Gut Reactions: A Perceptual Theory of Emotion

Gut Reactions: A Perceptual Theory of Emotion

by Jesse J. Prinz
     
 

Gut Reactions is an interdisciplinary defense of the claim that emotions are perceptions of changes in the body. This thesis, pioneered by William James and resuscitated by Antonio Damasio, has been widely criticized for failing to acknowledge that emotions are meaningful insofar as they represent concerns, not respiratory function and blood pressure. Fear

Overview

Gut Reactions is an interdisciplinary defense of the claim that emotions are perceptions of changes in the body. This thesis, pioneered by William James and resuscitated by Antonio Damasio, has been widely criticized for failing to acknowledge that emotions are meaningful insofar as they represent concerns, not respiratory function and blood pressure. Fear represents danger, sadness represents loss. To explain this fact, many researchers conclude that emotions must involve judgments regarding one's relationship to the environment. Prinz offers a new unified account of the emotions that reconciles these two theories. He argues that emotions are embodied appraisals—they are perceptions of the body, but, through the body, they also allow us to literally perceive danger, loss, and other matters of concern.

The basic idea behind embodied appraisal theory is captured in the familiar notion of a "gut reaction," which has been overlooked by much emotion research. Using recent work in semantics, Prinz show how emotions can be meaningful without incorporating judgments or other cognitive states. Criticizing those who think that some emotions are social constructions, while others can be explained by evolutionary psychology, Prinz argues that all emotions are the same kind of phenomena, involving both nature and nurture.

Prinz also distinguishes emotions from other affective states, such as motivations and moods, and offers a theory of emotional valence (what makes some emotions good and others bad). Ultimately, his theory of emotion consciousness is inspired by recent research on the neural correlates of conscious vision. Drawing a parallel between emotion consciousness and visual consciousness, Prinz shows that emotion is a form of perception in the fullest sense. Where vision reveals the identity of objects in a given situation, emotion reveals how that situation bears on our well-being.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Excellent... Prinz's book is utterly compelling and a valuable read for any student or researcher of the emotions, philosophy of mind and perception."—Metapsychology Online Book Reviews

"Jesse Prinz's wide-ranging knowledge of the cognitive sciences makes this book a watershed contribution to the field of emotion research. His embodied appraisal theory, which attempts to mediate between recent neurobiological approaches and the cognitive theories that have dominated philosophical thinking, is a major step forward in the debate. Because Prinz builds his case on a richly detailed account of empirical research, I recommend this as the book to read on the renaissance of emotion in the last two decades, in neuroscience and psychology as well as philosophy."—Robert M. Gordon, University of Missouri, St. Louis

"In this philosophically deep and scientifically erudite work, Jesse Prinz provides the first systematic philosophical account of the emotions grounded in 'affective neuroscience.' This rapidly developing science has had a major influence on recent philosophy of mind and moral psychology. Through his searching analysis of its conceptual underpinnings Prinz throws light on many of the central issues in the philosophy of mind. Essential reading for philosophers of mind and for emotion researchers in all disciplines."—Paul Griffiths, University of Pittsburgh

"Jesse Prinz's Gut Reactions is an exciting book. I couldn't put it down, but I fought with it every inch of the way. I found myself forced to look at the emotions through a "brain's eye view" instead of by way of my usual humanist perspective. Thirty years ago, a younger generation employed excessive but effective polemics against the Jamesian paradigm. Prinz energetically returns the favor, but now it is we cognitivists and social constructionists who are on the defensive."—Robert C. Solomon, The University of Texas at Austin

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780195151459
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
07/28/2004
Series:
Philosophy of Mind Series
Pages:
288
Product dimensions:
9.30(w) x 6.10(h) x 1.10(d)

Meet the Author

Jesse Prinz is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is the author of Furnishing the Mind, in which he defends the view that all concepts have their basis in perception, and two forthcoming titles. In The Emotional Basis of Morals, he argues that moral concepts essentially involve emotions, and, in eyond Human Nature, he argues that culture and experience shape human thought.

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