Central and East European
Society for Phenomenology

Conference | Paper

Anticipatory Emotions, Engaged Acts, and Collective Agency

Igor Cvejić

Thursday 2 December 2021

09:40 - 10:20

Zoom 1-1

The efforts to integrate emotions in theories of collective intentionality as well as to explain their significance for the constitution and preservation of a group have been recently widely pursued (Helm, Salmela, Schmid, Szanto, Zahavi, etc). Most of them are focused on variations of a present sense of belonging. However, not many accounts emphasize the role of future-oriented emotions.

I choose the term “anticipatory,” among similar notions of “forward-looking” (Kenny, Gordon) or “prospective” (McCosh), to mark the phenomenological feature of emotions. Anticipatory emotions are, of course, related to a situation, in the sense that they disclose what the situation affords in terms of potential happenings, doings, or interactions (Slaby). Nevertheless, their most notable phenomenological feature is that they are (at least partially) unfulfilled, or more technically that they are, more or less, empty intentions, that an object, to which they are directed, is not apparent to me.

The significance of the so-called forward-looking emotions in existing social relations have been partially addressed in literature, particularly trust (Helm). However, it seems that the most paradigmatic case of the importance of anticipatory emotions for human sociality is in situations where collectivity or relations are not already present but anticipated. Such are situations when someone is entering in interactions with the other (e.g., flirting, introductions, etc.) or when (even potential) others are invited or called for interactions or group action (for example: conference/workshop calls, political appeals etc.). In these cases, emotions could be characterized by disclosing only potential collective relations, but also in some cases relevant import could be ascribed to a group (most simple case is that I could become frustrated in the name of an anticipated political group, even if the group had never existed and will never exist). Moreover, those emotional experiences seem to lie at the heart of engaged acts, here narrowly understood as acts undertaken in interacting with the other or others, through which first-person singular shifts to first-person plural (Zahavi, Loidolt). Engaged acts, thus described, neither relate to a kind of existing collective commitment, nor are they roughly individual, but rather relate to an anticipated communality, whereby communal experience is not apparent to me (commonly followed by a (pre)reflective awareness that this communality is not fulfilled—that “me” and “you” are not together, and such an awareness could be a reason for undertaking engaged acts). In the final part of the presentation, the theoretical insight is applied to negative empirical cases, particularly to the experience of social anxiety, which is by itself an anticipatory emotional experience, in which engaged interactions with others are colored by a negative valence, as well as to other emotional malfunctioning, in which engaged social interaction can be suspended, like clinical depression (Slaby, Stephan, Paskaleva) or schizophrenia (Froese, Krueger).