It seems unlikely that it is possible to answer the question of how many emotions there are, or even whether it is meaningful to ask it. Some of the early philosophical analyses of emotion such as those of Aristotle and Descartes did present lists of emotions, but even here it is unclear whether they viewed these lists as illustrative or finite. Within cognitive theory the sensible approach would be that the number of emotions is determined by the number of states that fit the conceptual analysis; that is, states that include an appraisal that has as its object an interpretation and that causes some form of physiological change concomitant with some form of action potential and conscious awareness. However, this does not help us to come up with numbers. Another way in is to perform some kind of socio-linguistic analysis and look at the number of emotion terms in a given language or culture. This approach has gained considerable currency in recent times (e.g., Johnson-Laird & Oatley, 1989). Perhaps the most important issue to be raised by a consideration of this type of question concerns the relationship of emotions to each other. We have unearthed a variety of ideas about this during our journey through Western philosophy. Descartes was the first to suggest that some emotions may be more basic than others and that more complex emotions were merely elaborations or combinations of the basic few. We consider this idea in some detail in Chapter 3 because it is important in our understanding of emotional order and disorder. It was Plato who floated the idea that we can be in more than one emotional state at a time and that these emotions can sometimes be in conflict. An extension of this is Descartes' proposal that we can have secondary emotions. He gives the example of the man who, although grieving over the death of his wife, feels in his heart of hearts great relief that she is no longer there to pester him. We concur with this view of emotions. Within a cognitive theory this is tantamount to saying two things: (1) that the same event and/or interpretation can be appraised in different ways at the same time thus leading to different and even conflicting emotions; (2) that initial emotional reactions can be reappraised and themselves be the impetus to further emotional experiences that are either congruent with the initial emotion (e.g., depression about depression) or in conflict with it (e.g., anger with yourself about being happy at somebody's downfall). These ideas of appraisal and reappraisal, or of different levels of appraisal, have been considerably fleshed out by empirical and theoretical work in psychology and we consider them in more detail in the section on appraisal theories in Chapter 3.
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