ecology of affects

Where do our motions come from?? Are they specific to our sensitivity or are they produced by our environment?? And how do they become collective? Major questions, which L. Qur intends to take up again.

In The factory of motionsLouis Qur, meritorious research director at CNRS, presents, on the basis of a solid sociological and philosophical literature, a theoretical and ontological investigation into individual and collective emotions. He proposes to characterize and explain emotions in their dynamics, giving full weight to the actions and situations in which they occur.

De-subjectivate (and de-intellectualize) emotion

The proposed orientation supposes departing from the tendency to define emotion by the experience of I and by the sensations that accompany it. The subjectivation produced by the primacy of agreement lived in common sense would indeed risk reducing the emotions of bodily and mental states or processes. However, relying on Wittgenstein, the author believes that this framing reifies emotions and underestimates the importance of the action in progress, the environment, and the expressive character of emotions. It would also lead to postulating the antecedence of the psyche on behavior and therefore making emotions a rapid revealer of individual identity and values. On the contrary, thinking about emotion in action would allow us to see emotion more as a mode of behavior in transaction with the environment than as a tat.

Far from establishing an individual/environment dualism, emotion would in fact manifest the interdependence between interior And outside individuals. In an ecological approach, it would be part of a more global process of engagement, rupture and adjustment with the environment which develops in a plot structure (p. 404). With Merleau-Ponty, the author believes that it would be a variation in our relationships with others and with the world readable in our bodily attitude (p. 49). More precisely, the emotion would be inserted into a course of action, from which it emerges, and which would then be modified by the new behaviors generated by the emotion.

Depending on their motor and mental orientations, the individual projects a meaning and an idea of ​​how it will unfold onto the situation. Emotion would arise during breaks in coordination with the world, which would cause a maladjustment of organic functions (p. 84). Following Dewey's theory of emotions, the author distances himself from the bhaviorist schema stimulus-response than with conceptions which give primacy to the cognitive appreciation of the actor (appraisal). For Louis Qur, there cannot be any perception a priori neutral followed by an evaluation of the situation giving rise to a motion. According to him, the stimulus is always preceded by sensorimotor coordination, from which it emerges. The judgment of the object in question is also modulated by the emotion itself (lmotion configures what causes it). The author thus seeks to identify the cognitive component of emotion without overintellectualizingappraisal.

The description of the emotional process proposed links perception, evaluation, emotion and reconfiguration of action. The breakdown in coordination would initiate a first movement, known as immediate assessments prints. These would be felt in a positive or negative way, in the continuum between attraction and repulsion; they would manifest the emotional disorder and guide the capture of the event. Secondly, a triple dynamic would be triggered: practice (tendency for action); cognitive (configuration of the stimulus object which is discriminated, selected and identified (p.96)); and affective (attribution of value to the situation and its motion). The usefulness of emotion would be to be a signifier for others (p. 85), but also for oneself. By selecting data and rearranging it, it would activate the organization of the experiencewhat the author calls emotional work. In this diagram, the cognitive dimension is not absent, but secondary. The true judgments would in fact only occur afterwards, in a third time, when, after investigation, the object of the emotion, and the expressed emotion itself, are the subject of moral analysis (p. 191). Emotions would then allow us to probe our values ​​retrospectively, through reflective analysis.

A theory of emotion distributed and emotional habits

Far from being centered on the individual, the theory proposes to consider as essential the characteristics and variations of the framework of the situation. Emotion would be the product of the meeting of two dynamics: that, subjective, of the individual, and that, objective (p. 211), variations in the environment. THE things of the environment, the properties of the framework, the behavior of other individuals would have according to the author of the immediate affective qualities, which are felt (p. 105). The sensory qualities proven by the organism would include per se an affective quality, perception being subject the action of things on the bodily organs which undergo it and respond to it (p. 120). The view that things immediately present affective/emotional qualities intermingled with their sensory qualities (p. 184) would lead us to consider that emotion is not fundamentally in individuals: it is distributed on the different actors and parameters of the framework.

At the same time, another mode of distribution of emotions would be found in their institutionalization (p.103). The shaping of emotion would be based on thebackground of common knowledge (Garfinkel) or lnatural attitude (Schtz) current in the social environment. In other words, ordinary ways of behaving and ratings produced in the environment would act as institutions in the Durkheimian sense, i.e. ways of doing things already there, depersonalized, serving as guides to produce the appropriate emotion. The motions would thus be similar to channeled organic energies giving rise to emotional habits, by incorporation. This would allow us to understand how emotions, organic facts, can be socially constructed.

Motions molds in a collective form

What about, based on this theory, collective emotions? In the second part of the book, Louis Qur undertakes a critical examination of the different theories of collective emotion with the aim of understanding it without losing sight of the corporeal and dynamic character of individual emotions, but without considering it as a simple aggregation of individual emotions.

Thus the theoretical paradigm of the crowd, based on the idea of contagion emotions, would he neglect the importance of sharing ideals. The Durkheimian theory, conversely, would err by an excessive weight given to representations in relation to the body. The phenomenological intersubjectivist approach, which conceptualizes the synchronization of perceptions, would underestimate the weight of the organization of the group and its institutional mediations (p. 263). The approach collectivist-normativist, which supposes the conformation of individuals to the emotions of their groups, would involve the problem of attributing causal power to norms. Finally, social psychology approaches pointing to the importance of group identification would come up against the difficulty of specifying the notion of affiliation, which is very variable, given that emotional collectives () (can be) occasional and ephemeral collectives, with unstable contours (p. 324).

Only the anthropology of ritual inspired by Mauss would make it possible to understand the dynamics and molding into a collective form individual motions. What is shared in this theoretical framework would be more behaviors than feelings. The collective would then be produced by concert accomplishments mediated by uses, objects, devices (p. 328). In these action sequences, rhythm and motor skills would encourage the emergence of collective emotion. Subsequently, the symbolization of this in a public space, using material and symbolic mediations (p. 352) would give collective emotion a public character. This would be accompanied by a pretension of emotion to establish itself as legitimate, which would give it political importance.

This transition brings the author to a final chapter that is very different in form from the previous ones, to the extent that it addresses one emotion (or feeling) in particular: resentment. In a current social context which would be marked by a preponderance of sad passionsresentment is analyzed in light of the social facts that constitute the development of fake news on social networks, the tendencies not to separate facts and opinions, that of surrounding oneself with people who think like oneself, or the growing mistrust of cultural authorities The author questions the potential of resentment to produce social movements, such as, for example, that of the Yellow Vests, but also that of education constituting a remedy against sad passions.

A theory tested by the variety of experiences

The work includes both a fairly complete critical analysis of sociological and philosophical theories on emotions and a powerful theory of emotions based on a synthesis of the contributions of Dewey and Mauss. However, it contains a certain number of propositions or assumed biases which do not fail to raise questions, which is not the least of the work's qualities.

The focus on action thus seems to exclude from the field of analysis emotions occurring without the course of action really having any prior orientation, those which emerge for example in the solitude of one's memories, or certain emotional states which do not lead to a tendency towards action (boredom, nostalgia) The proposed theory hardly takes into account, moreover, the differences between, on the one hand, the emotions rather linked to instinctive reactions which are sometimes activated even before the identification of the stimulus, and, on the other hand, the more cognitive emotions, linked to an identification and a progressive evaluation which gives rise to a monitoring (arousal) or a mounted of longer and slower emotion: it lies between the two.

The theory of emotion distributed on environmental variations, which would include immediate emotional qualities, could also surprise. By wanting to give full weight to external influences on the body, the author does not or does not clearly consider that, objective as they may be, these things are subjectively perceived, invested with meaning and quality. It could therefore be objected that the emotional quality of things does not exist outside of their grasp by individuals and that sensory impressions do not mechanically produce affects ad hoc.

Finally, if the work of emotion (what emotion does to us) is honoured, work on The emotion (what we do with it) may seem quickly evacuated. The emotion seems in fact to appear immediately as an expressive behavior. However, the perception of social norms can be taken into account in the shaping of emotion. Depending on the norms, we can not only camouflage or amplify the expression of our emotions, but also work to transform them if we consider that they will not be understood or admitted by others. The perception of the norm can thus be considered as an intrinsic component of emotional genesis, and not only, as the author suggests, as an external factor acting after the fact, when we face the constraints of the situation.