About The Book
Using Charles Darwin’s survey of emotions as a starting point, Stuart Walton’s A Natural History of Human Emotions examines the history of each of our core emotions–fear, anger, disgust, sadness, jealousy, contempt, shame, embarrassment, surprise, and happiness–and how these emotions have influenced both cultural and social history. We learn that primitive fear served as the engine of religious belief, while a desire for happiness led to humankind’s first musings on achieving a perfect utopia. Challenging the notion that human emotion has remained constant, A Natural History of Human Emotions explains why, in the last 250 years, society has changed its unwritten rules for what can be expressed in public and in private.
Like An Intimate History of Humanity and Near a Thousand Tables, Walton’s A Natural History of Human Emotions is a provocative examination of human feelings and a fascinating take on how emotions have shaped our past.
“Historians, anthropologists, and philosophers have long investigated the gamut of human emotions; here their conjectures and influences coalesce. . . . Drawing on a spectrum of rich references . . . Walton sheds light on how we have arrived at an age where Sir Thomas More’s utopia comes in pill form.” –Library Journal
“Fresh and entertaining.” –Kirkus Reviews
“I love [Walton’s] work for his deftness in combining high culture with demotic allusions. Michael Douglas, The Simpsons, and Dolly Parton jostle Schopenhauer, Sophocles, and Adorno in his pages.” –The Times (London)
“Boldly independent. Walton is a writer, which is more than can be said of most authors.” –The Independent
The thing in the world of which I am most afraid is fear.
Michel de Montaigne
1. In Old English: A peril. 2. a. The emotion of pain or uneasiness caused by the sense of impending danger, or by the apprehension of evil. In early use applied to the more violent extremes of the emotion. Often personified. b. A state of alarm or dread. 3. The state of fearing (something); esp. a mingled feeling of dread and reverence towards God (or, formerly, any rightful authority). 4. Solicitude, anxiety for the safety of a person or thing. 5. In objective senses: a. Ground for alarm. b. Capability of inspiring fear. c. Something that is, or is to be, feared.
Darwin’s physical indicators: opening wide of the eyes and mouth; raising of the eyebrows; motionlessness; breathlessness; crouching/cringing; increased heart rate; pallor; cold perspiration; erection of the hair; accelerated breathing; malfunction of the salivary glands, leading to dry mouth; tremor; failure of the voice; dilation of the pupils; contraction of the platysma myoides (neck muscles).