Emotional Truth

The philosophical content of emotional experiences

By Alice Holzhey-Kunz, translated by Sophie Leighton


IBSN: 9781911383727 Category:


This book explores the importance of the philosophical dimension of emotions, turning the traditional relationship between emotions and philosophy upside down: instead of being one of many objects of philosophical thought, an emotion contains an inherent philosophical truth. For this thesis, the author refers to Kierkegaard’s groundbreaking discovery of ‘anxiety’ as an emotional experience that is totally different from fear. This allows a deeper understanding of the emotions, and reveals the philosophical primacy of emotions over thoughts, which always convey a meaning.

Part I explores the three aspects of anxiety (anxiety about ‘nothing’, guilt-anxiety, shame-anxiety) that are distinguished by their capacity to disclose the human condition in its naked thatness, which is generally for most of us too hard to bear. Parts II and III then discuss the basic human need for protection from being overwhelmed by the ontological-emotional experience of anxiety.  Part II examines the protection given by negation of this intolerable truth in its direct emotional repudiation in nauseaenvy and despair. Part III addresses the protection by the two positive feelings of love and trust, which claim to be stronger than anxiety and therefore to be able to overcome it. Only sympathy cannot be categorised here. It belongs in a psychoanalytic therapy guided by existential perspectives, where the analyst listens with a philosophical ear and recognises his patients as ’reluctant philosophers’ who are especially sensitive to the ontological truth disclosed in anxiety and therefore suffer not only ‘from reminiscences’ (Freud), but also from their own being.

Alice Holzhey-Kunz, Ph.D. is a philosopher and daseinsanalytic psychotherapist in Zurich, Switzerland. She is president of the Society for Hermeneutic Anthropology and Daseinsanalysis and co-founder and co-president of the Daseinsanalytic Seminar in Zurich, where she teaches and supervises candidates.

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