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A Biological Theory of Emotions

This note suggests a way of defining emotion based on the work of John Dewey and Nina Bull. Oddly, emotions go undefined in most current emotion research, creating chaos. Dewey proposed that emotions are bodily preparations for internal actions that have been delayed, but he didn't provide a single example. Bull provided one: grief is bodily preparation to cry, but the crying has been delayed. No delay, no pain. This step enables the reader to understand her theory, even though, like Dewey, much of the discussion is not clear or neglects crucial matters. She leaves out pride, shame and "efatigue"(excessive fatigue) entirely, which this article introduces. She also doesn't consider why emotions can be experienced as "good" or "bad". The distancing theory of emotions developed in the theatre suggests that backlogged emotion can either be merely relived (a bad grief, anger, shame, efatigue or fear) or, at what is called "aesthetic distance," as a relief from pain. Examples are given of the author's experience of a good anger, fear, shame, and efatigue. This approach suggests that the idea of negative emotions is an illusion: emotions may be like breathing, only painful when obstructed. Even if true, it will difficult for it to be considered, since the belief that some emotions are inherently negative seems to be a powerfully defended trope in modern societies.


Thomas Scheff

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