The Subtlety of Emotions

The Subtlety of Emotions

By Aaron Ben-Ze'ev

An informal yet rigorous exploration of human emotions in all their complexity and subtlety.

A Bradford Book





An informal yet rigorous exploration of human emotions in all their complexity and subtlety.

Why do we cry at the movies? What is the best way to manage destructive feelings such as jealousy? Although emotions pervade our lives, their nature, causes, and effects have only recently been studied by social scientists and philosophers. Despite growing scientific interest in the subject, empirical findings have not yet caught up with our intuitive knowledge. In this book Aaron Ben-Ze'ev carries out what he calls "a careful search for general patterns in the primeval jungle of emotions." In an engaging, informal style he draws on a variety of theoretical approaches and popular sources to produce a coherent account of emotions in all their subtlety. All of the ideas are illustrated with examples drawn from everyday life.

The book is organized into two parts. The first presents an overall conceptual framework for understanding emotions. It looks at the typical characteristics and components of emotions, distinguishes emotions from other affective phenomena, classifies the emotions, and covers such related issues as emotional intelligence, regulating emotions, and emotions and morality. The second part discusses individual emotions, including envy, jealousy, pleasure-in-others'-misfortune, pity, compassion, anger, hate, disgust, love, sexual desire, happiness, sadness, pride, regret, and shame. The text is laced with insightful and often amusing quotations from sources ranging from Mae West to Montesquieu.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262024631 628 pp. | 7 in x 9 in


$44.95 T ISBN: 9780262523196 628 pp. | 7 in x 9 in


  • This book is both charming and serious. It is graced with many jokes and epigraphs, stuffed with intriguing psycho-social facts about emotions, and while it eschews polemics it takes account of most of the rapidly growing literature on all aspects of emotions—biological, sociological, psychological as well as philosophical. Anyone interested in emotions—and who isn't?—will find much here to learn, ponder, and delight in.

    Ronald de Sousa

    Department of Philosophy, University of Toronto

  • How do emotions differ from sensation? From beliefs? From sentiments? What are the different emotions? What is the nature of experience? In this lucid, synthetic, and engaging book, Ben-Ze'ev provides illuminating answers to these and other questions, providing far reaching and entertaining insights for researchers and lay readers alike.

    Dacher Keltner

    Department of Psychology, University of California, Berkeley

  • Ben-Ke'ev offers a fascinating, original, and beautifully written account of the emotions. What is the difference between envy and jealousy, or resentment and covetousness? Are self-pity and self-hate truly possible? Why do we sometimes takes delight in our anger or in another's misfortune? Ben-Ze'ev explains it all in abook that is lucid and insightful, and like the emotions it describes, subtle.

    Nancy Etcoff

    author of Survival of the Prettiest: The Science of Beauty