A Primer On Emotion
Introduction (via Harvard)
Conceptions of human nature derive from beliefs about human emotion. Are humans competitive and aggressive by nature or cooperative and kind? Do people seek to maximize personal desire or to enhance the welfare of others? What is the nature of human rationality? What is the path to the good life? Answers to these age – old questions hinge on an understanding of the emotions.
Western constructions of emotions have been guided by the Romanticism thesis , which dates back to Plato and found its clearest expression in the writings of Rousseau (Oatley, Keltner, & Jenkins, 2006; Solomon, 1976). The romanticism thesis holds that emotions are powerful, involuntary forces and that the experience of emotion guides patterns of reasoning, self – expression, and social behavior that are vital to healthy social communities. For many theorists, such as Kant, the power of emotions, in particular to shift reasoning in context – specific fashion, necessitated that emotions play minor roles in moral judgment, ethical conduct, and social organization. For others, such as Rousseau, Hume, and Darwin, these same properties qualified emotions as a source of moral intuition and ethical behavior and thus deserving of a privileged place in social life.