Emotions: How Many Are There?

Jesse J. Prinz

in The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Cognitive Science

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780195309799
Published online May 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Emotions: How Many Are There?


This article focuses on a particular theory of the emotions, somatic appraisal theory, which explain the range of emotions effectively. The somatic appraisal theory is designed to compensate for the flaw in James's formulation according to which emotions are perceptions of patterned changes in the body. James's theory does not capture the idea that emotions are meaningful. Somatic appraisal theory mentions that emotions are perceptions of changes in the body and also carry information about circumstances that bear on well-being. The bodily changes that occur and the perception thereof have the function of carrying information about loss. They were set up as responses to loss. Somatic appraisal theory has much in common with Ekman's Darwinean modules. Ekman states that each emotion is associated with a physiological pattern. Ekman mentions that the patterns are evolved adaptations, and that is also true in somatic appraisal theory. He also says that emotions exploit automatic appraisals. Ekman mentions that appraisals are components of emotions, while somatic appraisal theory reports that they are causes, rather than components, but the difference is not especially important for present purposes. Somatic appraisal theory is compatible with three ways of acquiring new emotions. Emotions are individuated by their semantic content and their somatic profile (the pattern of bodily changes the perception of which constitutes the emotion). A change in semantic content could lead to the creation of a new emotion, and the introduction of new bodily patterns could as well.

Keywords: theories of emotion; cognitive theories; Darwinian module approach; James's theory

Article.  9409 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Philosophy of Mind

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