The emotions--joy, shame, fear, and jealousy among them--drive us. In this slender, well-written volume, philosopher Dylan Evans examines the power of these innate, apparently inescapable forces, stopping along the way to consider thought-provoking matters: whether money can buy happiness, whether love is an integral part of human nature, whether machines can be taught to have feelings.
As the subtitle suggests, Evans is less concerned with the emotions themselves (although he has plenty to say about them) than with the approaches scientists have taken to understand what makes us tick. Anthropologists, linguists, philosophers, and psychologists have contributed to the science of emotions, though with sometimes contradictory findings. Whereas language, as the famed postulate holds, precedes thought, linguists have found instances of emotions for which some languages have no words, but whose speakers feel them all the same. And although social scientists once held that the emotions were the product of cultural conditioning, it is now apparent that they're hard-wired into the human psyche, universal and constant. Those discoveries, Evans writes, force a revaluation of some long-held notions, such as C.S. Lewis's influential belief that romantic love was an invention of medieval Europe--and that unemotional creatures such as Star Trek's Spock are intellectually superior to creatures like us, enslaved by the monkey mind.
Calm, self-assured, and instructive, Evans's little book makes a fine companion to more popular studies of the emotions, such as Victor Johnson's Why We Feel and Terry Burnham and Jay Phelan's Mean Genes. --Gregory McNamee
From Publishers Weekly
Does emotion hamper our ability to function as intelligent and responsible creatures, or ist it actually an evolutionarily determined mechanism? In this wide-ranging discussion of the relationship between intelligence, feeling and our capacity to make rational judgments, Evans (Introducing Evolutionary Psychology) taps the insights of such Western philosophers as Hume, Plato, Kant and C.S. Lewis. Arguing that many "basic" emotions such as joy and anger are universal rather than culturally specific, Evans suggests that emotions must have become part of our "common biological inheritance" because they were advantageous to us as a species. Unfortunately, he cites few psychological or scientific studies to buttress his claims about the "science of sentiment," relying instead upon seductive but unsupported statements such as "the reason that falling in love makes us happy is that those of our ancestors who liked falling in love were more likely to pass on their genes than those who preferred solitude." This volume's major flaw is Evans's resistance to fully defining the term "emotion" until the final chapter, insisting instead, "Definitions... can easily become intellectual straightjackets." Still, the book's simple, sleek design and eye-catching cover will draw attention.
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