Gould Exercise

When Gould describes dissolving into tears while reading her research data for this project, she’s suggesting that there is no escape from an affective involvement in the world. No off-switch. Affective intensities saturate meaning-making, even when one attempts to be “objective.” The prevalent, post-Enlightenment belief that emotion and reason are opposites, she argues, is just simplistic and wrong.

Aristotle had the tendency to talk about emotions in an overly cognitive way, but he already understood that emotions were themselves rational. Modern neuroscience has gone further: they’ve shown that reason itself becomes impossible when the areas of the brain that process emotion are damaged. Rational decisions require emotional input. According to both Hawhee and Gould, reason and emotion are not opposites but interconnected effects of a larger affective involvement in the world.


In groups of 3-4:

1. Define each of the following:

  • Ontology
  • Rationalist ontology (pages 18 and 25)
  • Affective ontology (pages 23, 25, 29, 31)

2. What does Gould mean by “emotional habitus” (pages 10, 22, 31, 32, 34-36)?

3. How does Gould distinguish between affect, emotion, and feeling(s) (pages 18-22)

4. Explain in your own words the three “important insights” Gould says may be gleaned from an affective ontology (pages 25-29):

  • The complexity and indeterminacy of human motivation and behavior (25-26)
  • Social reproduction and social change (26-27)
  • Movements and meaning-making (28-29)