Upheavals of Thought


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Part I. Need and Recognition: 1. Emotions as judgments of value; 2. Humans and other animals: the neo-stoic view revised; 3. Emotions and human societies; 4. Emotions and infancy; Interlude: 'things such as might happen'; 5. Music and emotion; Part II. Compassion: 6. Tragic predicaments; 7. Compassion: the philosophical debate; 8. Compassion and public life; Part III. Ascents of Love: 9. Ladders of love: an introduction; 10. Contemplative creativity: Plato, Spinoza, Proust; 11. The Christian ascent: Augustine; 12. The Christian ascent: Dante; 13. The Romantic ascent: Emily Bronte; 14. The Romantic ascent: Mahler; 15. Democratic desire: Walt Whitman; 16. The transfiguration of everyday life: Joyce.

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A philosophical examination of the emotions as highly discriminating responses to what is of value.


Nussbaum, a distinguished philosopher and classicist now at the University of Chicago, ably defends a cognitive view of emotions that owes much to the Stoics. In this view, "emotions are appraisals or value judgments, which ascribe to things or persons outside the person's own control great importance for that person's own flourishing." She endeavors to show that the emotions of animals can be studied within this framework. Grief occupies a prominent role in Part 1, compassion in Part 2, and love in the concluding part. Here she distinguishes among Platonic, Christian, and Romantic views of love, finding much of value in each but expressing concern that these views dangerously attempt to transcend the limits of the body. Throughout, sensitive interpretations of literary texts by Dante, Proust, Joyce, Whitman, and others illuminate and extend her approach to the emotions. She also discusses music and the emotions, with careful attention to Mahler. This is an original and carefully fleshed-out view; highly recommended for all libraries. David Gordon, Bowling Green State Univ., OH Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

'... a staggering feat of synthesis...creates an argument for the dignity and moral efficacy of emotion that is not only an intellectual tour de force but a moving triumph of humanistic thinking.' New York Times Book Review '... united in an original and altogether personal way the philosophy of the emotions with the texture of life and the experience of art ... Upheavals of Thought is what Henry James, one of Nussbaum's favorite authors, would have called a 'great, glittering thing'.' Los Angeles Times Book Review '... a philosophical milestone. Few books of our time make one feel so privileged to enter into them ... A generation may pass before anyone gives an account of thinking about emotion and its human stakes as deep as Upheavals of Thought.' San Francisco Chronicle '... In this massive study Nussbaum takes the perennial boxing match between thought and perception to a brilliant new register ... it has the feel of a major achievement.' Publishers Weekly '... a brave and civilized book. And at a time when we need above all an understanding of political emotions its subject could not be more welcome.' The New Republic '... unites in an original and altogether personal way the philosophy of the emotions with the texture of life and the experience of art ... The book shows an impressive familiarity with the classics, with psychology, with anthropology, with the law and with its own version of psychoanalysis.' Los Angeles Times Book Review '[Nussbaum] is among America's most prolific and prominent public intellectuals, with many causes to her credit, to all of which she brings extraordinary scholarly and liberal credentials ... it is a brave and civilized book. And at a time when we need above all an understanding of political emotions, its subject could not be more welcome.' The New Republic 'It is an awesomely ambitious and unabashedly personal book. It contains ... three elegant studies of the role of the emotions in human flourishing ... this is a magnificent book ... this book stands apart, if only as a kind of culmination of her work so far.' Mind 'Several disciplinary establishments are bound to be shaken by this book, and most of all the scholars, scientists, and writers in the always emergent field of human emotion ... almost all will be amazed by the extent to which Nussbaum can sweep feeling up into thinking and judging.' Common Knowledge '... it is fitting that perhaps the most considered recent contribution to the field has been made by Martha C. Nussbaum, a philosopher whose considerable powers of thought have brought some much needed clarity and depth of thought into this complex and controversial field ... appreciate the breadth of scholarship, the awesome ability to synthesize ideas from a range of disciplines without becoming facile, the elegance of the argument and the clarity of the writing. It is a book to read slowly, with care, and with plenty of pauses for reflection ... she is keen to develop a social theory of emotion, which is a major contribution to the is debate.' Auto/Biography '... thrilling and satisfying.' A. M. C. Casiday, University of Durham '... an awesome tour de force of philosophical inquiry ... some marvelous intellectual architecture ...'. getAbstract

Nussbaum's excellent reviews and essays are well known to readers of the New Republic, while her book Love's Knowledge has become a campus classic of literary philosophy. In this massive study, Nussbaum takes the perennial boxing match between thought and perception to a brilliant new register. Her contention is that our perceptions of the world are not colored by what and how we know, but rather by what and how we feel: "Emotions are forms of intense attention and engagement, in which the world is appraised in its relation to the self" i.e., "emotions are forms of judgment." This huge book has its ups and downs, but it has the feel of a major achievement. Its 16 chapters are broken into three sections. The first draws on diverse examples of "Need and Recognition," including animal emotion, the Neo-Stoics and "American grief" to establish its cognitive ground. In the second and best section, "Compassion," Nussbaum develops a systematic logic regarding the emotions, which advocates compassion in public life, and provides a fascinating critique of neoliberalism. Less successful is the long final section detailing, Love's Knowledge-style, love as it is found in the art and thought of Augustine, Dante, Emily Bront, Mahler, Whitman, Joyce and other figures. But the book begins with the death of Nussbaum's mother, which reverberates throughout these pages; it is part of Nussbaum's genius that the autobiographical details about this circumstance do not seem extraneous at all (and they are sometimes surprising). For Nussbaum, a particular moment in time and, crucially, its retelling, express a systematic understanding, and a mastery of the circumstances that created it an idea for which this book provides ample evidence. (Oct.) Forecast: Given Nussbaum's status in journalism, this book should be widely reviewed; major, career-summing profiles of the peripatetic philosopher could result. This could be one of those scholarly works that crosses over because of its refusal to compromise, rather than in spite of it. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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