The Turn to Affect and the Problem of Judgment


Linda Zerilli explores what the historian of science Ruth Leys has decried as the “nonintentionalism” of affect theory and its implications for critical feminist practices of judgment. To insist, as Leys does, on intentionalism as concept possession, argues Zerilli, does not adequately account for the fascination with nonconceptualism. Such fascination must be understood in relation to a wholly intellectualist view of conceptual rationality, according to which knowing how to do something involves a highly abstract and disembodied form of rule-following. Far from unique to affect theory, this view is shared by certain phenomenological philosophers and postfoundational feminist theorists, who have been eager to recover the idea of human practice as a form of nonrational and nonconceptual embodied coping. Zerilli draws on ordinary language philosophers such as Gilbert Ryle, Stanley Cavell, and Ludwig Wittgenstein to uncover the misunderstandings that animate the turn to nonconceptualism as the only alternative to intellectualism.