On the Emotions


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Richard Wollheim

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Leading philosopher Richard Wollheim recruits into service the insights of literature and of psychoanalysis, as well as of philosophy, in this rich and thought-provoking account of the emotions. Starting from the premise that emotions form a distinct psychological category, Wollheim argues that they are—like beliefs and desires—dispositions or underlying forces in the mind that erupt from time to time into the stream of consciousness. However, to assimilate emotions to beliefs or to desires or to some combination of the two is quite wrong. Emotions are attitudes or orientations to the world, says the author, and in this regard they are naturally associated with the imagination.

The book considers what emotions are, how they arise in our lives, and how standard and "moral" emotions differ. Wollheim writes within the analytic tradition, yet decisively abandons a number of assumptions associated with that tradition and instead develops what he calls the psychologization, or repsychologization, of the emotions. Addressing repsychologization of the mind and its contents as a major theme, the author offers sustained discussion of the opinions of Sartre, William James, Freud, Melanie Klein, Stendhal, Montaigne, and Bertrand Russell.

Richard Wollheim is professor-in-residence and chair of the department of philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley. He is also the author of The Thread of Life.

"Wollheim here expands upon a series of lectures he delivered several years ago, giving this published version new substance and depth. Positing his exploration of emotions to be an exercise in applied moral philosophy, Wollheim presents and critiques the veracity of several theories about emotions as factic entities. . . . Specialists will find this book provocative and engaging."—Library Journal

"Richard Wollheim lays out an account of the emotions that is both historical and structural. His book is a masterpiece, deserving a permanent place in the canon of philosophy."—W. D. Hart, University of Illinois at Chicago

"A powerfully discriminating intelligence at work. . . .Within the confines of the genre, On the emotions is an impressive performance." —Liam Hudson, Times Literary Supplement

"This is a marvellous book: broad, erudite and profound. The depth and experience found here should mean that it will be read by all philosophers and interested readers, not just the small band of philosophers working to understand emotion."—John Shand, Times Higher Education Supplement

ISBN: 9780300079746
Publication Date: November 10, 1999
288 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
The Thread of Life

Richard Wollheim

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