Passions: Philosophy and the Intelligence of Emotions

Rated 5 out of 5 by from The late, great Robert Solomon Professor Solomon made a cameo in Richard Linklater's film Waking Life, as Linklater was once a student of Solomon's. With that said, I believe Solomon is a legend and is the best on the Great Courses series. Whoever gives him a bad rating is clueless and clearly did not understand his lectures, or in other words, were over their heads. His lectures are not New Age kitsch but are profound and life-changing. Do yourself a favor and buy all of Solomon's courses! The man passed away suddenly from a heart attack several years ago but will be forever immortalized in these great lectures.
Date published: 2020-12-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Possibly life changing. I listened to this course in my early 20s and it shaped the way I now (late 30s) continue to view emotional landscapes.
Date published: 2020-12-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Some great insights. I enjoyed this course. Some of the lectures and concepts, such the ones about anger and love and emotions being a way we interact with the world, really struck me. Some lectures, such as the one about the rationality of emotions, seemed less deeply thought out. But on the whole, I learned some things that will stick with me. It was worth my time.
Date published: 2020-06-13
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Average I didn't learn quite what I expected and had to put in a little more effort to finish the series than I would have liked. The instructor was thoughtful, well organised, and generally seemed to have a broad understanding of the subject. I'll likely watch the series again in the future and may update this if my opinion changes.
Date published: 2020-05-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Hesitant purchaser! I was interested in only two chapters. Based on the reviews I decided to purchase at the sale price. Thank you reviewer's for giving me the nudge I am in your debt. I was hooked from the very first chapter and could not stop until I had sensory overload. I have enough to chew on here for a whole year. The video is the way to go because his body language and facial expressions are communicating supportively to what he is saying verbally. As a public speaker, he was reminding me that what you say is of course important, the way you say it will make it stick!
Date published: 2020-01-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding Set of Lectures I have listened to this many times over the last few years and it always triggers some creative thinking for me. These lectures are well planned and effectively delivered. Robert C. Solomon is my favorite lecturer on The Great Courses, Passions is an enjoyable listen and the insights Solomon presents are useful. What is presented in this set of lectures resembles a model which can be used to examine human behavior outside the reified emotion.
Date published: 2019-06-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating exploration of emotions I have listened to this course several times and it is a fascinating and valuable exploration of how emotions can be viewed and channelled in a philosophical way. I came to this course via Solomon's course on existentialism and my own interest in Sartre and was quite pleased with this look into a realm not often explored by philosophers in an in-depth way. Among many other insightful and intriguing concepts dealt with, Solomon's discussion of Heidegger's and Sartre's writings on moods was especially interesting to me, and particularly valuable for those who hesitate approaching Heidegger's work on their own.
Date published: 2019-05-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from In-depth Philosophical Analysis of Emotions Robert Solomon spent his career researching this subject, and really knows his stuff. At first, I was a little disappointed, because I was hoping for a more cutting-edge approach that integrated neurological discoveries about how the brain processes emotions. However, I still came away quite impressed with the many different ways he approached the subject of emotions and integrated them into broader aspects of life, such as ethics and spirituality. The course is divided into three segments, beginning with about ten lectures on specific families of emotions, followed by a second section of lectures about different aspects of emotions in general, and concluding with some of the most interesting material on how emotions fit into more current topics like consciousness, ethics, and spirituality. Nevertheless, the historical presentation of philosophical views of emotions from Aristotle to Freud was good fodder for presenting competing ideas. Like other great courses I've taken on Philosophy, he presents all sides to an issue, before concluding that each perspective is too simplistic without presenting a unified theory of emotions. But that is what distinguishes a subject from being philosophical to being scientific. Which is why I felt the material was a little dated in not delving sufficiently into current neurological discoveries about emotions. But then again, the course is entitled the Philosophy of Emotions, so what was I expecting? One oddity I found in his presentation is that he never looks directly at the camera, and is always speaking to the left or right it. At first, I thought it was because there were multiple cameras off to either side, but then I noticed he alternated speaking to the left and right of the camera in the same shot.
Date published: 2019-04-03
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Emotions as Engagements with the World
1: Emotions as Engagements with the World

Professor Robert C. Solomon begins by reviewing the rich history of thinking about emotions. He introduces the major themes of the course, including Jean-Paul Sartre's idea that emotions are "magical transformations of the world."...

32 min
The Wrath of Achilles
2: The Wrath of Achilles

Starting a sequence of eight lectures on basic emotions, this lecture treats anger, typified by the wrath of Achilles in Homer's Iliad. Anger is reputedly the most dangerous emotion, but it has a positive aspect as well, and Professor Solomon argues that anger is sometimes right and even obligatory....

31 min
It's Good to Be Afraid
3: It's Good to Be Afraid

Fear is arguably the most important emotion, for without it we would be vulnerable to many dangers. Although often regarded negatively, people sometimes go out of their way to experience fear. This raises a paradox that has intrigued philosophers since Aristotle....

33 min
Lessons of Love-Plato's Symposium
4: Lessons of Love-Plato's Symposium

This lecture addresses the endlessly fascinating emotion of love, focusing on Plato's classic dialogue Symposium with its odd story told by Aristophanes, which illustrates how love reconfigures personal identities and relationships....

34 min
We Are Not Alone-Compassion and Empathy
5: We Are Not Alone-Compassion and Empathy

Philosophers including David Hume, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and the economist Adam Smith defended what they called sympathy as a natural moral sentiment. Sympathy is similar to what we call compassion and provides the basis of ethics....

34 min
Noble? or Deadly Sin? Pride and Shame
6: Noble? or Deadly Sin? Pride and Shame

Pride, like its opposite, shame, is an emotion of social self-evaluation. Its place in society shifts with morals, religion, and politics. This lecture is about a family of such emotions, including guilt, embarrassment, remorse, regret, and self-loathing....

30 min
Nasty-Iago's Envy, Othello's Jealousy
7: Nasty-Iago's Envy, Othello's Jealousy

Envy and jealousy are double-edged, self-destructive emotions, even as they aim at bringing down other people. Both are vividly demonstrated in Shakespeare's Othello. Envy is a bad emotional strategy, since it turns into resentment and deludes itself into jealousy....

31 min
Nastier-Resentment and Vengeance
8: Nastier-Resentment and Vengeance

Resentment is a particularly nasty emotion. Friedrich Nietzsche diagnosed it as inexpressible vengeance. Accordingly, vengeance can be seen as the natural extension of resentment. Vengeance is also an offshoot of anger, as its most cold-blooded and protracted expression....

31 min
A Death in the Family-The Logic of Grief
9: A Death in the Family-The Logic of Grief

Grief is misunderstood as both the most private and most negative of negative emotions. But in truth it is a continuation of love. The withdrawal that is so familiar in grief should not be mistaken for a breakdown of rational behavior, but as a period of reflection and reconstitution of the self....

31 min
James and the Bear-Emotions and Feelings
10: James and the Bear-Emotions and Feelings

Starting a sequence of eight lectures on how we misinterpret and consequently fail to take responsibility for our emotions, this lecture argues against a widely accepted idea that gained contemporary respect through the writings of William James: emotions are feelings....

31 min
Freud's Catharsis-the Hydraulic Model
11: Freud's Catharsis-the Hydraulic Model

Professor Solomon challenges the hydraulic model as a metaphor for emotions. Freud used this model extensively. The problem is that it is mechanical, and the emotions are not mechanisms. They are engagements with the world....

29 min
Are Emotions "in" the Mind?
12: Are Emotions "in" the Mind?

The concept of the mind as the private domain of emotions is an outgrowth of the philosophy of René Descartes. An alternative view, phenomenology, advocated by Martin Heidegger and other philosophers, holds that the mind is an activity and the objects of our emotions are essentially objects in the world....

31 min
How Emotions Are Intelligent
13: How Emotions Are Intelligent

Professor Solomon argues that emotions are engaged in our efforts to get along with people and to cope with an often difficult world. They give us insight and provide intelligence about the world. In other words, they have what philosophers call intentionality, and this requires intelligence.

31 min
Emotions as Judgments
14: Emotions as Judgments

Understanding emotions involves understanding the judgments that structure them. This lecture goes through several of the emotions already discussed-notably anger, shame, embarrassment, hatred, envy, and resentment-to show how this is the case....

31 min
Beyond Boohoo and Hooray
15: Beyond Boohoo and Hooray

This lecture questions the distinctions between positive and negative emotions. We should be much more attentive to the richness of intelligence within emotions and not reduce the subtlety of emotions to a simple "hooray!" or "boo-hoo!"...

31 min
Emotions Are Rational
16: Emotions Are Rational

To say that an emotion is irrational is to say that it has somehow missed its target, but that is also to say that an emotion can get its target right and thus be rational. The ultimate aim of our emotions is to enhance our lives, to help us get what we want and need....

31 min
Emotions and Responsibility
17: Emotions and Responsibility

To say that emotions are strategies is to say that they are to some extent our doing. With some passions we may find ourselves "out of control," but even then we tend to choose and cultivate those passions. As examples, this lecture looks at anger and love....

32 min
Emotions in Ethics
18: Emotions in Ethics

Beginning the final section of the course, which takes a positive look at the richness and value of emotions, this lecture surveys the history of ethics, from Aristotle and the Stoics in antiquity through what was called emotivism in the 20th century....

33 min
Emotions and the Self
19: Emotions and the Self

All emotions are self-involved; that is what makes them different from intellectual judgments. As strategies, they are concerned with the well-being of the self. To understand the centrality of the self in the structure of our emotions, it is necessary to broach the huge topic of consciousness....

31 min
What Is Emotional Experience?
20: What Is Emotional Experience?

Emotions are feelings, but they are not just the physiological symptoms of emotional excitement. This lecture analyzes the many components of emotional experience, from autonomic nervous system responses and sensations to much more subtle and sophisticated and experiences....

32 min
Emotions across Cultures-Universals
21: Emotions across Cultures-Universals

Emotions differ from society to society-in their causes, expression, language, and, consequently, in their experiences. But what are the underlying similarities across cultures? Are there basic biological structures that all people have in common?...

31 min
Emotions across Cultures-Differences
22: Emotions across Cultures-Differences

Continuing the theme of emotions across cultures, Professor Solomon focuses on significant differences between cultures, including some emotions that are unknown to Westerners. Two such examples are the Japanese emotion amae and the Ifaluk (Caroline Islands) emotion fago....

30 min
Laughter and Music
23: Laughter and Music

Two universal expressions of emotion are laughter and music. Laughter most often conveys joy, amusement, and humor, but it can also communicate nervousness and embarrassment. Music not only enhances emotion, but also imitates, expresses, and evokes emotion....

28 min
Happiness and Spirituality
24: Happiness and Spirituality

In this final lecture, Professor Solomon returns to a central issue: the way emotions and rationality form an inseparable team, not two opposing forces. It is through reflection, not emotion alone, that human happiness becomes possible. He also addresses the culmination of emotional life in spirituality....

32 min
Robert C. Solomon

What I want to ask you is to look at emotions, as I have, as something wondrous, something mysterious, something exotic, as well as something dangerous, something profound, and something valuable.


University of Michigan


The University of Texas at Austin

About Robert C. Solomon

Dr. Robert C. Solomon was the Quincy Lee Centennial Professor of Business and Philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin, where he taught for more than 30 years. He earned his undergraduate degree in molecular biology from the University of Pennsylvania and his master's and doctoral degrees in philosophy and psychology from the University of Michigan. He held visiting appointments at the University of Pennsylvania; the University of Auckland, New Zealand; UCLA; Princeton University; and Mount Holyoke College. Professor Solomon won many teaching honors, including the Standard Oil Outstanding Teaching Award; the President's Associates Teaching Award (twice); and the Chad Oliver Plan II Teaching Award. In addition, he was a member of Academy of Distinguished Teachers at UT, which is devoted to providing leadership in improving the quality and depth of undergraduate instruction. Professor Solomon wrote or edited more than 45 books, including The Passions, About Love, Ethics and Excellence, A Short History of Philosophy with Professor Kathleen Higgins, A Better Way to Think about Business, The Joy of Philosophy, Spirituality for the Skeptic, Not Passion's Slave, and In Defense of Sentimentality. He also designed and provided programs for corporations and organizations around the world. Professor Solomon passed away in early 2007.

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