The Subtlety of Emotions
(MIT Press, 2000)

Book Description
Why do we cry at the movies? What is the best way to manage destructive feelings such as jealousy? Although emotions pervade our lives, their nature, causes, and effects have only recently been studied by social scientists and philosophers. Despite growing scientific interest in the subject, empirical findings have not yet caught up with our intuitive knowledge. In this book Aaron Ben-Ze'ev carries out what he calls "a careful search for general patterns in the primeval jungle of emotions." In an engaging, informal style he draws on a variety of theoretical approaches and popular sources to produce a coherent account of emotions in all their subtlety. All of the ideas are illustrated with examples drawn from everyday life.The book is organized into two parts. The first presents an overall conceptual framework for understanding emotions. It looks at the typical characteristics and components of emotions, distinguishes emotions from other affective phenomena, classifies the emotions, and covers such related issues as emotional intelligence, regulating emotions, and emotions and morality. The second part discusses individual emotions, including envy, jealousy pleasure-in-others'-misfortune, pity, compassion, anger, hate, disgust, love, sexual desire, happiness, sadness, pride, regret, and shame. The text is laced with insightful and often amusing quotations from sources ranging from Mae West to Montesquieu.


Committed to the idea that scientific scrutiny can clarify common human experiences, Ben-Ze'ev, codirector of the Center for Interdisciplinary Research on Emotions at the University of Haifa, Israel, demystifies highly charged emotions like love, pride, fear, and disgust. The first section of this book focuses on the development of a general framework for understanding emotions, defined as adaptations to highly significant life changes. It presents a smorgasbord of ideas and testable hypotheses, followed by a virtual catalog of emotions that are analyzed according to the established framework. These chapters provide insights into diverse emotional quandaries like extramarital affairs, the reality of love at first sight, and the difference between jealousy and envy. Amusing aphorisms are sprinkled throughout the text. Interdisciplinary in scope, it evinces strong scholarship and coherent analysis. For those who like intellectual puzzles, this could be a very satisfying book covering a rapidly growing field, but it should have had tighter editing. Recommended for academic social science and philosophy collections.
Antoinette Brinkman, Southwest Indiana Mental Health Ctr. Lib., Evansville

"all of us will be able to savor the brackish pleasure of finding ourselves pictured within."
Jonathan Ree, Los Angeles Times

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