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Theory and Research on Human Emotions

ISBN: 978-0-76231-108-8, eISBN: 978-1-84950-271-9

Publication date: 9 July 2004


Why do emotions matter? Across the centuries the same answer has been returned; they are the salt of life without which it would lack savour. Thus, St Augustine asked rhetorically if we would not consider a general apatheia to be the worst of human and moral defects. Today, Elster repeats this refrain: “simply, emotions matter because if we did not have them nothing else would matter. Creatures without emotion would have no reason for living nor, for that matter, for committing suicide. Emotions are the stuff of life” (Elster, 1999, p. 403). However, it is a different question to ask about their purpose in relation to other things and other doings, but a necessary one because salt has to flavour something else. The answer developed here is that emotions are commentaries on our concerns. Emotions are about something and those somethings are the things we care about most or cannot but care about to some extent. As commentaries, emotions tell us how much we care and how we are doing in relation to concerns which are not reducible to our feelings about them.


Archer, M.S. (2004), "EMOTIONS AS COMMENTARIES ON HUMAN CONCERNS", Turner, J.H. (Ed.) Theory and Research on Human Emotions (Advances in Group Processes, Vol. 21), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 327-356.



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