggesting that the relajiento’s disruptive behavior may be a liberatory act of defiance against the legacy of colonialism. I argue, however, that Portilla was right to see the relajiento’s behavior as counterproductive in the fight for liberation from oppression.
Works in progress / UNDER REVIEW
The Disintegration of Community: Essays After Jorge Portilla, coauthored with Carlos Sánchez.
“Heidegger’s hidden theory of moods: Overlooked insights in Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics.”
“Situation, Self, and World: Emotional Depth and Everyday Moods.”
“Moods and Over-Coherent Thinking: How moods affect cognition.”
“Chela Sandoval,” entry for El Diccionario de Filosofía Mexicana, edited by Xochitl Lopez Molina et al.
“On the Distinctive Value of Mexican-American Philosophy: Beginning with the Concerns and Intuitions of Mexican Americans,” co-authored with Lori Gallegos de Castillo.
“Metaphilosophy: What are Latin American and Latinx philosophy?” chapter for Latin American and Latinx Philosophy: An Introduction, edited by Robert Sanchez (under contract with Routledge), coauthored with Lori Gallegos de Castillo.