On Sexual Lust as an Emotion

Humana Mente 35 (12):271-302 (2019)
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Sexual lust – understood as a feeling of sexual attraction towards another – has traditionally been viewed as a sort of desire or at least as an appetite akin to hunger. I argue here that this view is, at best, significantly incomplete. Further insights can be gained into certain occurrences of lust by noticing how strongly they resemble occurrences of “attitudinal” (“object-directed”) emotion. At least in humans, the analogy between the object-directed appetites and attitudinal emotions goes well beyond their psychological structure to include similar ways in which their occurrence can be introspectively recognized, resulting in similar extensions of their functionality and meaningfulness to the subject. I conclude that although further research is needed, given the strength of the analogy, the ability of lust to satisfy some general requirements for being an emotion, and perhaps certain neurological findings, lust may somewhat uniquely straddle the line between appetite and emotion.

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Larry A. Herzberg
University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh


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