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Being a Description of the World

By Eli Siegel


Emotion is feeling—other than direct sensation—seen as of a group.

The word emotion has, like the word will, been given too energetic a meaning. Feelings, like plants, or books, or articles of hardware, can be grouped; can be thought of as having a collective meaning or general meaning.

     The largest grouping of feelings is as pleasure or pain. So we say: "He had an emotion of pleasure." We could also say: "He felt pleased." The word emotion in the first statement arises from one's having thought of a feeling of pleasure as belonging to a group containing all feelings of pleasure.
      Further, I could say: "He felt hopeful." I could also say: "The emotion of hope sprung in his breast." Certainly I'm not saying such different things in the two statements; certainly the feeling is the emotion and the emotion the feeling. All that I have done is deal with a similar state of mind; first, from the specific feeling out; secondly, from the feeling thought of generally, or as of a group, to the person having it.

      Any person, no matter how tired he is, if he looks at himself, will see that he hopes for something; fears something; hates something; likes something; is angry at something; wonders at something; yearns for something; and, if he looks hard enough, will even find that he has a passion for something. All these states of mind can be called feelings. All of them can be called emotions. All of them, given quantitative completeness, can be considered as passions.

     All the emotions—that is, all of the feelings—are combinations of the fundamental states of pain or pleasure, not knowing or knowing, with reality as a whole or reality specifically, or both.


© 1945 by Eli Siegel

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Courage  |   Hope and Fear  |  Liking   |  Change  |  Relation  |  History   |  Desire   |  Instinct


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