Emotions as Concern-Based Construals

Take a look at this paragraph from Robert C. Robert’s Spiritual Emotions .

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What do you think of defining emotions as “concern-based construals”? I hope to offer a minor refinement of his view in my dissertation, but I think he’s on to something important (not that he would necessarily agree with all of the following!).

Your emotions are a result, he’s saying, of a collision between your ultimate concerns and your perception of your circumstances. What are your ultimate concerns? Well, you love your life. You love yourself (Mat 22:39; Eph 5:29). These loves are part of your nature. If love for God is one of your ultimate concerns, then you are one of those people to whom God has given a new nature.

You can’t change your nature, but you can change your perception of how your circumstances are colliding with your natural concerns. That’s why I subscribe to what Matthew Elliott calls the “cognitive” view of emotions. I appreciate the emphasis of Roberts in the paragraph above, however, taking us back one step further than cognition.

I had been wanting to call my view the “affective-cognitive-affective” view to show that basic affections lie underneath cognition, producing affection. However, I’m thinking “natural-cognitive-affective” may be more helpful—even though I’m not denying that the ultimate concerns of my nature are themselves affections.

On a blog you can get away with saying this: My thinking is a work in progress.

Mark Ward

PhD in NT; theological writer for Faithlife; former high school Bible textbook author for BJU Press; husband; father; ultimate frisbee player; member of the body of Christ.

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