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Emotion: The Science of Sentiment

6 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0192854339
ISBN-10: 019285433X
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Editorial Reviews Review

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.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (June 28, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019285433X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192854339
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 0.8 x 4.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,097,621 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dylan Evans is the founder and Chief Visionary Officer of Projection Point, a global leader in risk intelligence solutions. He has written several popular science books, including Risk Intelligence: How to Live with Uncertainty (2012) and Placebo: The Belief Effect (2003), and in 2001 he was voted one of the twenty best young writers in Britain by the Independent on Sunday. He received a PhD in Philosophy from the London School of Economics in 2000, and has held academic appointments at King's College London, the University of Bath, and the American University of Beirut. He is also a Distinguished Supporter of the British Humanist Association

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Rob Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on May 21, 2001
Format: Hardcover
One of the most fascinating characters of modern popular culture is Spock, the half-human, half-Vulcan alien on the original Star Trek series. Spock got the Vulcan freedom from emotion in the non-human half of his genes. It sometimes made it difficult to get along with him; he never got jokes, for instance, and was fascinated by what went on around him, but never amused. Because he had no emotions, he made all his decisions with cool rationality, and because he wasted no mental energy on emotions, had had a superhuman degree of intelligence, insight, and logic. Examining Spock's emotionless state is one of the themes in _Emotion: The Science of Sentiment_ (Oxford University Press) by Dylan Evans, a short, witty review of the current scientific and evolutionary views on emotion. Spock could not have evolved in any environment we are familiar with. For instance, fear is a beneficial emotion, helping animals react swiftly. Animals incapable of feeling it would not last long. Emotions, contrary to the opinion held by philosophers through the centuries, are not a drain on intellect, but help it.
Most researchers would include fear, disgust, joy, distress, anger, and surprise in a list of basic emotions. Darwin himself thought that there was a universality of human emotions shared by all cultures, and that this was evidence that humans had evolved together and then the races and cultures had separated. However, this view was not generally held until fairly recently; it was supposed that just as your culture teaches you language, it also teaches you what emotions are part of your world and how to display them.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Rolf Dobelli HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on March 15, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This layman's guide to the emotions is a delightful walking tour through the gardens of philosophy, psychology and neuroscience, not to mention popular culture. Author Dylan Evans proposes the thesis that emotions are an evolutionary necessity that plays an important role in ensuring human survival. He demonstrates his thesis with anecdotes and illustrations. Though it delivers some intellectually rigorous material, this is not an intellectually rigorous book. It is more of a long, agreeable, rambling monologue. We highly recommend it to those who would read it primarily for pleasure, and secondarily suggest it as a useful overview of the evolutionary role of emotions. Its ample bibliography can guide those who are interested in exploring the subject in greater depth.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read this because it was one of the recommended readings from Karla McLaren's book, and I can see why. A perfect summary of where science now comes in on the evolution and physiological origin of emotions. And it's even light hearted!! A real treasure.
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