The puzzle of mood rationality


*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review


Moods, orthodoxy holds, exist outside the space of reasons. A depressed subject may change their thoughts and behaviors as a result of their depression. But, according to this view, their mood gives them no genuine reason to do so. Instead, moods are mere causal influences on cognition. The issue is that moods, with their diffuse phenomenology, appear to lack intentionality (Directionlessness). But intentionality appears to be a necessary condition on rationality (The Content Constraint). Together, these principles conflict with the idea that moods are rational states of mind (Mood Rationality). The inconsistency of these three principles is the Puzzle of Mood Rationality. Now to many, this puzzle is hardly vexing: we should reject Mood Rationality. But, I argue, Mood Rationality is true despite its unpopularity. Thus, we need another way of resolving the puzzle. To do so, I distinguish intentionality as a first-personal, phenomenological notion from representation as a third-personal, cognitive scientific notion. I then argue that moods satisfy a revised version of the Content Constraint and sketch an account of moods as representational but non-intentional mental states, drawing on the Valuationist paradigm in affective neuroscience. I end by showing how this account enables us to explain moods’ rationality.
Original languageEnglish
Early online date1 Jul 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 Jul 2024

Bibliographical note

For extremely helpful feedback on this work I hereby thank Alex Kerr, Jean Moritz Müller, Daniel Pallies, Nathaniel Sharadin, and an anonymous reviewer for this journal.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 The Author(s). Noûs published by Wiley Periodicals LLC.


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