For over two thousand years, thinkers argued our emotions are base and destructive.
And more noble reaches of human nature are achieved when our passions are
controlled by our reason.
West’s most prominent and earliest theorists of emotion: Epicurians and Stoics.
Epicurians and Stoics thought emotions are irrational and damaging.
A view that emerged in recent study of human emotions-emotions serves important
functions especially in social lives.
19 Century founders:
Charles Darwin: The Evolutionary Approach
1872, Charles Darwin, published most important book on emotions YET!- The Expression of
the Emotions in Man and Animals.
Darwin did not propose that emotions had functions in our survival.
1838, accepted theory was that God gave humans special muscles that allowed them to
express uniquely human sentiments unknown to animals.
Central principle of Darwin’s theory- human descended from other species. And we
ourselves are animals.
He realized the importance of cross-cultural study.
He was the first one to use questionnaires.
In his book, he asked 2 questions:
how are emotions expressed in humans and other animals?
where do our emotions come from?
He concluded that emotional expressions derive largely from habits that are in our
evolutionary or individual parts.
For Darwin, emotional expressions showed continuity of adult human behavioral
mechanism with those of lower animals and with those of infancy.
He thought, emotional expressions are like vestigial parts of our bodies.
In Darwin’s eyes, our emotions link us to our past of our species and to our infancy.
He argued for universality of expressions and thought emotions have useful functions too.
William James: The Bodily Approach
He argued against commonsense idea that when we feel an emotion it pushes us to
certain kind of activity.
James’s theory is really about nature of emotional experience.
He stressed in which way emotions move us bodily.
According to James, core of an emotion is pattern of bodily responses.
He stressed our experience of many emotions is set of changes of autonomic nervous
system. He thought that changes from movement of muscles and joints were parts of felt bodily
James proposed that emotions give color and warmth to experience.
Sigmund Freud: The Psychoanalytic Approach:
Freud proposed that certain events, usually sexual kind, can be so damaging that they
leave permanent scars that can affect rest of our lives.
He was one of the first to argue that emotions are at core of many pathologies.
Philosophical and Literary Approach:
Aristotle: The Conceptual Approach:
Most fundamental insight- emotions connected with actions.
Aristotle contended that emotions depend on what we believe and are evaluations. Therefore,
we are responsible for our emotion because we are responsible for our belief and evaluations of
He had 3 principles:
- Hearer more likely believe good person than bad.
- People are convinced when what is said stirs their emotions.
- People are convinced by arguments that seem truthful.
Aristotle discussed that different judgments give rise different emotions.
Aristotle observes when speaking to persuade, must know something about people to whom
you speak and their values, and about effects that speaking may have on them.
From Shakespeare’s Hamlet, emotional experiences shaped by our judgments and evaluations.
Aristotle said, drama is about universal human action, and what can happen when well-
intentioned human actions miscarry.
He noticed only 2 effects of tragic drama:
people are moved emotionally
experience Katharsis of emotions. (Katharsis: clearing away of obstacles to understand our
Rene Descartes: The philosophical Approach
Descartes generally regarded as founder of modern philosophy and scientific view of
He focuses on emotions in The Passion of the Soul, book many think of as basis of
He claimed that there are six fundamental emotions- wonder, desire, joy, love, hatred
and sadness- occurs in thinking aspect of ourselves, soul.
He stated that perceptions tell us about what important in outside world, bodily
passions tell us about what important in inside world, emotions tell us what important in our
souls- our real selves, our goals, our concerns, and our identities. He described how emotions cant be entirely controlled by thinking, but can be regulated
He suggested that emotions depends on how we evaluate events.
He was one of the first to argue that, emotions serve important functions.
Emotions are usually functional but can sometimes be dysfunctional.
He wrote in era historians called Early Modern Period.
He was contemporary of William Harvey.
Disease was caused by imbalance among four humors, and each gave rise to distinct
emotional state. New physiology to which he contributed, emotions arise in mind, enable our
plans and affect our bodies.George Eliot: The Literary ApproachMany of greatest insights into
emotions come from novelists and poets.
Writing of George Eliot offers some of the most impressive ideas regarding emotional
experience and its place in intimate relationships.
1871-1872, Eliot publishes Middlemarch, novel about emotions.
He said, our emotions can act as sort of compass, Emotions also principal means by
which people affect each other.
Emotions are what relationships are made of. Emotion has powerful effects. Understand
our emotions differently from those of other people.
Historical Figure: George Eliot
One of the greatest novelists.
Born Mary Ann Evans.
One of the few women of her time to support herself independently financially.
Her and George Henry had one of the greatest emotional and intellectual relationships
of history of letters.
Brain Science, Psychology, Sociology:
Behaviorism and cognitive psychology tended ignore emotions.
Past 50 years, study of emotions came into its own in brain sciences, in psychology, and
in social sciences.
Walter Cannon and Walter Hess: Brain Science
Before age of electronics, and findings that brain itself works by sending electrical
signals from neuron to neuron, main findings about brain function came from brain lesions,
either deliberately in animals or accidentally in people.
Cannon argued against Harvard colleague William James.
James theory- viscera where bodily feelings supposed to arise.
Cannon argued if James is right, when viscera secreted from brain of laboratory animals,
one can expect reduction in their emotions.
But with this operation, no reduction occurred.
Cannon found transection of neural pathways at quiet different level that had huge
effects on emotions.
Higher regions of brains, cortex, act to inhibit lower regions where emotions reside.
Phineus Gage, foremen of railway construction, had rod entering skull and exciting from