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The Rationality of Emotion (MIT Press) Paperback – March 14, 1990

3.8 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"De Sousa builds his case in a highly informed and readable way. He is in complete control of the literature on the emotions (historical, philosophical, physiological, and psychological). He also manages to bring in an extraordinary range of references from surprising places - Erica Jong, André Gide, Dorothy Dinnerstein. This sort of humane ease and wide-ranging vision makes for fun and often funny reading, but always, happily, in the service of the main argument. One of the virtues of de Sousa's book is that it offers an analysis of the emotions that will be congenial to many philosophers working in the cognitivist tradition." Owen Flanagan , Wellesley College



"De Sousa demolishes just about all the reasons there could be for thinking that there is anything intrinsically irrational or anti-rational about any interestingly wide class of emotions, and makes a good case for the claim that we are capable of rationality - thought, reasoned decision and social coordination - largely because we are the creatures with the emotions we have. This is an interesting and important claim." Times Higher Education Supplement



"One of the virtues of de Sousa's book is that it offers an analysis of the emotions that will be congenial to many philosophers working in the cognitivist tradition." Owen Flanagan , Wellesley College,

From Library Journal

Granting that some things we call emotions, e.g., moods, are subjective, de Sousa contends that emotions typically intend aspects of the objective world and can be rationally appraised. He alleges that we standardly learn the vocabulary of emotion by associating emotion-names with paradigm scenarios of early life that subsequent cultural experience reinforces. Thereafter, emotional objectivity arises in terms of the similarities between an emotion's new target-situation and its paradigm scenario. He works out his theory in considerable detail and with commendable clarity. Highly recommended for college philosophy collections. Robert Hoffman, York Coll., CUNY
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: MIT Press
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: A Bradford Book; Revised ed. edition (March 14, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262540576
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262540575
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,380,318 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
An interesting book. It is also a unique book in that the author tackles a topic not many have dwelled upon in 20th century thought. He presents emotion as a kind of perception that guides or organizes reason, but I would like to have seen more on this since he touches upon it briefly. The rest of the book is an excursion into epistemology and the author's own thoughts and evaluations. The book would have benefited from more examples as well. Come with a rich vocabulary (e.g., homunculi) and be prepared to tolerate rereading and dense language in attempting to follow arguments. I am not quite sure about the intended audience, but it would seem to be editors of philosophy or psychology journals, or the staff of philosophy departments. The average reader would need 2 to 3 times the number of pages to understand what is being talked about. This is a pity because the topic is important. Interestingly he uses 'she' for general reference. Overall, although it seems to be more of a skeptical justification that is bogged down in the analytic, cognitive approach, it is worth reading for the excellent ideas but does require forbearance.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I read this book a few years ago and found it interesting. Since then I have learned more about the philosophical ground of the scientific method guiding the author's approach. Reading it again now, with a deeper understanding, is a greater pleasure.

Paul Thagard and Mario Bunge demonstrate the relation between science and philosophy, as well as between philosophy and reality. When one understands what these relationships are, then one can appreciate the effectiveness of de Sousa's approach to rationality in this book.

It is almost thoroughly scientific in its methods. There is some reference to Freud, but it's not essential to the argument. And the author displays compassion along with a robust sense of humor.

My favorite section of the book, which starts on page 190, is: "What Are Emotions For? A New Biological Hypothesis."

When I began to seriously consider what emotions are for and what their origins are in biology, I began to understand my experiencing of emotions as they occurred to me. So, I began to feel less helpless in the process.

More understanding is always better for a human. Misunderstanding what emotions are for can lead to serious problems.

Anyone seriously concerned with rationality will find this book very helpful.

De Sousa's subsequent work adds to the benefits.
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Format: Paperback
I bought this book when I casually bumped into it in a bookshop. I was immediately captured by its intriguing title. The western culture we live in considers the rationality of emotion as absolute nonsense. (Some years later, I would read Antonio Damasio's "Descartes' Error" who takes this argument a step further, and convincingly shows that our emotional brain ultimately produces rationality !)

To prove his point, Ronald de Sousa focuses on the way our emotions evolve during our lifetime. He starts his investigation with the way philosophy has treated emotions so far, trying to classify them, but without being able to come up with the definitive list. He then formulates the following hypothesis : "... yet it cannot be denied that there are, in other animals as in human babies, modes of behavior that we take to express something like human emotions. I think we can understand, in principle, how our repertoire of emotions gets built up, without positing a set of "primary emotions" that get combined like basic blocks or even mixed like primary colors. We do need a repertoire of primitive instinctual responses, but emotions are not mere responses. My hypothesis is this : We are made familiar with the vocabulary of emotion by association with paradigm scenarios. These are drawn first from our daily life as small children and later reinforced by the stories, art, and culture to which we are exposed. Later still, in literate cultures, they are supplemented and refined by literature. Paradigm scenarios involve two aspects : first, a situation type providing the characteristic objects of the specific emotion-type, and second, a set of characteristic or "normal" responses to the situation, where normality is first a biological matter and then very quickly becomes a cultural one.
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Format: Paperback
De Souza's book is an interesting examination of a little-understood or discussed topic in philosophy, but it suffers from an excess of currently-fashionable subjectivism/skepticism.
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Format: Paperback
De Souza's book is an interesting examination of a little-understood or discussed topic in philosophy, but it suffers from an excess of currently-fashionable subjectivism/skepticism.
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