Emotions in History

Social IssuesPhilosophy

  • Author Julius Maina
  • Published April 9, 2023
  • Word count 655

The study of emotions has become common in modern psychology and philosophy. This interest in the study of emotions has been contributed by a number of factors which include increased study and research in the field of cognitive science and philosophical ethics as well as the appreciation of how emotions influence lives and other disciplines such as literature, art, and music. Over time, various philosophers have come up with various views that have described what emotions are. The following paper examines whether emotions have historicity and defines what emotions are based on views raised by William James, Plato, and Aristotle as well as Oscar Wilde.

What are emotions?

Generally, emotions can be described as mental states that arise as a result of various thoughts and feelings that may run in the mind of an individual or as a result of responses that are behavioural in nature. However, according to Aristotle, emotions can be defined as intentional states that are cognitive and world-directed. Both Plato and Aristotle believe that there exists a relationship between the body, the mind and the various emotions that arise. On the other hand, according to William James, emotions are bodily feelings or perceptions that arise as a result of bodily feelings (James, 2017).

William James argues that the disturbances that arise in the body result from the expression of standard emotions. These standard emotions comprise of fear, surprise, greed, curiosity, anger and rapture among others (James, 2017). Oscar Wilde quote, “Nothing can cure the soul but the senses, just as nothing can cure the senses but the soul,’’ clearly shows that there exists a relationship between sense and soul (2018). In this scenario, sense is the psychological aspect of human things that enables them to perceive various things. Through the various senses that humans have, various emotions can be perceived where the effect is then relayed on the soul. Therefore, based on the various views that have been raised, emotions can be described as cognitive states of the mind that arise as a result of bodily senses which are world directed.

Do emotions have historicity?

There is no doubt that emotions have historicity. The exploration of what are emotions based on the various views that were raised by Plato, Aristotle and William James is a clear indicator that emotions have historicity. On the other hand, the research that is based on emotions also comprises of the study of human emotion over time and variations among various cultures over various historical periods in the expression of various emotions. Over time, the study of emotions has escalated with an increased reverence in the study of emotion.

Currently, emotions have become a productive and stimulating area of research. Initially, the philosophers came up with various views regarding emotions which were later complemented by scientific research. The philosophical study can be traced back to 1800 where various philosophers expressed interest in what emotions are and the relationship that exist between emotions, body and the mind. Recently, the history of emotions has been integrated with the current cultural and social changes in fields such as neuroscience. However, both the philosophical and the psychological aspect of emotions are still studied with focus made on fields such as art, literature and cognitive science.

In conclusion, emotions can be described as cognitive states of the mind that arise as a result of bodily senses which are world directed. These emotions arise as a result of the interaction of the body, mind, and soul. Precisely, emotions relate to our senses and soul as implied by Oscar Wilde. On the question of whether emotions have historicity, there is no doubt that there is an aspect of historicity based on fact that philosophical study of emotions began in 1800 and has since then grown to the current era where it incorporates the scientific and the psychological aspect. The change in the expression of emotions in various cultures over time also shows that emotions have a historical aspect.

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