thinking feeling, feeling thinking
In the past twenty years there has been much important work on the emotions
done by philosophers. Among those whose work I have found particularly
formative to my own thought are Sandra Bartky, Alison Jaggar, Martha Nuss-
baum, Naomi Scheman, and Elizabeth Spelman.
In Feeling Power: Emotions and Education, Megan Boler tells a story uncannily
similar to mine in terms of the inception of her book: it was the absence of the
study of emotion in recent theories of knowledge that prompted her research,
an absence that ‘‘was not a coincidence’’ (xv); she focuses on ‘‘pedagogies that
invoke emotions in an historicized sense’’ (20). In the past twenty years there
has been a veritable explosion of work in the academy on the emotions—not
only in philosophy but in anthropology, sociology, history, literary studies,
cultural studies, and media studies. I will refer to some of this work through-
out my book, but here let me mention Catherine Lutz’s Unnatural Emotions:
Everyday Sentiments on a Micronesian Atoll and Their Challenge to Western The-
ory, a book that has circulated far beyond the discipline of anthropology and
o√ers an extremely cogent discussion of the cultural construction of the emo-
tions, in particular of the dominant discourses of the emotions in the West.
The theological historian Thomas Dixon cautions that this is too sweeping a
generalization, and he argues in From Passions to Emotions: The Creation of a
Psychological Category that the emotions as a psychological category emerged
in the nineteenth century, thereby encompassing what had previously been
understood as the passions, the a√ections, and the sentiments. My interest,
however, is precisely in the politics of the emotions as represented in a domi-
nant narrative.
We may feel grief not just at the loss of a person we loved but also—Freud
o√ers this as an example—for the loss of an ideal. Grief, or the inability to
mourn, may be collective as well as private. See, for example, Alexander
Mitscherlich and Margarete Mitscherlich’s The Inability to Mourn: Principles of
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