The Phenomenology and Neurobiology of Moods and Emotions

  • Matthew Ratcliffe


Emotions are often conceived of by neurobiologists as states of bodily arousal that sometimes but not always lead to conscious feelings. It is assumed that, in those cases where the emotion is experienced, the experience takes the form of a feeling of bodily changes. In contrast, most philosophers regard emotions as conscious states which incorporate world-directed ‘perception’, ‘construal’ or ‘judgement’. In this chapter, I first exemplify these opposing views by outlining the positions of Antonio Damasio, who takes emotions to be bodily changes that are sometimes felt, and Robert Solomon, who claims that they are judgements that are constitutive of world-experience. Then I raise some concerns about the practice of referring to non-conscious bodily states as ‘emotions’ and to experiences of these changes as ‘feelings’, after which I focus more specifically upon the view that emotional experiences are feelings of certain kinds of bodily change. My primary aim in what follows is to show that - if we set aside terminological differences - this view is not, after all, so different from Solomon’s. In fact, the contrast between these two seemingly opposed positions is symptomatic of a mischaracterisation of the phenomenology of bodily feeling. This mischaracterisation can, I suggest, be corrected by drawing on the ideas of Husserl, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty and other phenomenologists.


Bodily Change Emotional Feeling Bodily Feeling Bodily Disposition Somatic Marker Hypothesis 
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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthew Ratcliffe
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyDurham UniversityDurhamUK

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