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The Feeling Theory of emotions and the treatment of affective disorders

Gorgogiannis, Dimitris


Dimitris Gorgogiannis


Nick Zangwill


I have two primary aims in this thesis. First, I intend to defend a Feeling Theory of emotion. Second, I want to explore the possible implications of a feeling theory for the treatment of emotional disorders. Both of these aims are important given the predominantly cognitive approach to treating affective disorders. Cognitivism in emotions, the idea that the emotions are primarily cognitive entities (judgments, beliefs, or opinions of some sort) has shaped psychotherapy, especially in the West. To a great extent, this cognitive approach to treating affective disorders is the result of a cognitive consideration of the emotions.
Challenging cognitivism in emotions, therefore, might lead to new theoretical and practical insights. The ardent over-intellectualization of the emotions changed decisively the way we viewed mental illness during the second half of the 20thcentury. It is not a secret that the intellectualization of the emotions paved the way for intellectual/cognitive methods of treating emotional disorders to sprout. If this over-intellectualization was largely baseless as I argue here, I think that it is about time we considered changing the way we view and treat mental illness, once again.
I outline here, very briefly, the basic structure of this thesis. In chapter one, I say what emotions are not. I say that they are neither perceptual experiences of value, nor cognitive states, or states whose cognitive aspects stand significantly out. I also propose that they can’t be impulses to behave, as many Motivational Theorists suggest. In chapter two I refer to the most widely known Feeling Theory of Emotions, the James-Lang Theory. I also discuss other feeling theories including Demian Whiting’s proposals on the ontology of emotions as well as Jesse Prinz’s hybrid view of emotions. In chapter three, I say what the emotions probably are. After having found differences and similarities with the JLTE in the second chapter, I put forward my version of the Feeling Theory which, I believe, simplifies things as to what are the emotions, and what are the states which comprise an emotion and something else. This distinction may have a pivotal role in determining what primarily needs fixing, in affective disorders.
The first three chapters summarize my philosophical quests on the ontology of emotions. Chapters four to six are more psychology oriented, as they are inspired by the theoretical assumptions of the first three chapters. In particular, in chapter four I investigate the effectiveness of the current model of treatment of common affective disorders, which is predominantly based on a cognitive approach to mental illness. My research indicates that while Cognitive Therapy is efficacious, it is so, not because it treats deep, cognitive distortions which are deemed responsible for the development of affective disorders, but because it works as a strong, active placebo directly targeting the feeling imbalance of the patients. In chapter five I elaborate further on the deficiencies of the Cognitive Model of Treating Mental Illness, and I also present the Hyper Emotion Theory of Psychological Illness. I argue that the Hyper Emotion theory is a much better alternative to the Cognitive Model.
Lastly, in chapter six I make some assumptions which are heavily propelled by a “feeling’ approach to treat affective disorders. More specifically, I investigate how Mood Management Techniques, Medication, Behavioral Therapy without Cognitive Elements and other non-Cognitive means, could contribute synergistically to the well-being of the sufferers. Towards the end of the final chapter, I make a bold conjecture regarding the current, outpatient treatment model of mild affective disorders which I believe, deserves further attention. I put forward the idea that voluntary commitment for a short period of time to institutions that could ensure avoidance of negative stimuli and encourage experiencing positive emotions only, might result in emotional equilibrium. This emotional balance could possibly lay the foundation for more effective future treatments.


Gorgogiannis, D. (2022). The Feeling Theory of emotions and the treatment of affective disorders. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date May 9, 2023
Publicly Available Date May 9, 2023
Keywords Philosophy
Public URL
Additional Information Department of Philosophy & Politics, The University of Hull
Award Date Sep 1, 2022


Thesis (2.4 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2022 Dimitris Gorgogiannis. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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