Peter Goldie opens the path to a deeper understanding of our emotional lives through a lucid philosophical exploration of this surprisingly neglected topic. He illuminates the phenomena of emotion by drawing not only on philosophy but also on literature and science. He considers the roles of culture and evolution in the development of our emotional capabilities. He examines the links between emotion, mood, and character, and places the emotions in the context of such related phenomena as consciousness, thought, feeling, and imagination. He explains how it is that we are able to make sense of our own and other people's emotions, and how we can explain the very human things which emotions lead us to do. A key theme of The Emotions is the idea of a personal perspective or point of view, contrasted with the impersonal stance of the empirical sciences. Goldie argues that it is only from the personal point of view that thoughts, reasons, feelings, and actions come into view. He suggests that there is a tendency for philosophers to over-intellectualize the emotions, and investigates how far it is possible to explain emotions in terms of rationality.
Over-intellectualizing can also involve neglecting the centrality of feelings, and Goldie shows how to put them where they belong, as part of the intentionality of emotional experience, directed towards the world from a point of view. Goldie argues that the various elements of emotional experience - including thought, feeling, bodily change, and expression - are tied together in a narrative structure. To make sense of one's emotional life one has to see it as part of a larger unfolding narrative. The narrative is not simply an interpretative framework of a life: it is what that life is. Goldie concludes by applying these ideas in a close study of one particular emotion: jealousy. This fascinating book gives an accessible but penetrating exploration of a subject that is important but mysterious to all of us. Any reader interested in emotion, and its role in our understanding of our lives, will find much to think about here.
Peter Goldie is Visiting Lecturer in Philosophy at King's College London.