Reducing Norms to Superegoic Emotions
It is notoriously difficult to reduce norms to empirical phenomena. If they are defined in terms of normative language or emotions, the problem is how to distinguish normative from non-nor-mative language or emotions, and this requires an independent concept of normativity. But nor-mativity is as difficult to reduce to empirical phenomena as norms are. A solution may be to make the psychoanalytical assumption that human animals develop normativity through their interactions with their caregivers, whom they conceive to have features that monotheisms ascribe to God. Normative or superegoic emotions can be understood as the unconscious reexperience of early infantile interactions with one’s own “godlike” caregiver. Based on this approach, three types of normative emotions can be distinguished: first, sadistic superegoic emotions, where in-dividuals unconsciously reexperience their caregiver as authorizing their reactive aggression (an-ger), proactive aggression (indignation), and her displays of disgust (superegoic disgust); second, masochistic superegoic emotions, where one unconsciously reexperiences one’s own infantile experience of having hurt one’s own caregiver (guilt), or being disgusting to them (shame); and third, narcissistic emotions, including one’s unconscious reexperience of the infantile experience of believing to be able to measure up to the model represented by one’s caregiver. This approach raises the question of whether non-human animals can experience superegoic emotions. The answer depends on whether they underwent some form of primary socialization; if not, at most, forms of proto-normativity may be found in them such as unsocialized reactive aggression (proto-anger) and unsocialized proactive aggression (proto-indignation). The possibility for domesti-cated non-human animals to have superegoic emotions other than those found in human animals (para-guilt) is also discussed.
EUT Edizioni Università di Trieste
Edoardo Fittipaldi, "Reducing Norms to Superegoic Emotions" in: "Etica & Politica / Ethics & Politics (2021) XXIII/2", EUT Edizioni Università di Trieste, Trieste, 2021, pp. 283-307
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