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The Emotional Mind

The Emotional Mind

The Affective Roots of Culture and Cognition

Stephen T. Asma, Rami Gabriel

ISBN 9780674980556

Publication date: 04/15/2019

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Tracing the leading role of emotions in the evolution of the mind, a philosopher and a psychologist pair up to reveal how thought and culture owe less to our faculty for reason than to our capacity to feel.

Many accounts of the human mind concentrate on the brain’s computational power. Yet, in evolutionary terms, rational cognition emerged only the day before yesterday. For nearly 200 million years before humans developed a capacity to reason, the emotional centers of the brain were hard at work. If we want to properly understand the evolution of the mind, we must explore this more primal capability that we share with other animals: the power to feel.

Emotions saturate every thought and perception with the weight of feelings. The Emotional Mind reveals that many of the distinctive behaviors and social structures of our species are best discerned through the lens of emotions. Even the roots of so much that makes us uniquely human—art, mythology, religion—can be traced to feelings of caring, longing, fear, loneliness, awe, rage, lust, playfulness, and more.

From prehistoric cave art to the songs of Hank Williams, Stephen T. Asma and Rami Gabriel explore how the evolution of the emotional mind stimulated our species’ cultural expression in all its rich variety. Bringing together insights and data from philosophy, biology, anthropology, neuroscience, and psychology, The Emotional Mind offers a new paradigm for understanding what it is that makes us so unique.


  • With impressive mastery of the scientific and philosophical literature, The Emotional Mind is an ambitious work with sweeping scope and multidisciplinary character. Asma and Gabriel have written an impressively thorough volume, pulling together work in a variety of disciplines to present a detailed picture of the fundamental role of affective systems and processes in perception, cognition, decision-making, and social behavior.

    —David Livingstone Smith, author of Less than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave, and Exterminate Others


  • Stephen T. Asma is the author of seven books, including Against Fairness; On Monsters; and Why We Need Religion. He is Professor of Philosophy at Columbia College Chicago and a founding Fellow of the college’s Research Group in Mind, Science and Culture.
  • Rami Gabriel is the author of Why I Buy. He is Associate Professor of Psychology at Columbia College Chicago and a founding Fellow of the college’s Research Group in Mind, Science and Culture.

Book Details

  • 448 pages
  • 1-3/8 x 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press