We put categories on things that we see outside in the world. We say an explosion is an event, a happening in time and space. We say stuff is made out of matter. Yet we all know that emotions exist too. Are they events in time and space? If yes should they be categorised as events? Could they be classified as matter? If yes, is it a specific structure of matter which is common among everyone experiencing that emotion, say sadness? Would intuition be categorised as a structure of matter in the necessary context? Or should we really give emotion ontological status?

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    There's a whole philosophical literature on this. You may find some useful discussion here: iep.utm.edu/emotion
    – Eliran
    Feb 16 '20 at 18:30
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    A short answer is that they are mental states. The issue of what physical basis mental states supervene on is controversial. But after Putnam most philosophers doubt the type identity theory, i.e. that there is a single type of brain state that instantiates a particular type of mental state, like sadness. There can be many types of brain states that do that, this is known as multiple realizability, see SEP, Mind/Brain Identity Theory.
    – Conifold
    Feb 16 '20 at 23:54
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    Is emotion not a state of consciousness? In this case the question would seem to be about the ontology of consciousness.
    – user20253
    Feb 17 '20 at 15:16
  • @PeterJ I feel that emotions themselves have a quality of consciousness to them. By definition of an emotion, emotion cannot exist without experiencer. It is meaningless to say that sadness exists without someone being sad about it. Consciousness then becomes ontologically equivalent to emotion. If I am to assign any reality to emotion, then I have to do the same for consciousness.
    – Weezy
    Feb 18 '20 at 14:30
  • @Weezy - I'm with you on this. But here's the thing. Physical objects must also always have a quality of consciousness about them, or at least all those we know about. So as a metaphysical study ontology is always ontology, never the ontology of this or that. This makes your question a little dangerous, as I expect you're aware. . . .
    – user20253
    Feb 18 '20 at 19:32

Emotions are a feature of our consciousness, so this question is basically asking what the ontology of consciousness is. That is the central question of the Philosphy of Mind, and it has been a focus of much philosophic thought for the last century. This is because, as your questions note, the dominant movement in philosophy over the last century, physicalism, struggles to answer what consciousness is.

Most physicalists assume some version of Identity Theory, and if one does that, then emotions are a reflection of physics, and are themselves causally irrelevant, as are all conscious events. Property dualism gives some additional ontology to emotions, and awareness, but in most forms (dual aspect theory) it has similar causal irrelevance, in that the real causal work is done by the physical aspect of matter.

Substance dualism asserts there are mental and physical substances in the universe, and emotions are a mental substance, which our minds host. Substance dualism involves an interface principle, in which the mater of our brains can affect the thoughts and emotions in our minds, and vice versa.

A "physicalist" version of this is a strong emergence theory, that mind emerges from some unique matter structures, but is then at least partially causally independent of its substrate.

Physicalism has a similar problem with ideas (math, ethics, Beauty, logic, causation, time, etc), in that they seem to be important in the universe, but don't seem to have any role in physicalism. Frege, and the Popper, therefore proposed that the ontology of our universe is triplest -- IE, matter, mind, and ideas all have their own existence. Popper combined his triplism with strong emergence for mind. https://tannerlectures.utah.edu/_documents/a-to-z/p/popper80.pdf

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