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Positive EmotionIntegrating the Light Sides and Dark Sides$
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June Gruber and Judith Tedlie Moskowitz

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199926725

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199926725.001.0001

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The Value of Positive Emotion

The Value of Positive Emotion

Philosophical Doubts and Reassurances

(p.281) Chapter 16 The Value of Positive Emotion
Positive Emotion

Daniel M. Haybron

Oxford University Press

This paper argues that positive emotion is a central element of human well-being, but with important qualifications. To begin with, it is helpful to focus attention more broadly than on emotions per se, on the notion of having a positive emotional condition, or emotional well-being. I sketch a regulate-and-inform view of the function of emotional conditions, followed by discussion of the value of a positive emotional condition. On the last question the obvious answer is that it is hedonically valuable, that is, pleasant. Less obviously, our emotional natures are central to who we are—the self—and positive emotional states may figure centrally in well-being, as an aspect of self-fulfilment. Additionally, a person’s emotional condition seems to matter as a cause of good outcomes, as a source of information about well-being, and as a verdict about the quality of the individual’s life. Yet positive emotional states are not always desirable: they can have ill effects or be unfitting. Unfitting emotional states in turn can be contrary to virtue, or inauthentic. A final question concerns the desirability of various emotional profiles. In particular, what balance of positive versus negative emotional states counts as genuinely “positive”? Some research by Barbara Fredrickson et al. suggests that a 3:1 ratio may represent a threshold for broadly positive functioning; less than that may signal significant problems, and generally poor functioning. If this view is correct, then research on the emotional side of subjective well-being may be due for a radical reinterpretation: studies previously thought to show most people are happy, and presumptively doing well, may in fact show the opposite.

Keywords:   emotion, mood, affect, positive emotion, happiness, emotional condition, emotional state, emotional well-being, subjective well-being, positivity ratio, authenticity, virtue

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