The Thing Called Emotion

Aaron Ben‐Ze'ev

in The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Emotion

Published in print December 2009 | ISBN: 9780199235018
Published online January 2010 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

The Thing Called Emotion


The question “What is an emotion?” has haunted philosophers and psychologists for many years. The typical replies proposed to this question reduce emotions to one of their components, such as state, capacity, feeling, or action readiness, or to something else, such as brain state. The perplexity surrounding this issue indicates that simple answers will be of little value. In order to capture the complexities and subtleties of emotions, this article uses two major methods: firstly, describing a typical emotion, and secondly, defining emotions as a mental mode. In different ways, both approaches answer the question “What is an emotion?” By combining the two approaches, one might arrive at a more comprehensive understanding of the nature of emotions.

Keywords: action readiness; emotions; brain state; mental mode; nature of emotions; state capacity

Article.  9735 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Philosophy of Mind

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