Liberal Arts and Sciences

The Emotional Mind: The Affective Roots of Culture and Cognition

Harvard University Press, Spring 2019
Stephen T. Asma and Rami Gabriel

emotional mind book coverMany evolutionary histories of the mind concentrate on the brain’s computational power. Yet, in evolutionary terms, rational cognition emerged only the day before yesterday. For nearly 200 million years before humans evolved their capacity to reason, the emotional centers of the brain were at work. In order to properly understand the evolution of mind, Stephen T. Asma and Rami Gabriel argue we must explore this much older capacity: the power to feel.

Emotions have played a leading role in the evolution of the human mind, saturating every thought and perception with the weight of feelings. The behaviors and social structures of our species, like those of other animals, are best understood as the result of the evolution of emotions. Even the roots of so much of what makes us uniquely human— art. mythology, religion—can be traced to emotions like care, rage, lust, and playfulness. 

From prehistoric cave art to the songs of Hank Williams, Asma and Gabriel explore how the evolution of the emotional mind stimulated our species’ cultural expression in all its dizzying variety. Bringing together insights and data from philosophy, biology, anthropology, neuroscience, and psychology, The Emotional Mind offers a new paradigm for research into the origins of mind.

Author Biographies
Stephen T. Asma is Professor of Philosophy, and Rami Gabriel is Associate Professor of Psychology. Both are Senior Fellows at the Research Group in Mind, Science, and Culture at Columbia College Chicago, as well as working artists.