Introduction: Emotions as a topic of cross-cultural and historical investigation

Douglas Cairns, Curie Virag

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

Abstract / Description of output

This chapter introduces the volume’s project, a cross-cultural comparison of approaches to emotion in ancient China and ancient Greece and in the two disciplines which have investigated those cultures. It thus encompasses comparison of the methods of two scholarly disciplines as well as the materials and sources of two ancient cultural traditions. The chapter argues that emotions are (a) vernacular, not scientific, categories and (b) shared, intersubjective processes in the world rather than private, inner psychological experiences. Their event-like structure lends itself to representation in narratives that go far beyond the skull and the skin. Since emotions are implicated in the relations between people, in the external conditions in which they arise and which give rise to them, and in the actions that embodied human agents take in a given emotional scenario, cross-cultural comparison between approaches to emotion in different cultures must focus not on simple morphological similarities between decontextualized phenomena, but on function in wider social and cultural contexts.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIn the Mind, in the Body, in the World
Subtitle of host publicationEmotions in Early China and Ancient Greece
EditorsDouglas Cairns, Curie Virág
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages37
ISBN (Electronic)9780197681831
ISBN (Print)9780197681800
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 30 Apr 2024

Publication series

NameEmotions of the Past
PublisherOxford University Press

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • affect
  • ancient China
  • ancient Greece
  • categorization
  • cross-cultural comparison
  • embodiment
  • emotion
  • narrative
  • metaphor
  • scripts


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