Emotion: The Science of Sentiment

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9780192854339: Emotion: The Science of Sentiment

Was love invented by European poets in the middle ages, as C. S. Lewis claimed, or is it part of human nature? Will winning the lottery really make you happy? Is it possible to build robots that have feelings? These are just some of the intriguing questions explored in this new guide to the latest thinking about the emotions.
Drawing on a wide range of scientific research, from anthropology and psychology to neuroscience and artificial intelligence, Emotion: The Science of Sentiment takes the reader on a fascinating journey into the human heart. Illustrating his points with entertaining examples from fiction, film, and popular culture, Dylan Evans ranges from the evolution of the emotions to the nature of love and happiness to the language of feelings, offering readers the most recent thinking on real life topics that touch us all. But Emotion is also a book filled with surprises. Readers will discover, for instance, that the basic emotions are felt the world over--whether we live in the shadow of Times Square or in the depths of the rain forest, we all feel the emotions of disgust, joy, surprise, anger, fear, and distress. We find out that, according to research, winning the lottery does not cause a lasting increase in happiness--a short-lived euphoria is followed in almost every case with a return to our usual emotional state, if not worse. And we meet Kismet, an MIT robot that can express a wide range of emotions, from fear to happiness.
Fun to read and based on the latest scientific thinking, here is a stimulating look at our emotions.

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Review:

The emotions--joy, shame, fear, and jealousy among them--drive us. In this slender, well-written volume, philosopher Dylan Evans examines the power of these innate, apparently inescapable forces, stopping along the way to consider thought-provoking matters: whether money can buy happiness, whether love is an integral part of human nature, whether machines can be taught to have feelings.

As the subtitle suggests, Evans is less concerned with the emotions themselves (although he has plenty to say about them) than with the approaches scientists have taken to understand what makes us tick. Anthropologists, linguists, philosophers, and psychologists have contributed to the science of emotions, though with sometimes contradictory findings. Whereas language, as the famed postulate holds, precedes thought, linguists have found instances of emotions for which some languages have no words, but whose speakers feel them all the same. And although social scientists once held that the emotions were the product of cultural conditioning, it is now apparent that they're hard-wired into the human psyche, universal and constant. Those discoveries, Evans writes, force a revaluation of some long-held notions, such as C.S. Lewis's influential belief that romantic love was an invention of medieval Europe--and that unemotional creatures such as Star Trek's Spock are intellectually superior to creatures like us, enslaved by the monkey mind.

Calm, self-assured, and instructive, Evans's little book makes a fine companion to more popular studies of the emotions, such as Victor Johnson's Why We Feel and Terry Burnham and Jay Phelan's Mean Genes. --Gregory McNamee

About the Author:


Dylan Evans is a Research Fellow in the Department of Philosophy at King's College London, where he directs a research project in the evolution of the emotions. In his previous lives he worked as a film-maker and psychotherapist.

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