Philosophy intrigues me. But like most of you, I hold onto a stereotypical fear of the subject: too abstract. In some sense we are right; there are technical branches within philosophy which deal with signs and symbols. (Not the kind of ‘logic’ we understand.) Yet there is also phenomenology, which while abstract, deals with more human concerns.
I regret missing the chance to take a philosophy class in NUS. But I should thank Dr George Radics for providing some exposure in NUS SC2216 Emotions and Social Life. It was alarming for Sociology students to read Descartes and Sartre in Week 2. But what a start!
Theory continues to dominate, resulting in the most enriching half-semester I’ve had in any NUS sociology module. Rereadings of Marx, Durkheim, and Weber were followed by dips into symbolic interactionism, phenomenological sociology, dramaturgy, sociology of emotions and sociology of everyday life. The latter half of the semester was sorted into 5 emotions – anger, love, fear, pride/shame, humour – with each taking up a week. The readings on anger and risk were particularly illuminating.
In this journey through NUS SC2216, I learned that emotions can be better understood with theory, and that theory should not be divorced from emotion. This is the kind of relationship I seek with theory; in abstraction there must also be a reflection of lived realities. This is the kind of philosophy that may resonate outside the philosophy class most of us never enter.
Personal Faves of NUS SC2216: Theory
Rene Descartes – Second Meditation, in Meditations on First Philosophy (1986)
Jean-Paul Sartre – The Emotions: Outline of a Theory (2000)
Stjepan Mestrovic – Anomie, the Unleashing of the Will, Ch. 4 in Emile Durkheim and the Reformation of Sociology (1993)
Peter Berger/Thomas Luckmann – The Social Construction of Reality (1991)
Erving Goffman – The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (2005)
Personal Faves of NUS SC2216: Application
Arlie Hochschild – Feeling Management, Ch 6 in The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling (2012)
Frantz Fanon – The Fact of Blackness, Ch 5 in Black Skin, White Masks (2008)
Thomas Scheff – The Orgins of World War II: Hitler’s Appeal to the Germans, Ch 5 in Bloody Revenge (1994)
Ulrich Beck – Felt War, Felt Peace: Staging Violence, Ch 9 in World at Risk (2009)
Majken Jul Sørensen – Radical Clowning: Challenging Militarism through Play and Otherness (2015)
Other Highlights of NUS SC2216
Catherine Lutz – Engendered Emotion (1996)
Herbert Blumer – Society as Symbolic Interaction, Ch 3 in Symbolic Interactionism: Perspective and Method (1986)
Jonathan Turner – The Sociology of Emotions: Basic Theoretical Arguments (2009)
Adler/Adler/Fontana – Everyday Life Sociology (1987)
Thomas Scheff – Introduction: Emotions and Catharsis, Ch 1 in Catharsis in Healing, Ritual, and Drama (1979)
Theodore Kemper – Predicting Emotions in Groups: Some Lessons from September 11 (2002)
Frank Furedi – The Explosion of Risks, Ch 1 in Culture of Fear (1997)
Yang Sunguen/Paul Rosenblatt – Shame in Korean Families (2001)
Rey Tiquia – The Qi That Got Lost in Translation: Traditional Chinese Medicine, Humour and Healing (2011)
I took NUS SC2216 in AY15/16 Sem 2, under Dr George Radics, and was tutored by Ms Ambika. You can also read my essay on “emotionless Singapore”.