Passions: Philosophy and the Intelligence of Emotions

Course No. 4123
Professor Robert C. Solomon, Ph.D.
The University of Texas at Austin
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Course No. 4123
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Course Overview

Fear, joy, grief, love, hate, pride, shame. We all have emotions, and we recognize emotions in others. But do we really understand what emotions are and what they signify? It is remarkable how often we are wrong about our own emotions and misread the emotions of others. We also deceive ourselves about their meaning. The more we puzzle over the nature of emotions, the deeper the mystery becomes. It is a mystery that is by no means solved, but one that repays careful, philosophical analysis.

Far from being routine, emotions are "the key to the meaning of life," says distinguished philosopher and author Robert C. Solomon, who in these 24 lectures takes you on a tour of his more than three-decade-long intellectual struggle to reach an understanding of these complex phenomena. Some of his conclusions are surprising and very much against the current of common sense.

Professor Solomon's lectures unfold as a rich dialogue with other philosophers, including Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics, Descartes, Adam Smith, Nietzsche, William James, Freud, Heidegger, and Sartre. He also relates these views to contemporary work in the cognitive sciences on emotions, notably research by Antonio Damasio, Joseph LeDoux, and Paul Ekman. And he discusses the portrayal of emotions in writers and artists including Homer, Shakespeare, Melville, Dostoevsky, and Picasso.

Emotions Have Intelligence

By probing the ideas of these and other thinkers and presenting his own views, Professor Solomon will lead you to a remarkable conclusion: Emotions have intelligence and provide personal strategies that are vitally important to our everyday lives of perceiving, evaluating, appraising, understanding, and acting in the world.

This idea runs counter to the widespread view that draws a sharp distinction between the emotional and the rational and views the emotions as inferior, disruptive, primitive, and even bestial forces. For Professor Solomon, many emotions are distinctively human and they are far more complicated than mere "feelings." They are rational judgments—sophisticated strategies for survival.

In exploring the multifaceted nature of emotions you will address questions such as:

  • How do we distinguish emotions from feelings, such as heartache?
  • What is the meaning of our emotions, and how do they serve to enrich and guide our lives?
  • Is there a determinable number of basic emotions that serve as building blocks for the range of emotions we experience?
  • Is an emotion such as jealousy a genetic trait shared by all humans—or is it something learned?
  • The Japanese have an emotion named amae, but it seems unknown to Westerners. To what extent do language and culture determine emotional experience?
  • Are emotions subconscious products of the mind, or are they under conscious control?

Philosopher at Work

One of the fascinating features of this course is that you get to witness a philosopher wrestling with the ideas of his predecessors—accepting, rejecting, refining their contributions, and modifying some of his own earlier views—in a demonstration of the intellectual honesty required to make progress in tackling a profound philosophical problem. He also ranges beyond philosophy to draw insights from psychology, sociology, neurology, history, and literature.

A multi-award-winning teacher at The University of Texas at Austin, Professor Solomon has written or edited more than 45 books, including The Passions, Not Passion's Slave, In Defense of Sentimentality, and About Love, as well as works on Existentialism, Nietzsche, Hegel, business ethics, and introductory philosophy.

In a review of Not Passion's Slave, he was singled out for being "at the heart of a revival of philosophical interest in the emotions" by The Times Literary Supplement, which noted his "energetic and provocative contributions to the field."

Professor Solomon had such a profound effect on one of his students at UT, the future film director Richard Linklater (best known for Before Sunrise and Before Sunset), that Linklater included a memorable extract of Professor Solomon lecturing on Existentialism in the acclaimed feature film Waking Life.

Professor Solomon has conducted three other highly popular Teaching Company courses: No Excuses: Existentialism and the Meaning of Life; Will to Power: The Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche (with Kathleen Higgins); and Great Minds of the Western Intellectual Tradition (selected lectures).

Wondrous Troublemakers

"I want to invite you to look at your own emotions as if they are something wondrous, mysterious, and exotic, something you've always taken for granted—even when they've gotten you in trouble," says Professor Solomon at the outset of this course, which he divides into three sections:

  • Passions, Love, and Violence: The Drama of the Emotions (Lectures 2–9). The course begins with eight lectures on specific emotions (anger, fear, love, compassion, pride, envy, vengeance, and grief) with insights into the complexity, importance, and roles emotions play in our lives.
  • Out of Touch with Our Feelings: Misunderstanding the Emotions (Lectures 10–17). These eight lectures examine how we misinterpret and fail to take responsibility for our emotions. For example, the innocent-sounding claim that emotions are feelings represents a fundamental misunderstanding of what emotions are about. Other misconceptions are the seemingly innocent assertion that emotions are "in the mind" and the idea that we are the victims or slaves of our passions.
  • How Our Passions Enrich Our Lives (Lectures 18–24). The concluding section takes a positive look at the richness and value of our emotions, probing what it is about them that make life worth living. Professor Solomon talks about laughter, music, and the roles that emotions play in different cultures.

Throughout the course, Professor Solomon returns again and again to his thesis that emotions have intelligence, an idea that has roots in Western philosophy tracing back to Aristotle. The notion of "emotional intelligence" gained notoriety through a 1990s bestseller by psychologist Daniel Goleman, but while Goleman and other popular writers on the subject primarily discuss learning how to control emotions, Professor Solomon digs deeper to reach the core of how emotions themselves contain intelligence—indeed many kinds of intelligence—and to explore the complex emotional repertoire that makes us uniquely human.

As you listen to these lectures, prepare to think: Think about your own emotions; think about what you observe in others; think about the enormous body of research and conjecture on this fascinating topic as Professor Solomon takes you on a challenging and stimulating journey.

"Emotions are our doing," he says. "An emotion is not just a product of evolution, but a product of cultivation and, sometimes, personal choice. If you look at your emotions and say, 'I will take responsibility for this because it is my doing,' sometimes you will be wrong; but in general, you will suddenly find that you've taken ownership of your life in a way that you hadn't before. And it seems to me that is a very important philosophical lesson."

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24 lectures
 |  Average 31 minutes each
  • 1
    Emotions as Engagements with the World
    Professor Robert C. Solomon begins by reviewing the rich history of thinking about emotions. He introduces the major themes of the course, including Jean-Paul Sartre's idea that emotions are "magical transformations of the world." x
  • 2
    The Wrath of Achilles
    Starting a sequence of eight lectures on basic emotions, this lecture treats anger, typified by the wrath of Achilles in Homer's Iliad. Anger is reputedly the most dangerous emotion, but it has a positive aspect as well, and Professor Solomon argues that anger is sometimes right and even obligatory. x
  • 3
    It’s Good to Be Afraid
    Fear is arguably the most important emotion, for without it we would be vulnerable to many dangers. Although often regarded negatively, people sometimes go out of their way to experience fear. This raises a paradox that has intrigued philosophers since Aristotle. x
  • 4
    Lessons of Love—Plato’s Symposium
    This lecture addresses the endlessly fascinating emotion of love, focusing on Plato's classic dialogue Symposium with its odd story told by Aristophanes, which illustrates how love reconfigures personal identities and relationships. x
  • 5
    We Are Not Alone—Compassion and Empathy
    Philosophers including David Hume, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and the economist Adam Smith defended what they called sympathy as a natural moral sentiment. Sympathy is similar to what we call compassion and provides the basis of ethics. x
  • 6
    Noble? or Deadly Sin? Pride and Shame
    Pride, like its opposite, shame, is an emotion of social self-evaluation. Its place in society shifts with morals, religion, and politics. This lecture is about a family of such emotions, including guilt, embarrassment, remorse, regret, and self-loathing. x
  • 7
    Nasty—Iago’s Envy, Othello’s Jealousy
    Envy and jealousy are double-edged, self-destructive emotions, even as they aim at bringing down other people. Both are vividly demonstrated in Shakespeare's Othello. Envy is a bad emotional strategy, since it turns into resentment and deludes itself into jealousy. x
  • 8
    Nastier—Resentment and Vengeance
    Resentment is a particularly nasty emotion. Friedrich Nietzsche diagnosed it as inexpressible vengeance. Accordingly, vengeance can be seen as the natural extension of resentment. Vengeance is also an offshoot of anger, as its most cold-blooded and protracted expression. x
  • 9
    A Death in the Family—The Logic of Grief
    Grief is misunderstood as both the most private and most negative of negative emotions. But in truth it is a continuation of love. The withdrawal that is so familiar in grief should not be mistaken for a breakdown of rational behavior, but as a period of reflection and reconstitution of the self. x
  • 10
    James and the Bear—Emotions and Feelings
    Starting a sequence of eight lectures on how we misinterpret and consequently fail to take responsibility for our emotions, this lecture argues against a widely accepted idea that gained contemporary respect through the writings of William James: emotions are feelings. x
  • 11
    Freud’s Catharsis—the Hydraulic Model
    Professor Solomon challenges the hydraulic model as a metaphor for emotions. Freud used this model extensively. The problem is that it is mechanical, and the emotions are not mechanisms. They are engagements with the world. x
  • 12
    Are Emotions “in” the Mind?
    The concept of the mind as the private domain of emotions is an outgrowth of the philosophy of René Descartes. An alternative view, phenomenology, advocated by Martin Heidegger and other philosophers, holds that the mind is an activity and the objects of our emotions are essentially objects in the world. x
  • 13
    How Emotions Are Intelligent
    Professor Solomon argues that emotions are engaged in our efforts to get along with people and to cope with an often difficult world. They give us insight and provide intelligence about the world. In other words, they have what philosophers call intentionality, and this requires intelligence. x
  • 14
    Emotions as Judgments
    Understanding emotions involves understanding the judgments that structure them. This lecture goes through several of the emotions already discussed—notably anger, shame, embarrassment, hatred, envy, and resentment—to show how this is the case. x
  • 15
    Beyond Boohoo and Hooray
    This lecture questions the distinctions between positive and negative emotions. We should be much more attentive to the richness of intelligence within emotions and not reduce the subtlety of emotions to a simple "hooray!" or "boo-hoo!" x
  • 16
    Emotions Are Rational
    To say that an emotion is irrational is to say that it has somehow missed its target, but that is also to say that an emotion can get its target right and thus be rational. The ultimate aim of our emotions is to enhance our lives, to help us get what we want and need. x
  • 17
    Emotions and Responsibility
    To say that emotions are strategies is to say that they are to some extent our doing. With some passions we may find ourselves "out of control," but even then we tend to choose and cultivate those passions. As examples, this lecture looks at anger and love. x
  • 18
    Emotions in Ethics
    Beginning the final section of the course, which takes a positive look at the richness and value of emotions, this lecture surveys the history of ethics, from Aristotle and the Stoics in antiquity through what was called emotivism in the 20th century. x
  • 19
    Emotions and the Self
    All emotions are self-involved; that is what makes them different from intellectual judgments. As strategies, they are concerned with the well-being of the self. To understand the centrality of the self in the structure of our emotions, it is necessary to broach the huge topic of consciousness. x
  • 20
    What Is Emotional Experience?
    Emotions are feelings, but they are not just the physiological symptoms of emotional excitement. This lecture analyzes the many components of emotional experience, from autonomic nervous system responses and sensations to much more subtle and sophisticated and experiences. x
  • 21
    Emotions across Cultures—Universals
    Emotions differ from society to society—in their causes, expression, language, and, consequently, in their experiences. But what are the underlying similarities across cultures? Are there basic biological structures that all people have in common? x
  • 22
    Emotions across Cultures—Differences
    Continuing the theme of emotions across cultures, Professor Solomon focuses on significant differences between cultures, including some emotions that are unknown to Westerners. Two such examples are the Japanese emotion amae and the Ifaluk (Caroline Islands) emotion fago. x
  • 23
    Laughter and Music
    Two universal expressions of emotion are laughter and music. Laughter most often conveys joy, amusement, and humor, but it can also communicate nervousness and embarrassment. Music not only enhances emotion, but also imitates, expresses, and evokes emotion. x
  • 24
    Happiness and Spirituality
    In this final lecture, Professor Solomon returns to a central issue: the way emotions and rationality form an inseparable team, not two opposing forces. It is through reflection, not emotion alone, that human happiness becomes possible. He also addresses the culmination of emotional life in spirituality. x

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  • 168-page printed course guidebook
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Your professor

Robert C. Solomon

About Your Professor

Robert C. Solomon, Ph.D.
The University of Texas at Austin
Dr. Robert C. Solomon was the Quincy Lee Centennial Professor of Business and Philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin, where he taught for more than 30 years. He earned his undergraduate degree in molecular biology from the University of Pennsylvania and his master's and doctoral degrees in philosophy and psychology from the University of Michigan. He held visiting appointments at the University of Pennsylvania; the...
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Reviews

Passions: Philosophy and the Intelligence of Emotions is rated 3.9 out of 5 by 63.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Not for the faint hearted-For the passionate heart An life endeavour not to be taken lightly. Living through your philosophy like your teacher Bob does. Living a life of integrity through virtue and doing your passions and reasoning well. U won’t find any universal rationalisations here, every example is case and context specific to ensure a healthy equilibrium throughout, so your life and others can be fair and just. This is a life journey to experience and reflect time and time again. A long conversation, a never ending friendship. And Bob is the man for the job. For any one who wants to engage in deep self education I highly recommend this and everything else Bob touches. A genius, a lover and most important a sharer. Thank u Bob!
Date published: 2018-02-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great insight. I purchased this a couple of weeks ago and I enjoyed listening while driving. Ifter finishing I went back to review the mist relevant lessons for me.
Date published: 2017-09-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Philosophy and the Intelligence of Emotions As an occupational therapist and psychologist as well as therapist, I was thoroughly entrenched in the lectures. I enjoy philosophy so to here about different philosophies and their relation to emotions of human intellect brought me intrigue and "bliss".
Date published: 2017-08-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great course!!! I've become a bit of a fan of Robert Solomon because I took existentialism as an undergraduate and he was the author of our textbook. I naturally got his existentialism course on this site, loved it, saw that he also has this course, and I learned that he wrote several books about philosophy of emotions. So, I decided to get this course I'm so glad I did! He is very knowledgeable on this topic and passionate about teaching this subject!
Date published: 2017-06-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from strong introductory material, no practicals Hi :). As a person of refined emotional intelligence (pretty much by accident), I was hoping for a rather more advanced discussion, perhaps involving development techniques or how society could be generally brought to a higher level of emotional analytical capacity and emotional competence. That said, this is clearly a very good course ... just not what I was hoping for. It was a firm introduction to the validity of the concept that emotional intelligence can exist, with historical and academic references. If you question the idea of emotional intelligence, or if you have just begun to admit that this idea is important to you personally and feel a need for some Ivory Tower type of support to help you feel validated, this course would be spot on for your needs. By the end there is no real question that the topic is a valid and important one. I wanted a set of lectures that started from that assumption and moved forward. I was a bit bothered because the entire presentation is fundamentally apologetic -- being presented from the subconscious position of 'what I'm presenting will be uncomfortable or challenging for people to hear and accept' -- but then I'm a generation or two younger than the presenter, female, grew up amongst undeniable neurodiversity, and live in Portlandia, so it's not surprising that I don't perceive his fascination and theses to require as much defense as he perceives they do.
Date published: 2017-06-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Appreciated the course I found the course informative. It was a subject in which I had no previous experience, other than my observation of life. I got the gist that emotions do have a purpose in generally helping us to achieve some objective, that they may have been developed in us by our evolutionary past.
Date published: 2017-03-07
Rated 2 out of 5 by from A Disappointment from a Usually Great Professor I am quite impressed with the breadth of knowledge and the teaching skills of the late Dr. Solomon from UT Austin. This set, which I got in CD form for listening while driving, was a disappointment. Perhaps it was because of my extensive background in both psychology and philosophy...The class seemed at too low a level. It seemed that Dr. Solomon was defining emotions in the way a person might define them to, say, help a person on the Autism Spectrum or a person who did not speak English natively. He defined the emotions in the first lectures, very simplistically. I did not enjoy being told ideas such as: "Sadness is a feeling we have when we lose something we love. It is an internal emotion, not directed at other people." Yes, I knew that in third grade! I would recommend this course to persons who know very little about psychology or philosophy. You might learn something new!
Date published: 2017-02-11
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Not up to Par We have enjoyed immensely all the courses we previously purchased. This is the first course where I started with the downloaded course while waiting for the dvd to arrive. I had to force myself to continue and the dvd remains unopened in the box. Presenter's style did not hold my attention to and material did not make we want to continue. to listen. Perhaps it gets better in subsequent chapters, but I could not listen long enough to discover if that were true.
Date published: 2016-09-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Emotional clarification The clarification that is all spoke about in his volumes not only interesting but definitely clarify a lot of what one might need to understand better of emotional and passionate connections.
Date published: 2016-08-25
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Circles The professor talks in circles. He contradicts himself and jumps around so much that it is hard to follow this reasoning. It may just be me and my background in science, but he doesn't make sense to me. time.
Date published: 2016-08-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Ideas Anyone can Understand The instructor is easy to listen to and presents the ideas clearly and accessibly without relying on technical jargon. I'm not well read in philosophy, so take this with a grain of salt: The ideas were interesting and novel to me, and made me think differently about emotions. In particular it made me question to whole distinction between what is "emotional" and what is "rational". Great stuff!
Date published: 2016-08-10
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Emphasis on Philosophy Yes, I get that's the title of the course. And I also get that we don't know everything about human emotions yet. But this is old-school philosophy of the kind I might expect from the Ancient Greeks, making little use of the tremendous resources we're building through the modern fields of neuroscience and the cognitive sciences. Part of this may be that the course is from 2006, but that doesn't excuse the fact that many of the views presented don't seem to fit well with even a comprehensive 2006 understanding of evolutionary psychology, and the course almost completely omits the part the physical brain plays in governing emotions in our day to day lives--as though brain and emotions were somehow two unrelated things. If you're interested in learning about how the mind works, as I am, your time would be much better spent with Jeanette Norden's wonderful Great Courses survey on the anatomy and physiology of the brain, or pick up any book by Stephen Pinker; read Hawkins or Kurzweil's books on the intelligence of the neocortex, Ramachandran, Gazzaniga and many others. But you won't get much of that here--just philosophical musings on what the nature of different emotions are, and I didn't find most of the musings to be particularly insightful in a modern context. I was expecting a new-age philosopher in the mold of Dan Dennett, and judging on the basis of this course alone, the late professor Solomon was far more grounded in the history of philosophy and theory (which has its place) than keeping up with the modern fields that study cognition. I would suggest taking the word "Intelligence" out of the title of the course, as this course is far more about "The Philosophy of Emotions" than it is about human intelligence.
Date published: 2016-06-05
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Failed philosophy course This was not so much a philosophy course as a philosopher rambling on about his opinions of various psychological states. There is no argumentation or analysis of opposing views, and only a scant attempt to find foundational or generalizable concepts. He skirts around the phenomenally interesting problem, the so-called “hard problem”, regarding what is consciousness. I know the professor is a respected philosopher who has worked on this topic for a long time. The course is not clear enough for high school students, not interesting enough for college freshman, and not deep enough for philosophy majors. Overall, quite disappointing.
Date published: 2016-05-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from We Are Indeed Complex Beings AUDIO: Audio Download I am really glad I listened to these lectures as a follow-up to Professor Solomon’s TC course ‘No Excuses: Existentialism and the Meaning of Life.’ Many of us often have a dismissive opinion about human emotions, considering them simply irrational. What this course deals with are “normal…problems we have with emotions, how and why they can make us unhappy, how and why they are sometimes irrational”, rather than “psychopathology, the many ways the emotions can seriously go wrong” (Course Guidebook, Page 2). Professor Solomon does an excellent job in expanding the discussion way beyond the “…old prejudice, namely, that our emotions are irrational, even that they are incomprehensible [,that] Our emotions present a danger and interrupt or disturb our lives, because we are passive with regard to them; [that] they ‘happen’ to us. By contrast, this course is an attempt to understand our emotions—how they provide insight and meaning—and the extent to which we are not passive but active regarding them. Our emotions, according to a recent theory, are imbued with intelligence. And a person’s emotional repertoire is not a matter of fate but a matter of emotional integrity” (Page 1). Though there is a good deal in this course on scientific findings, especially in neurology, psychology, and even anthropology, much of the course deals “…with the context of ethics and practical concerns, that is, their role in the good life” (Page 1). For Professor Solomon, taking a mechanistic view of an emotion as simply a “neat neurological package” is “drastically incomplete” (Page 7). He ably shows how philosophy has a great deal to add to our understanding of the emotions, and he does this in an engaging and illuminating manner, covering considerable territory in time, and in Eastern as well as Western, and even primitive, societies and cultures. Professor Solomon often surprises with highlights from the thinking of Aristotle, William James, and Jean Paul Sartre, and peppers the lectures with how their positions advanced discussion of emotions in our lives. He also references a great number of other key thinkers and researchers whose names are less well-known. Perhaps the most interesting parts of this course concerns emotions as strategies for dealing with the world and how language seems to play a critical role in shaping our emotions and even their physiology. While there is much that humans have in common, regarding the emotions we are not all the same: “In this vast emotional complex, in some sense, we share—but we share in different ways. Further, to have an emotion is a much more dynamic process that is intricately related to our philosophies, our language, and our culture than most of us would ever expect” (Page 121). This is indeed a rich and profoundly interesting course. As odd at it might seem at first, I found much of the discussion of emotions an interesting complement to another TC course, Dalton Kehoe’s ‘Effective Communication Skills’, and references to the infamous “ladder of inference” that impedes so much communication. On second thought, it might not be so wild a connection, as Professor Solomon’s interesting academic background includes not only philosophy, but also biology and psychology, and a good deal of work with corporations and publications on business ethics. I do have some advice for those taking this course: Do not give in to the emotions of irritation or impatience. Professor Solomon takes a while in setting the stage for the main event by examining the fine gradations of emotions in nearly half the early lectures. As it turns out, this is time very well-spent. This 2006 course has an excellent guidebook, including fine lecture summaries, glossary, biographical notes, timeline, and an exceptional annotated bibliography that includes internet resources.
Date published: 2016-04-11
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good advice for having a good life. I have been writing a syndicated column for the past eight years now with readers located in 14 states. I am a senior citizens over the age of 70. The materials presented in these courses reinforces/enhances views that are needed to be practiced by seniors just as much as the Boomers or the Millennial Generation. It has given me a better understanding of the passions and human emotions associated with having/living a good live. I find Solomon's philosophical views refreshing and pertinent.
Date published: 2016-01-21
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Just Conversational One of the few I've returned, audio download... After four chapters I started inserting "Seems to me..." In front of every sentence and it fit. This is a mix of personal opinions, from someone who probably could and should have put together a great corse but the lecture format doesn't work. If you are so new to the broad field of human experience you might find it stimulating, but he quickly showed me her couldn't or wouldn't organize his thoughts and was less familiar than I am with some very essential information, e.g., neurology and evolution. And I'm only a novice in those areas. I recommend Biology and Human Behavior by Sapolsky and Understanding the Mysteries of Human Behavior by Leary instead.
Date published: 2016-01-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Emotions: Central to Attaining a Life of Integrity This is a very thoughtful exploration not just of "what" emotions are but, much more intriguingly and importantly, how -- as we live our lives and we reflect upon how we have felt and behaved before -- we both "own" our emotions and come to "regulate" them so that their expression better fits who we want to be, and what we want to accomplish, "in the world." I found it fascinating how ancient concepts of "living a life of integrity and fulfillment" could be better understood -- and achieved -- by appreciating how our emotions, healthfully heeded and attuned, can help us become persons of integrity by pursuing a meaningful and rewarding life. Initially, I must admit, I had a little trouble "warming" to this course. Part of that may be that I have taken relatively few philosophy courses while focusing primarily on courses devoted to history, art, archaeology, literature and theology. Since Professor Solomon attempts to convey his own "take" on the subject matter very gradually -- desiring that the "student/viewer" have the time to accompany him in assessing various aspects of "what emotions are" and "how they influence us even as we regulate them" -- the pace is non-hurried, thoughtful, and respectful of alternative points of view. Despite my early reservations, however, I soon found myself -- during the hours of the day after I had watched a particular lecture -- essentially "turning over" in my mind various aspects of what Professor Solomon had recently spoken about. Each lecture focus turns out to be less on a, if you will, "solid given" than on a fascinating piece of multi-faceted stone. When one looks at it from one angle, one sees "this" but, from another angle, then something else of equal fascination and possible plausibility is discerned. (It says a lot about the quality of a teacher's presentation when his/her students find themselves continuing to mull over the subject matter when the lecture session has ended.) As he discusses various philosophers, ethicists, and scientists, Dr. Solomon shows how their understandings of "the emotions" were not really so much "wrong" as they were often "limited." That is, their conclusions or theories properly understood are more likely to elicit a "yes, but" response as opposed to a simple "no, that is not the way it is." The course explores the instinctive, physiological reactions we all have in common to certain primal stimuli -- eliciting fear or anger, for instance -- and shows how quickly these become intertwined with social mores and personal lessons derived from previous experiences, all the while tempered and shaped by our efforts to become -- and to be seen as -- the persons we want to be. Although I am not sure that Dr. Solomon would so designate his course, I ultimately found it to be a stimulating exploration of what it means to be a truly "moral" person. Like his discussion of "spirituality," "morality" is not restricted to only those people who consider themselves -- or are seen as -- "religious." Rather, morality is integrated with the whole person who chooses to live a life that does as little harm, while contributing as much of value, as possible. In today's world where so many who aspire to positions of leadership draw harshly simple lines dividing "us" from "them," where reflection is subsumed by incited passions of fear and rage, this course has much to offer all who deeply desire to live lives of value. Highly recommended!
Date published: 2015-11-26
Rated 2 out of 5 by from an interesting idea, but ill delivered Though Professor Solomon's notion of the intelligence of the emotions was at first provocative and compelling, little by little his arguments for it began to disintegrate until finally he was essentially rambling, talking off the top of his hat, and losing all credibility. The last two lectures were all over the map, exhortations rather than philosophy
Date published: 2015-10-10
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Muddled analysis While Professor Solomon parses many emotions in interesting and insightful ways, on the whole his analysis of the nature of emotion is weak. For a philosopher, he uses important terms in surprisingly loose and confusing ways; I will mention just a few. First, one of his core arguments is that emotions are “a way of engaging the world,” as if that phrase settles the question of definition. To be sure, emotions entail engagements with the world, but so do many other activities (hitting a baseball, listening to a concerto, speaking with a friend) that are *not* emotions. Second, he adopts the concept of emotional intelligence, but (a) insists that it goes further than Goleman’s influential notion of EI as perceiving, using, understanding, and controlling our emotions, but (b) does not define his use of “intelligence” clearly enough to justify his argument that it can be *in* emotion and not just *about* emotion. He also maintains that emotions are “rational” in the sense that they “enhance our lives.” That conception of rationality borders on the silly, and leaves Solomon’s argument about emotional intelligence on very flimsy ground. Finally, he insists that emotions involve “judgment” without distinguishing between the immediate perception of something as, say, scary (“Oh, no, a spider!”) and the appraisal based on complex reasoning. Fundamentally, the problem in his analysis is that he does not acknowledge or examine the variety of discourses that have been addressed to the study of emotions, and thus loses the ability to discriminate among the term’s many uses. He is committed – probably correctly – to the notion that emotions are not simply physiological responses to external events (William James’s stomach knots up when he sees a bear in the woods), but his exploration of the senses in which they go beyond that is conceptually muddled.
Date published: 2015-03-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from How shallow has been my thinking! Anger, love, envy, fear, etc... all emotions I have had in my life but none that I've really mentally processed past the surface. Professor Solomon takes these "passions", scratches the surface and opens doors that lead to greater depths of understanding. While I can't claim to have properly and completely digested all this material, this course has presented me with new possibilities for myself and for my outlook on life in general. I strongly recommend this course to anyone ready to expand personal understanding of these "spices of life".
Date published: 2015-01-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Not for Sleepwalkers What I like about this course (my 2nd of Prof. Solomon's) was that it argued from many different angles against retreating from life and what it (sometimes against our wishes) demands of us. I have suspected the motives of some I know who practice Buddhism or Stoicism because in doing so they exhibit a distance and a placidity to the greater world that does not accord with my own sense of what the world demands of me. The passionate engagement Prof. Solomon argues for here encourages me to feel that my emotions are a vital part of what is best in me -- my moral nature. If you are temperamentally disinclined to detach yourself from people and events this course may offer a platform for your philosophy. If detached living in the moment is your practice, you may find here valid arguments for moderating the attempt to be invulnerable.
Date published: 2014-12-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Course!! I have all of the courses by Solomon. He is incredibly knowledgeable and gives a unique perspective on an issue we think we understand. His course will help you gain greater understanding on the passions we all feel and claim to know. His presentation is fantastic! I HIGHLY recommend this course!!!
Date published: 2014-11-12
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good, but Not as "Passionate" about this Course I have been a huge fan of the lecturer, Dr. Robert Solomon. He edited my textbook on Existentialism which I used in undergrad, back in the 1980's. In fact, I consider myself an Existentialist. This lecture isn't his most intellectually engaging, though. His earlier courses-, the overview of Existentialist thinkers and the one on the works of Nietzsche are much stronger, in my view. I would strongly recommend listening to those two before this one. I found the contents of "Passions" a bit repetitive; his main idea is that emotions are not "feelings" that happen to us, but expressions of how we engage with the world. I didn't feel that he needed 24 lectures to explain that idea.
Date published: 2014-09-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Deep & Profound This is not going to be easy, folks. You're going to sweat a bit, maybe a lot. But when you're done, you'll have that rewarding "I did it" feeling. And that's a good thing. If you're up to the challenge, get the course.
Date published: 2013-09-09
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Rather vague, but there is value here DVD REVIEW: Here's a course we can all apply in our own lives; a series of talks that indeed give pause for thought. The late (January 2007) Dr. Robert Solomon presents his lectures in a very calm, tic-free manner that's a pleasure to listen to. The talks are well-structured, easy to follow, nicely-paced. Graphic content is absolutely minimal ~ might as well buy the audio set unless you far prefer to SEE the professor expounding, as I do. The lectures provide highly detailed definitions of love, hatred, grief, resentment, shame, pride, vengeance, jealousy, envy, and other emotions, negative and positive. We're in the world of semantics and it's important to bear in mind that one person's understanding or definition of a particular emotion may be quite different from those of other persons. The point of the lectures, however, is to study and think about how these emotions affect the individual experiencing them, in interaction with society. On this basis, the course is very valuable. I found the talk on grief particularly poignant. I must say that, at times, the lectures seemed to go around in circles, words, words, words... especially # 12 "Are Emotions in the Mind?". References to philosophical writings are important here. Dr Solomon avers that "emotions aren't really feelings at all... emotions are basically engagements with the world". I'm afraid I have to disagree very strongly here. In my experience, emotions are quite definitely felt, and can be felt without any reference whatsoever to engaging with the world. In this respect, emotions ARE feelings, and in fact the lecturer later admits that "emotions are feelings in a general sense"! I'd like to mention that Dr. Robert Solomon and his wife Dr. Kathleen Higgins, also a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin, co-presented a Great Courses series "Will to Power: The Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche".
Date published: 2013-08-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Social Theory of Emotions Dr Solomon had obviously thought a lot about this topic before composing these lectures, as he not only offers a broad survey of the various ways philosophy, psychology and neurology have approached them in the past 2500 years, but also offers his own synthesis and unique theory of emotion's social function. Generally his thesis is that feelings + thoughts = emotions, and that they are our (inherently intelligent and ) intentional way of engaging in the world. Although, however synthetic and comprehensive he tried to make it, I also thought he was at times a bit too vague, simplistic, wordy and repetitive. Basically he helped clarify what emotions are, but I had to give him the benefit of the doubt more than once (eg. too often used "feelings" and "emotions" interchangeably). Instead of 24 lectures this would have been better at 18, yet it was still worth listening to, and thinking more about.
Date published: 2013-06-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Value Lurking Beneath With all its flaws, this course has value. Professor Solomon made a good contribution to TGC by offering a course on the emotions. We typically put our emotions aside as a sort of crazy uncle in the basement. Professor Solomon "brought him back up" and forced us to a needed encounter through a systematic and thoughtful examination. I especially appreciated the ethical lens through which the professor guided his teaching. Emotions do give meaning to life, and how we live with our emotions defines in many ways who we are and how good we are. The course, however, does have serious problems. The professor strayed off path too often, wandering at times too much from the substance and the science into opinion. It seemed that the professor had honed his own notions over time, and he was content to rest on findings from his own latest thinking as the final word. In reality, there is quite a lot of diversity in thinking about emotions. I think we would have been better served had the professor taught perhaps more modestly, including these other perspectives in the discipline in his own teaching. The idea of the intelligence of emotions was popular when this course was conceived. I listened very carefully. And while I agree that emotions can be broken down to be better understood and perhaps even seen as rational in some respects, I do not come away convinced of the idea that there is an intelligence to emotions generally. Is anger generally a strategy? I don't think so. Do vengeance and justice go hand in hand? No, not generally. Is it enough or satisfactory to say that emotions are "an engagement with the world." I think this sounds better than it is truly helpful. I believed the professor stretched quite a bit in his efforts to bring laughter and music into the discussion. And his teaching on happiness and spirituality, while interesting, seemed off course to me. I wouldn't recommend the course to friends, but I did find value in it, for which I am grateful.
Date published: 2012-11-21
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Shallow, pseudo-scientific, and often simply wrong! I expected a course that goes beyond Daniel Coleman's "Emotional Intelligence." Instead, I have to encounter ridiculous ideas of anger or fear that so clearly show that the professor does not understand these emotions himself. There is no mentioning of the human ability to make a decision between stimulus and response.. Everything is viewed from an extreme subjective point, which boils down to, that the word is a dangerous place (and the author can't mention it often enough). Perhaps it is true: The world is really as we are! I don't want to be you, professor!
Date published: 2012-09-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Understand the Depth of Emotions Excellent. This course helped me appreciate the depth of emotions and revealed an invaluable connection between our logic and emotions - namely that emotions are often the result of complex judgements. This has boosted my 'faith' in using my emotions/intuition to understand and navigate the world.
Date published: 2012-07-11
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Stimulating Journey, Semantic Argument As Prof Solomon admits, this is an unusual course. The study of emotions is usually covered in psychology rather than philosophy courses.But he has an argument to make and, in making his argument, takes you on an interesting trip through most of the major theories of emotion. I found the journey fascinating and have no regrets about having taken the course. But, in the end, his argument that "emotions are something that you do" hinges on whether an emotion, such as "anger", is a state or a process. Common sense suggests than anger is a state and that there are processes/judgments that cause anger. Prof Solomon's did not convince me to suspend common sense.
Date published: 2011-11-27
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