Metaphor and Emotion: Language, Culture, and Body in Human Feeling

Metaphor and Emotion: Language, Culture, and Body in Human Feeling

Metaphor and Emotion: Language, Culture, and Body in Human Feeling

Metaphor and Emotion: Language, Culture, and Body in Human Feeling


Many researchers claim that emotions arise either from human biology (i.e., biological reductionism) or as products of culture (i.e., social constructionism). Are human emotions best characterized as biological, psychological, or cultural entities? Zoltan Kovecses demonstrates how cultural aspects, metaphorical language, and human physiology are part of an integrated system. This book challenges the simplistic division between the body and culture by stressing how human emotions are to a large extent "constructed" from individuals' embodied experiences in different cultural settings. Hb ISBN (2000): 0-521-64163-2


In a widely read and influential book on the neurobiology of the emotions, Joseph LeDoux(1996) draws the following conclusion:

Emotions evolved not as conscious feelings, linguistically differentiated or otherwise, but as brain states and bodily responses. The brain states and bodily responses are the fundamental facts of an emotion, and the conscious feelings are the frills that have added icing to the emotional cake. (p. 302)

In a way, the present book can be seen as a response to these conclusions. While I am convinced by many of LeDoux's claims, including the idea that emotions did not evolve as conscious feelings, I cannot accept the second part of his conclusion. This is not only because I come to the emotions from a more humanistic perspective than he does, but also because the evidence I will present in the chapters to follow tells me that “conscious feelings” play a much more important role in human emotions than LeDouxappears to attach to them.

Conscious feelings are often expressed in or, indeed, are shaped by language, and thus the study of language can reveal a great deal about them. Of course, one must have the appropriate kind of linguistics to say anything interesting about emotions and emotional feelings. LeDouxbases his claims on an unsatisfactory kind of linguistics, in which emotion language consists only in literal emotion words, such as fear, anxiety, terror, apprehension, that classify and refer to a preexisting emotional reality (the brain states and bodily responses). This can only lead to an oversimplification of the many subtle ways in which emotion and language interact. Obviously, LeDoux, a neurobiologist, cannot be expected to provide us with a linguistics that provides further insight into the nature of the relationship between emotion and . . .

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