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Upheavals of Thought: The Intelligence of Emotions New Ed Edition

3.9 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0521531825
ISBN-10: 0521531829
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Upheavals of Thought is a big book in every sense of the word. It is a 700-page, deep-thinking, and far-ranging argument that emotions should be central to ethical thinking. From infancy on, we must find our way in the world, but, writes Martha C. Nussbaum, "without the intelligence of emotions, we have little hope." Nussbaum is Ernst Freund Distinguished Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago and an academic of tremendous scope. Here she immerses the reader in moral philosophy, anthropology, child psychology, music, classical thought, religion, and literature with a likable intelligence that makes her one of the most important thinkers alive today. Upheavals of Thought reminds us that the tangle of human emotions is an aid, not an impediment, and that cold objectivity, without the barometer of emotion, deprives us of our moral compass. --Eric de Place --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Nussbaum's excellent reviews and essays are well known to readers of the New Republic, while her book Love's Knowledge has become a campus classic of literary philosophy. In this massive study, Nussbaum takes the perennial boxing match between thought and perception to a brilliant new register. Her contention is that our perceptions of the world are not colored by what and how we know, but rather by what and how we feel: "Emotions are forms of intense attention and engagement, in which the world is appraised in its relation to the self" i.e., "emotions are forms of judgment." This huge book has its ups and downs, but it has the feel of a major achievement. Its 16 chapters are broken into three sections. The first draws on diverse examples of "Need and Recognition," including animal emotion, the Neo-Stoics and "American grief" to establish its cognitive ground. In the second and best section, "Compassion," Nussbaum develops a systematic logic regarding the emotions, which advocates compassion in public life, and provides a fascinating critique of neoliberalism. Less successful is the long final section detailing, Love's Knowledge-style, love as it is found in the art and thought of Augustine, Dante, Emily Bront‰, Mahler, Whitman, Joyce and other figures. But the book begins with the death of Nussbaum's mother, which reverberates throughout these pages; it is part of Nussbaum's genius that the autobiographical details about this circumstance do not seem extraneous at all (and they are sometimes surprising). For Nussbaum, a particular moment in time and, crucially, its retelling, express a systematic understanding, and a mastery of the circumstances that created it an idea for which this book provides ample evidence. (Oct.)Forecast: Given Nussbaum's status in journalism, this book should be widely reviewed; major, career-summing profiles of the peripatetic philosopher could result. This could be one of those scholarly works that crosses over because of its refusal to compromise, rather than in spite of it.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 766 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; New Ed edition (April 14, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521531829
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521531825
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #15,741 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a philosopher, psychotherapist, and writer, I think I know the "state of the art" in current research on emotions, and I know a fair amount about current thinking in ethics and about the research linking development, ethics, and emotions.
I heartily endorse this book as an extraordinary, careful, encyclopedic work. In the last twenty years, psychologists have finally learned something philosphers proved fifty years ago (at least): that one cannot understand human action without taking into account subjective experience--including emotion. Nussbaum--contra some previous reviewer who for-who-knows-what-reason says her psychology is "misguided"--knows well the cognitive research on emotions, current psychoanalytic thinking and developmental research, and cutting edge, research-guiding theories. She is quite clear on exactly what kind of evidence each can boast or not. She puts them all together and shows us some things about emotion and ethics that, perhaps, psychologists will get around to knowing in a decade or so.
(So why only four stars? The book really needed a ruthless editor. I frequently found myself saying, "Enough already--you've made your point, so get on with it.)
Caution, though: This is a book for intellectuals--in the best sense of the word, namely, those who care to know the best that has been thought or said. If you're looking for feel-good self-help or goofy metaphysics, go elsewhere.
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Format: Hardcover
The 760 pages of Nussbaum's book make for many hours of absorbing reading. Her aim is to bring back into philosophy what it has lacked so often: emotions. The book gives splendid summaries of the best in (Western) philosophy, literature and music. Having read the chapters on Seneca, Dante, Spinoza, Proust, Mahler, Joyce and others, many readers will feel tempted to go back to the originals and read or re-read them.
It is not too difficult, either, to disagree with much that Nussbaum proffers. Take music. She has much to say about the "contents" and "meaning" of Mahler's music, in detailed descriptions of such works as the Second Symphony. She cannot, however, really convince us that it is the music itself which conveys the message. Mahler thought and wrote a lot about what prompted him to write music. But apart from the words of songs included in his symphonies, can the music itself "mean" anything? What we hear is chords, tempi, structure - which through mysterious ways move and touch us. But there may be nothing, really, which would prompt the listener to hear any part of that symphony as particularly "heroic" of "tragic" or "fateful" if that listener does not know of Mahler's commentary - he or she may well feel those parts are spirited, or hurt, or just plain "beautiful" - or maybe tedious and longwinded. The same could be said for other arts: paintings, sculpture, dance (which Nussbaum, remarkably, does not refer to at all).
Language can express emotions a lot more explicitly, but again: can fiction be "about" something? Is Joyce's Ulysses really "about love", as Nussbaum stipulates, or is it a lot more that that? Is not Ulysses rather about, well, everything in the book called Ulysses?
In this book, compassion and love are the core themes.
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Format: Hardcover
I read this book over the course of a few months. It's very dense, but gripping at the same time -- you're wading through lots of text and digression, but are still drawn on. I think her account of emotions is in the main correct, and it's wonderful to watch her argue her point carefully and fairly against various counterpositions. It's rare to read a book where the writer does anything other than take a few potshots at opposing ideas before retiring to safety; Nussbaum really engages.
My criticism is that the book can be very light on philosophy sometimes, and that it sometime degenerates into a review article on psychology. There are pages and pages where Nussbaum basically gives a good undergraduate-level account of psychotherapy. I found the account interesting, but unconvicing in many ways -- it is, fortunately, ancillary to the book's argument, and could be dropped. At bad points, Nussbaum forgets to argue for a position, and tells us debateable things as if they came "proven" from the experts in psychology.
So -- how to read this book? Read the early chapters carefully -- they contain the argument (and a beautiful account of Nussbaum's reaction to her own mother's death.) You can then walk around in life for a while and see if she's right. Read on for a clever account of emotion in music (with a recommended recording), and then to dip into psychotherapy and somewhat dubious stories about early childhood development. Wrap it up (if you have the energy) with readings of Proust and others. The early chapters alone, however, are worth the price of the book.
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Format: Hardcover
Look, the fact of the matter is that good philosophy is not always synonymous with formal proofs and technical language. Nussbaum's Upheavals of Thought is a discussion of how emotions and moral psychology connect. Some recent work has been done in this area by others in the field, such as Wollheim, Neu, and Goldie. OK, so her recent work is not hard-core analytic philosophy. But it is informed by a breadth of research on various theories of emotion, and it does engage various philosophical treatments of the emotions.
The most interesting material in this book is in Part Three. Nussbaum explicates various texts to illustrate how they contain specific moral concepts central to human experience and action, such that the emotions are treated in an overlapping literary and philosophical manner. This section is not particularly philosophical, however that is taken to be, but is rather careful music and literary criticism. This is a bold move on Nussbaum's part. Her readings on Mahler, Bronte, Joyce, Dante, Augustine, etc. are valuable because she offers sensitive readings of literary texts that do not fall into the usual discourse one finds in or from literature depts. And why would we expect literary criticism in an Anglo-American philosophy dept.?? But Nussbaum's criticism and careful readings demonstrate how literary texts can be morally relevant and philosophical--in ways that are appealing to philosophers and literary folks at the same time. In a way, Upheavals of Thought is a continuation of her work in Love's Knowledge, Therapy of Desire, and the Fragility of Goodness.
So one could nearly always claim that a text which is similar to this one is "hot air" or "misguided psychology," but that sort of view undermines further critical thinking.
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