Philosophical Multicore

Sometimes controversial, sometimes fallacious, sometimes thought-provoking, and always fun.


Posted by Michael Dickens on November 5, 2010

As children, we learned that happy and sad are the primary emotions, and that they are opposites.


If I were to take a little while to consider the different negative emotions, I would come up with about three: fear, stress, and humiliation. There are two others which I might call negative, but they can be enjoyable from time to time: sadness and anger. Of these, I would say that fear is definitely the most common, not sadness. Also, it seems to me that fear is a much worse feeling than sadness. Some sorts of sadness, like loneliness or depression, are pretty much universally unpleasant. But other types of sadness, such as nostalgia, are not all bad.

Consider the opposites of each of these negative emotions.

Fear: Confidence
Stress: Calm
Humiliation: Confidence
Sadness: Acceptance
Anger: Acceptance

You probably noticed that both confidence and acceptance appear twice. This shows that emotions don’t always have a clear opposite. It doesn’t make sense to say that happiness and sadness are opposites, nor does it make sense to classify sadness as the primary negative emotion.


3 Responses to “Emotions”

  1. Matt Helm said

    How about this:
    Primary emotions – Comfort, Discomfort.
    All emotions can fit under one or the other.

    -Anything that feels good.

    -Anything that feels bad.

    Apathy is not an emotion.

  2. dphrei said

    thanks for your article. i was once tested with the bu11$h1t question “Are you happy?”.

    this was asked in the context of all the crap that was happening in my life at the time.

    when challenged to explain my happiness in the midst of my sadness, i answered that, just as good and bad coexist, so, i am human and my emotions coexist.

    being happy and sad at the same time is normal. every emotionally balanced adult can relate to it.

  3. phynnboi said

    I once heard that the opposite of fear is curiosity.

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