Husserl Studies

, Volume 28, Issue 3, pp 179-200

First online:

The Deep Bodily Roots of Emotion

  • Albert A. JohnstoneAffiliated withDepartment of Philosophy, University of Oregon Email author 

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This article explores emotions and their relationship to “somatic responses”, i.e., one’s automatic responses to sensations of pain, cold, warmth, sudden intensity. To this end, it undertakes a Husserlian phenomenological analysis of the first-hand experience of eight basic emotions, briefly exploring their essential aspects: their holistic nature, their identifying dynamic transformation of the lived body, their two-layered intentionality, their involuntary initiation and voluntary espousal. The fact that the involuntary tensional shifts initiating emotions are irreplicatable voluntarily is taken to show that all emotions have an innate core, a conclusion corroborated by their strong similarities to somatic responses in dynamics, hedonic tone, and topology. The fact that emotions may be culturally reworked is shown to be explicable in terms of their complex nature: their dependence on belief, their voluntary espousal, and their ready social transmittability. Finally, it is argued that emotions may plausibly be deemed the evolutionary descendants of somatic responses.