The Emotional Mind: the affective roots of culture and cognition

Harvard University Press (2019)

Abstract

Tracing the leading role of emotions in the evolution of the mind, a philosopher and a psychologist pair up to reveal how thought and culture owe less to our faculty for reason than to our capacity to feel. Many accounts of the human mind concentrate on the brain’s computational power. Yet, in evolutionary terms, rational cognition emerged only the day before yesterday. For nearly 200 million years before humans developed a capacity to reason, the emotional centers of the brain were hard at work. If we want to properly understand the evolution of the mind, we must explore this more primal capability that we share with other animals: the power to feel. Emotions saturate every thought and perception with the weight of feelings. The Emotional Mind reveals that many of the distinctive behaviors and social structures of our species are best discerned through the lens of emotions. Even the roots of so much that makes us uniquely human—art, mythology, religion—can be traced to feelings of caring, longing, fear, loneliness, awe, rage, lust, playfulness, and more. From prehistoric cave art to the songs of Hank Williams, Stephen T. Asma and Rami Gabriel explore how the evolution of the emotional mind stimulated our species’ cultural expression in all its rich variety. Bringing together insights and data from philosophy, biology, anthropology, neuroscience, and psychology, The Emotional Mind offers a new paradigm for understanding what it is that makes us so unique.

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Author Profiles

Stephen Asma
Columbia College Chicago

Citations of this work

Biosemiotics and Applied Evolutionary Epistemology: A Comparison.Nathalie Gontier & M. Facoetti - 2021 - In In: Pagni E., Theisen Simanke R. (eds) Biosemiotics and Evolution. Interdisciplinary Evolution Research, vol 6. Springer, Cham. Cham: pp. 175-199.
The Pragmatic Use of Metaphor in Empirical Psychology.Rami Gabriel - 2022 - History of the Human Sciences 35 (3-4):291-316.

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