Prime Movers: A Theory of the Primitive Passions


ACLS Project Development Grants




Emotions pervade human experience and can subtly influence the actions of even the most level-headed adult. Yet no account of emotion has been able to explain the subtlety or strength of emotions, nor their systematic influence on human value systems. The aim of the proposed project is to produce a book-length treatment of emotions that fills this gap. The book begins with a defense of emotions as joint products of biological evolution and culture and a characterization of their unconscious influences on action. It then sketches a natural history of human anger and its influences on institutions of punishment and accountability, assessing the normative significance of these influences. This work will appeal to popular audiences keen to understand the influence of emotions in their own lives; to philosophers with interests in moral psychology, philosophy of science, and philosophy of law; and to experts in a variety of human sciences seeking a fresh perspective on emotions.