Philosophy Emotion
Michael Brady
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 October 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 October 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0039


Emotions occupy a central place in our lives and are increasingly the object of philosophical attention. It is not easy, however, to keep a grip on the literature on this subject, in part because the emotions are the focus of study in a number of disciplines. As a result, it is rather difficult to present an overview of the literature on emotion in general. In order to keep things manageable, then, this article focuses on the issues that are central to the main philosophical debates. Reference is made to other approaches—from psychology, evolutionary theory, and social science—insofar as these have informed, and have been informed by, philosophical thinking.

General Overviews

The best general overviews of philosophy of emotion are online. Scarantino and de Sousa 2018 is the most comprehensive, accessible, useful, and up-to-date guide, covering traditional and more contemporary theoretical approaches, and informed by philosophy and scientific developments from psychology, neuroscience, and biology. Solomon 1998a and Solomon 1998b, on the nature and philosophy of emotion, are short but are of some use as brief guides to the central figures and contemporary issues. Goldie 2007 presents a good summary of different approaches, although this online resource is available only via subscription.

  • Goldie, Peter. “Emotion.” Philosophy Compass 2.6 (2007): 928–938.

    Clear and helpful overview of desiderata for theories of emotion and a critical discussion of how well the main different accounts fare in satisfying these.

  • Scarantino, Andrea, and Ronald de Sousa. “Emotion.” In Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta. Stanford, CA: Stanford University, 2018.

    A very comprehensive introduction to and bibliography of philosophy of emotion by two of the major figures in the field and an essential read for those wanting a thorough and sophisticated take on historical and current debates both as to the nature of emotion and to normative issues.

  • Solomon, Robert C. “Emotions, Nature of.” In Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward Craig, 281–285. London: Routledge, 1998a.

    A short encyclopedia entry on central philosophical issues, including discussion of intentionality and rationality, with a helpful annotated reference section.

  • Solomon, Robert C. “Emotions, Philosophy of.” In Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward Craig, 285–289. London: Routledge, 1998b.

    A short précis of some central historical figures in the emotions, from Plato to Sartre. It is rather selective, but there is a useful annotated bibliography.

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