Back to Basics: On the Very Idea of “Basic Emotions” (1993, Rev. 2001)

Robert C. Solomon

in Not Passion's Slave

Published in print February 2003 | ISBN: 9780195145496
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199833726 | DOI:
 Back to Basics: On the Very Idea of “Basic Emotions” (1993, Rev. 2001)

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Many psychologists and philosophers now accept the idea that there are “basic emotions,” emotions whose essence is an “affect program”. I argue that in fact this idea is quite old, and that it relies on metaphors and analogies that are quite problematic. Much of the current discussion follows Paul Ekman's influential work on the facial expressions of emotion (which has been sadly neglected in philosophy), but I challenge the very idea of basic emotions as reductionist and unfaithful to the complexity and richness of emotions, even the supposed basic ones.

Keywords: atomism; basic emotions; chemistry; Descartes; display rules; Ekman; facial expressions; folk psychology; Hobbes; ontology; periodic chart; reductivism; Spinoza

Chapter.  14770 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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