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  • Hard feelings: Science’s struggle to define emotions

    The Atlantic - 02/24/2015

    Psychology is really experimental philosophy,” says Lisa Feldman Barrett, a university distinguished professor of psychology at Northeastern University, and the author of the forthcoming book How Emotions Are Made. Biology, for example, is a discipline that relies solely on observations of the natural world, while psychology researchers “take common sense categories that people use in everyday life and try to treat them like scientific categories.”

    Barrett has emerged in recent years as a new voice in the field of emotion, with a unique perspective on how to think about the phenomenon. In her 2006 article “Are Emotions Natural Kinds?”, she threw down the gauntlet, positioning herself strongly against Ekman’s viewpoint that emotions are biologically basic. (The term “natural kind” refers to a group of items that are inherently equivalent.) “The natural-kind view has outlived its scientific value,” Barrett wrote, “and now presents a major obstacle to understanding what emotions are and how they work.”

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