Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences

, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp 81–96 | Cite as

What is it to move oneself emotionally? Emotion and affectivity according to Jean-Paul Sartre

  • Philippe Cabestan


Emotion is traditionally described as a phenomenon that dominates the subject because one does not choose to be angry, sad, or happy. However, would it be totally absurd to conceive emotion as behaviour and a manifestation of the spontaneity and liberty of consciousness? In his short text, Esquisse d'une theorie des émotions, Sartre proposes a phenomenological description of this psychological phenomenon. He distinguishes between constituted affectivity, which gives rise to emotions, and an original affectivity lacking intentionality, and tied closely to bodily processes. It appears that emotion is first and foremost a magical attitude toward the world, an attitude freely adopted by the subject. Against what is often written, this thesis doesn't mean that emotion would be a pure comedy but only that, in spite of appearances, this behaviour isn't a matter of what Descartes calls soul's passions.

affectivity consciousness emotion intentionality lived body 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Philippe Cabestan
    • 1
  1. 1.Boulevard Richard LenoirParis 75011France

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