Lay summary
IntroductionOne of the main issues in emotion research concerns the question of just what an emotion is. The most natural way of answering this question would be to say that emotions concern the way a person feels about herself in relation to other people, the world and life in general. Even though this ordinary sentiment already encapsulates perfectly the idea that an emotion has the person, or the self, at its centre, this basic point has not garnered much attention in emotion research. BackgroundRecent research investigating the 'feeling' character of emotions has failed to carry out a systematic description and categorisation of the typical experiential (i.e. phenomenal) content of emotional feelings. As a result, important features of emotional feelings have been neglected which can help answer traditional questions surrounding the relation between emotional feelings and cognition, on the one hand, and the body and the self, on the other, and also illuminate the representational status of emotional feelings. The StudyIn contrast to existing proposals, a systematic phenomenological analysis reveals that emotional feelings present to conscious experience, most of all, a sense of self. However, conscious localisable bodily sensations play only a peripheral role in this context, and the sense of self emerging in emotional feelings is crucially independent of, if intricately related, to the experience of a body image and body schema. Not infrequently, this particular sense of self will also involve basic felt representations of the object of emotion, which depend for their typical content on imagination, namely, the simulation of the spatial, temporal and causal features both of the object of emotion and possible reactions. Finally, the sense of self emerging in emotional feelings might be fruitfully traced back to the formation of certain perceptual capacities in evolutionary history. SignificanceThe study re-connects emotion research with classical philosophical discussions surrounding the problem of the self and helps re-orientating scientific emotion research towards an investigation of the sense of self. In providing support for the idea that motivation does not merely arise from a disjunctive set of mental and/or physical pulls and pushes but from an integrated sense of self in emotions, the study furthermore clarifies the phenomenal basis underlying theories of motivation. Finally, the current research provides a philosophically principled yet scientifically compatible theory of phenomenal consciousness in emotional feelings with particular reference to appraisal theories of emotion.