What are Emotions? – Reading Summary
We experience countless emotions throughout a day, and yet it is rather challenging to describe those emotions or even prove its existence. This sparks my interest to explore more about emotions in the history of philosophy, and how philosophers from different time interpret emotion as. The theory that I found myself to agree with is that emotions are automatic responses to previous value judgment.
Emotions are caused by one’s thoughts. They are both triggered by one’s thoughts and programmed by one’s thoughts. The triggering is straightforward to show. Hearing the words “rape”, “murder”, “death”, or “genocide”, etc., one experiences an emotion. Hearing the same words in an unknown language, the words would be meaningless. One wouldn’t be able to make the mental connection between the sounds and the meaning of the words. The emotions that one normally feels with respect to these words would not be present. Only understanding can trigger an emotion.
I find this theory very convincing because almost every emotion of mine is triggered by my understanding and interpretation of a situation. For example, if a gunman suddenly walks into the room one day, I would immediately experience the emotion of fear. However, that is based on the fact that I know the man is carrying a lethal weapon…but what if I didn’t know what a gun is? This proves that our emotions are largely triggered based on our understanding. Also, when one sees the gunman, one doesn’t need to follow the full chain of thought to the judgment that causes the emotion. The emotion occurs almost immediately after the gunman is seen. This is because of an automatized judgment: the judgment that life is worth living and death is to be feared. The gunman triggers this emotion when one realized that one’s life is threatened. The evaluation of whether life is good isn’t made at that time. It was made before.