Emotions Are Simply Biological Responses To Social Situations
Without an awareness of our emotions we can not associate the effects of anger, sadness, grief and joy – within ourselves or others – with their causes. Similarly, if we are not intimate with our emotions, we can not perceive the dynamics that lie behind emotions, the way that these dynamics work and the ends that they serve (Zukav 1990, pp.43-44).
What then are our emotions? Theodore Kemper identified certain foundational emotions such as fear, anger, depression, and satisfaction/happiness that seem to be common to all humans and therefore part of our biological make up (Matthewman et al. 2007). Are emotions then, merely essences of personal being, anchored within our biological system awaiting expression? Do we experience our emotions- love, fear, anger and so on? Are emotions simply ‘there in our nature’, propelling us along toward commitment or suicide? This seems quite doubtful. Social theorists of emotions tend to be divided on the extent to which they acknowledge a place for biological antecedents of emotions alongside the strictly social influences (Matthewman et al. 2007, p.259). Kemper goes on to identify ‘secondary’ emotions such as guilt, shame, pride, gratitude, love and nostalgia as socialized adaptations of the physiologically grounded ‘primary’ ones. These are part of the power relations of different groups and are mechanisms that make social behaviour and human physiology mutually dependant (Matthewman et al. 2007).
According to Barbalet (2002), a well developed appreciation of emotions is absolutely essential for sociology because no action can occur in a society without emotional involvement, refering to society as an interactive system. What is implied here is that emotion simply indicates what might be called an experience of involvement. To whatever degree an individual is involved with an event, condition or person, it matters to them proportionately. That a person cares...