Publication details for Prof Matthew RatcliffeRatcliffe, M. (2012). The Phenomenology of Existential Feeling. In The Feeling of Being Alive. Marienberg, S. & Fingerhut, J. Berlin: de Gruyter. 23-54.
- Publication type: Books: sections
Author(s) from Durham
This chapter sketches a phenomenological account of what I call ‘existential feeling’ (Ratcliffe, 2005, 2008). Since I introduced the term, it has also been adopted by several others (e.g. Slaby and Stephan, 2008; McLaughlin, 2009, Stephan, forthcoming), sometimes in ways that differ slightly from my own usage. Hence one aim of the chapter is to offer an overview of my understanding of ‘existential feeling’, so that it can be distinguished from others. To do so, I start by suggesting that there is a distinctive form of affective experience that cannot be fitted into established categories. Use of the term ‘existential feeling’, I propose, allows us to focus our enquiries on a neglected and phenomenologically unified group of affective phenomena that would otherwise be split up and assigned to familiar categories such as ‘emotion’, ‘feeling’ and ‘mood’. Following this, I sketch a two-part phenomenological analysis of existential feeling. First of all, I suggest that the notion of ‘experienced possibility’ is central. Then I argue that something can be both a bodily feeling and, at the same time, an experience of worldly possibilities. A further aim of the chapter is to complicate my analysis in two respects: I sketch an account of affective ‘depth’ that applies to existential feeling, after which I raise (but do not fully resolve) some issues concerning the relationship between existential feeling and conceptual thought.