Deeper Than Reason: Emotion and Its Role in Literature, Music, and Art

By Jenefer Robinson | Go to book overview

1
Emotions as Judgements

The emotion is a specific manner of apprehending the world.

Jean-Paul Sartre, Sketch for a Theory of the Emotions


What Are Emotions? Are They Feelings, Behaviour,
Physiological Symptoms, or Judgements?

For many people the answer to the question 'what is an emotion?' is straightforward: emotions are feelings. After all, when I am in the throes of an emotional experience, it's natural to say that I feel angry or elated or nostalgic or jealous. One way to explain this way of talking is that emotions simply are feelings: a feeling of anger, a feeling of elation, a feeling of nostalgia, or a feeling of jealousy. We tend to think of our feelings as our own private mental states or states of consciousness, and we are inclined to believe that only we ourselves have access to our feelings of joy and fear, our inner surges of anger or jealousy. If emotions are nothing but feelings, this would mean that our emotions are private mental states or states of consciousness, and that I find out what my emotions are by introspection.

However, a very little reflection shows that even if experiencing emotions does involve having feelings, we can't simply identify emotions with feelings. After all, there are lots of feelings that are not emotions: we feel hunger pangs, sexual urges, and various itches and tickles, to say nothing of feelings of hot and cold, of heartburn and lower back pain. And at the same time, it just seems wrong to reduce such a lofty emotion as love to an inner feeling such as butterflies in the tummy. However trembly I get when my beloved

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