The concept of subjectivity, a philosophical model that interprets emotions as perplexing elements of human sensitivity, has been persisting since ancient times. Even though there have been alternative paradigms, the modern thought since Descartes has been founded on the contrast between emotion and reason. Closely related to this distinction is the dualism between mind and body. Both of these dualities, emotions and reason, mind and body, are based on the same paradigm:, they are thought as two independent substances following different and opposite logics. This idea establishes a unitary vision of the ego, as much in how it relates to the physical environment as in its relationship with other subjects.
This paradigm is in a crisis and needs to be revised. In the latest literature, it is increasingly felt the need to rethink the connection between the poles, rather than considering them as independent. This paper offers a contribution in this direction through the analysis of William James’ thought. The relevance of his paradigm has often been recalled in recent years, even in very different discipline ranges. This paper will focus specifically on two closely connected aspects of James’ work: emotions and consciousness.
James’s theory of emotions, which was recently reproposed by Antonio Damasio, overturns the traditional conception of the common sense. According to James, emotions basically consist of the feelings of displays. In this approach emotions and rationality are continuous and also mind and body are strictly related. Focusing attention on James’ theory is very useful in order to rethink the categories that are deeply rooted in current culture and are nowadays in crisis. In conclusion, although James’ theory is not always linear, it is helpful to better understand the importance of emotions in sociology.
Enrico Campo, PhD student,
Dipartimento di Scienze Politiche,
Università di Pisa.