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The rainbow of emotions: At the crossroads of neurobiology and phenomenology

  • Université de Rouen Normandie (France) / Husserl-Archives (ENS, Paris, France)

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This contribution seeks to explicitly articulate two directions of a continuous phenomenal field: (1) the genesis of intersubjectivity in its bodily basis (both organic and phylogenetic); and (2) the re-investment of the organic basis (both bodily and cellular) as a self-transcendence. We hope to recast the debate about the explanatory gap by suggesting a new way to approach the mind-body and Leib/Körper problems: with a heart-centered model instead of a brain-centered model. By asking how the physiological dynamics of heart and breath can become constitutive of a subjective (qua intersubjective) point of view, we give an account of the specific circular and systemic dynamic that we call “the rainbow of emotions.” This dynamic, we argue, is composed of both structural and experiential components and better evidences the seamless, non-dual articulation between the organic and the experiential.
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The rainbow of emotions: at the crossroads
of neurobiology and phenomenology
Natalie Depraz
Published online: 5 July 2008
Ó Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008
Abstract This contribution seeks to explicitly articulate two directions of a con-
tinuous phenomenal field: (1) the genesis of intersubjectivity in its bodily basis
(both organic and phylogenetic); and (2) the re-investment of the organic basis (both
bodily and cellular) as a self-transcendence. We hope to recast the debate about the
explanatory gap by suggesting a new way to approach the mind-body and Leib/
rper problems: with a heart-centered model instead of a brain-centered model.
By asking how the physiological dynamics of heart and breath can become con-
stitutive of a subjective (qua intersubjective) point of view, we give an account of
the specific circular and systemic dynamic that we call ‘the rainbow of emotions.’
This dynamic, we argue, is composed of both structural and experiential compo-
nents and better evidences the seamless, non-dual articulation between the organic
and the experiential.
Keywords Emotions Intersubjectivity Neurophenomenology
Heart Coupling
1 Introduction
This contribution seeks to explicitly articulate two directions of a continuous
phenomenal field: (1) the genesis of intersubjectivity in its bodily basis (both
organic and phylogenetic); and (2) the re-investment of the organic basis (both
N. Depraz (&)
Philosophy, University of Rouen, Rouen, France
N. Depraz
University of Paris IV, Sorbonne, Paris, France
Cont Philos Rev (2008) 41:237–259
DOI 10.1007/s11007-008-9080-y
bodily and cellular) as a self-transcendence, the excess of the organic over itself.
We aim to revisit the Merleau-Pontian inspired notion of ‘intercorporeity,’ which
thinks the body and intersubjectivity together, so as to more precisely show its
originary affective component. The first of these two movements is directed toward
the living in its basic, elementary form as autopoiesis; it follows the Merleau-
Pontian method of tracing the basic meaning of consciousness back to the living
itself. The second is directed toward the intersubjective sphere; it revisits the
Husserlian method of pursuing the subtler layers of consciousness into non-
individual fields and toward an openness that embodies its transcendence.
We are seeking to give an account of the seamless, non-dual articulation between
the organic and the experiential—an articulation already presented by Husserl as
rper/Leib. The pivotal ground and center-point of this articulation is the organism
itself, that is, the level of closure/coupling where lived experience is found directly,
and where a practical method can be put into action.
By weaving together body,
intersubjectivity, and time, we aim to give an account of the specific circular and
systemic dynamic that we call ‘‘the rainbow of emotions,’ which is composed both
of structural and experiential components. We will describe some key features of
this dynamic and outline four of its dimensions: (1) coupling, (2) valence, (3) heart,
and (4) self-previousness.
One of the salient contributions we hope to make in this article is to recast the
debate about the explanatory gap. We suggest a new way to approach the mind-
body and Leib/Ko
rper problems: with a heart-centered model instead of a brain-
centered one. The leading question then will be: How can the physiological
dynamics of the rhythmicity of the heart and breath become constitutive of a
subjective (qua intersubjective) point of view? Coupling, on the intersubjective
level, and valence, on the affective level, are the initial correlative keystones of this
heart-system model. Self-previousness points to the specific temporality of the
heart. Finally, we suggest the ‘rainbow of emotions’ as an experiential and
descriptive model of the heart system in each of its possible concrete emotions. We
argue that what the heart-system model contributes at the conceptual, theoretical
level can be developed and validated at an experiential, descriptive level by taking
into account a network of concrete and polarized emotions.
2 Coupling: the self-other fold
With the term ‘coupling,’ we intend to indicate that intersubjectivity is a dynamic
relationship—a ‘‘fold’’—that is situated beneath the division between self and other.
This project originally matured during discussions and email exchanges with Francisco Varela, as early
as June 1997. We sketched the general structure as it appears in the introduction and then planned to
begin by giving a central role to the articulation between Paarung and acoplamiento under the generic
term of ‘coupling.’
In this article, we are suspending two investigations that will be at the core of our project. The first of
these is a deeper investigation of the double-faced qualities of the organism, beyond attesting to its
phenomenal truth. Is it possible to understand the organism’s temporalization, its specific generativity?
The second of these investigations asks whether we can understand the heart as the focal place of
emotions, the place where the excess of the body over itself has been traditionally pointed out.
238 N. Depraz
The structure of the fold is undivided, in the same way one speaks of a ‘joint
account’ when different members of a family collectively govern a household.
Though different partners are involved, primacy is given to its coalition. The image
of the ‘fold’
is remarkably illustrative of this unitary process, because the crease
of the folding indicates a clear distinction without bringing about a disjunctive
separation. In order to provide this general, formal structure with concrete contents,
we will evoke different examples deriving from various fields: the archaic felt
affective link (both biological and intersubjective) between a child and her mother;
sexual intercourse as the apprenticeship of a mutual letting-go; the tonglen practice
in Tibetan Buddhism as a practice of exchanging places with the other; the three
Persons of the Trinity in Christian theology as exemplary of the experience of
reciprocal circularity. These examples are not intended to be exhaustive or
exclusive. In that respect, they are not meant to produce a closed meaning. They are
intended as heuristics to facilitate further investigation. Thus, should they become
obstacles, by all means just throw them out!
Consider two experiential-conceptual structures where such a fold, which neither
creates confusion nor brings about disjunction, is at work. Both include the same
four components: (1) a bodily anchorage, (2) a temporally founded dynamic, (3) a
relational meaning, and (4) the creation of a linkage that necessarily admits alterity.
These structures can be found, on the one hand, in Husserlian genetic phenom-
enology under the name Paarung and, on the other hand, in the Chilean school of
autopoiesis under the name acoplamiento. We would like to compare both
descriptions of the coupling experience in order to show their complementarity,
their potential mutual enrichment, as well as their irreducible differences.
The phenomenological structure of Paarung, in its basic meaning, indicates a
relationship between (1) sensory fields or data (visual, tactile, acoustic) that are
characterized by (2) experientially circular time-dynamics, and whose (3) relation
involves a double chiasmatic crossing of Ko
rper and Leib, which is accomplished
by means of (4) a passive associative synthesis.
In short, Paarung is the key
relational structure of two elements that enter into an associative synthesis—a
synthesis which is anterior to all objectifying identifications. Paarung contributes to
the elucidation of intersubjectivity insofar as it reveals its deep bodily anchorage,
but it is also a process that links sensory data in the kinesthetic framework or in the
temporal dynamic of retentions with the impressional present. This associative link
involves an originary relationality through which each ego is intrinsically
constituted. Therefore, both externalism (empiricism) and representationalism
(idealism) are irrelevant to this basic scheme.
The structure of acoplamiento, on the other hand, has a (1) bodily component that
does not correspond to the link between sensory modalities, but rather to the far
broader relationship between an organism and its environment. This bodily link is
not symmetrical but inclusive. Whereas, in the case of Paarung, there is a kind of
About the image of the fold, cf. Depraz et al. (2003, pp. 41–43).
Cf. Husserl (2001a, b); Depraz (2001a, pp. 169–178), where the four different levels (bodily-passive,
imaginative-active, linguistic-interpretative and ethical-emotional) of the Paarung are detailed. Here we
only deal with the first level.
The rainbow of emotions 239
interactive reciprocity between sensory modalities (fields or data), in acoplamiento,
the organism is situated within an environment, like a part within a whole. The (2)
time-dynamics of this organic coupling between organism and natural context is
called an ‘auto-poiesis,’ from the very name of the Chilean School, because
through it the organism emerges in its integrity by virtue of its very relationship
with its environment. The organism does not develop in isolation from what
happens around it; it is literally created (hence poien) by nature, while at the same
time modifying both nature and itself. In this respect, autopoiesis more accurately
describes what in the phenomenological structure of Paarung is generally presented
as an experiential circularity, because the former stresses that the autonomy of the
living (‘‘self’’) is the very result of its contextual dependence.
The (3) relational component of acoplamiento, although it is (at first sight
paradoxically) illustrated with the image of the individual organism closing in upon
itself, involves a doubled crossing of the objective and subjective components of the
body. The closure involved in this crossing is said to be ‘operational’ (clausura
operacional), because of the way that context nourishes the very autonomy of the
living being. It is precisely thanks to its openness to its immediate constitutive
environment that the individual organism accomplishes its autonomy—a process
which reveals alterity as constitutive of the identity of the living being.
The structure of synthesis at work in the experience of Paarung is, in a similar
way, a passive association; it includes a contrast between sensory data, which are
constitutive of bodily experience, that never amounts to a rigidly closed identity, but
always to a moving and mobile reality.
In sum, the concept of acoplamiento as
operational closure helps us understand the possibility of an individual that is at one
and the same time altered by its context according to a ‘natural drift,’
and self-
generated in virtue of its own inner dynamics. Here, too, both empiricism and
representationalism are nonsensical within such a framework.
The phenomenological account of Paarung and the biological account of
acoplamiento similarly attend to an alterity at the very core of the self-constitution
of the living individual’s bodily identity. It is important to point out, however, that
the scope of the bodily experiences they describe is different; the inclusive
organism/environment structure is not coincident with the mutual relationship
between two lived bodies. The account of Paarung is interesting for its strong
intersubjective structuring, which allows for the extension of the account of organic-
based coupling to the level of the relationship between persons. The account of
acoplamiento enables the investigation of extremely elementary organic functions
(unicellular) and thus can contribute to a more detailed analysis of the kinesthetic
sensory level.
‘Operational’’ needs to be taken quite literally, in its practical meaning of what is being put to work. It
designates the very praxis of the living being in its openness to its environment. It might in some sense
evoke Husserl’s notion of fungierende Intentionalita
t, and Merleau-Ponty’s interpretation of intention-
rante. Varela does not refer to these authors in his development of this point. It seems to me that
the phenomenologists use ‘operation’ to designate non-objectifying lived experience, whereas Varela
had in mind the radical working or effectuation of the living being.
Maturana and Varela (1998); Varela (1980/1987).
Varela et al. (1991, Chap. 9).
240 N. Depraz
We now turn our attention to the affective meaning of these sensory and organic
accounts of coupling, in order to attest to the intricacy between sensations and
experiential bodily experience, on the one hand, and affect, on the other.
3 Valence: the attraction–repulsion dynamic
Our contention in this section is that affect is originally embedded in the bodily self-
other coupling, at the phenomenological level (Paarung) as well as at the biological
level (acoplamiento). We would like to show how affect is at work at the very
origination of life as a movement. The focus of our phenomenological approach will
thus be more generative than genetic; our biological approach will be both
evolutionary and neurological. In the domain of genetic-generative phenomenology,
the movement (e-motion) that informs the initial self-other folded coupling is called
‘affection;’’ in the realm of evolutionary neurobiology it is referred to as ‘‘valence,’
and in psychology it is commonly referred to as ‘emotion.’ Each of these terms,
from distinct perspectives, name complementary aspects of the affective dimension
that originally permeates intersubjective relations.
‘Valence’ emerges from evolutionary neurobiological research and accounts for
the originary move of life within living beings; it points to the micro-bodily
generation of intersubjectivity within what is probably the most archaic part of our
bodily functioning: the subpersonal neuro-vegetative system. At this level of
functioning, our body is essentially governed by primary, involuntary attractions
and repulsions. ‘Valence’ seems to be an appropriate name for this micro-bodily
dynamic, because it both speaks to the originary polarization of affective sensory
modalities (negative/positive) and indicates the way that this underlying subper-
sonal dynamic occasions and informs the initial dynamic of our interpersonal
relationships. In our encounters with others, we immediately feel if we are attracted
or repelled by somebody. This attraction/repulsion dynamic is deeply anchored in
our somatic organization and it often reveals itself through the most archaic sensory
modality of taste. One need only note the axiological alternative of gust/disgust and
its affective transposition as pleasure/displeasure. This is precisely the pendular,
binary functioning of our bodily attitude that the term ‘valence’ describes—a
dynamic that is reflected at the neurobiological level through the activation of the
amygdala and the hippocampus brain areas.
A binary dynamic of this type is found at each level, be it neuro-vegetative/
subpersonal, sensory/perceptive, or psychological. Although we contend that it
originates at the archaic level of neuro-vegetative impulses, we don’t want to go so
far as to cast such an originary level as the absolute explanatory one. Such a move
would amount to advocating a reductionist attitude, which is certain to deliver one-
sided results. While it is important not to overlook the importance of this primary
anchoring of intersubjectivity, the self-other coupling is not reducible to neuro-
vegetative valence. The sensory and psychological levels importantly enhance the
whole scope of the account of intersubjective coupling. On the one hand,
Pankseep (1998); Derryberry and Tucker (1992).
The rainbow of emotions 241
‘affection’ refers to the phenomenological features of this attraction/repulsion
dynamic. Husserl engages in detailed analyses of the dynamic of allure (Reiz) and
disappointment (Entta
uschung) that informs the subject’s relationships to otherness
(though his focus is primarily on the perceptive-, object-oriented aspect of this
dynamic). ‘Emotion,’ on the other hand, captures the psychological dimension of
constituted affects, by means of which the individual ceaselessly oscillates, for
example, between suffering and rejoicing, hating and loving, anxiety and
We maintain that there is a continuity between neuro-vegetative dispositions and
sensory perceptive activities, that neither level enjoys an explanatory primacy over
the other, but rather that both levels are mutual constraining and enriching. In this
article, we wish to remain at the organic, somatic level of analysis in order to allow
the conjunction of valence and affection to arise.
The continuous field of affect, including both valence and affection, constitutes
the core of the temporalization process.
How is it that the originary move of the
living, in its immediate constitution through the otherness it encounters, may unfold
itself as temporalization? Isn’t there a gap between bodily movement, valence,
alteration and temporality? If their common ground lies in the process-dynamics of
the living, where is the unitary experiential basis of such a phenomenon?
4 The heart as a self-transcending physiological system: a response to the
explanatory gap
These four dimensions of our bodily intersubjective experience are not as
heterogeneous as they might first appear. Bodily movement, affect, alterity, and
temporality, we contend, are different names given, at upper experiential levels, to a
unique concrete experience. An exemplary concrete bodily mode of access to this
vital dynamic is through the organ of the heart, insofar as it opens the way for the
basic rhythmicity of our existence as living, related beings.
Our hypothesis is that the heart is a self-transcending physiological system. Let
us characterize more precisely what we mean by the idea of ‘bodily self-
transcendence.’’ To describe this originary movement of the lived body, we first rely
on Richir’s argument that the body is characterized by an inner excess that is both
inherent in it and trespasses it. This is evidenced when the physical limitations of
our body are trespassed once we are also able to become conscious of them.
discussions in the cognitive sciences since the 1940s have broached the issue of the
relationship between the body, the mind, the brain, and the environment, with more
or less reductionist options: from various forms of eliminativism, which reduce the
We therefore speak below of a ‘rainbow of emotions,’ because emotions refer to multifarious,
differentiated, and strongly constituted ‘states,’ while affect refers to a more basic valence-laden
movement towards the object.
Varela and Depraz (2005); Depraz (1994).
Cf. Richir (1993): ‘[Le] lieu du ‘vivre incarne
n’est pensable dans l’expe
rience que s’il y a, en
quelque sorte, dans le corps, quelque chose qui exce
de le corps, qui tend a
s’en e
chapper, et par rapport a
quoi le corps paraı
tra toujours plus ou moins limite
[...]’ (7).
242 N. Depraz
mind to the brain, and the body to external behavior; to enactivism, which proves to
be the most dynamic and systemic approach to the phenomenon. We want to follow
and radicalize the enactive line of thought by introducing the concept of self-
transcendence as a process of liberation from every local or closing conception.
According to this line of thought, self-transcendence corresponds to the dynamic of
the bodily self as a self that contains the inherent ability to create new events from
itself. We contend that, more than the brain, which only materially rules the body
and its immediate context and supports a formal-functionalist approach of
cognition, the heart, as the ‘body of the body,’
gives us the most basic and
global experience of ourselves as embodied self-present subjects, that is, as subjects
enacting cognition. By attending to the physiology of the heart, we aim to undo the
remnant dichotomy between mind and brain, that is, the residual discontinuity
between the phenomenal and the biological levels.
In order to do so, we will identify various interfaces or transversal spaces in
which such a distinction is no longer operative, and which attest to the structure of
excess of the body over itself: (1) the heart as organic pulsation; (2) the heart as
affective thumos and as Gemu
t; and (3) the heart as rhythm of spiritual inspiration/
4.1 The organic pulsation of the heart
The heart as a muscle operates as a kind of mechanical pump that is designed to
make the blood circulate throughout the body: along the arteries—which, starting
from the heart ventricles, distribute the blood to the whole body—and along the
veins—which bring the blood back from the capillary blood-vessels to the heart.
The rhythmic pulsation of the heart is characterized by a double, complementary
movement, from the center to the periphery and from the periphery to the center:
contraction (systole) and dilation (diastole). The pendular physiology of the heart, as
a ruler of bodily vitality, attests to a specific phenomenality: the lived rhythm we are
able to capture when we sensorially feel the beats of our heart with pressure of our
hand being placed either on our chest or on the chest of our child or of our beloved.
We sense its growing quickness after a long run or when we are stressed or
emotionally moved; we sense the way our face blushes when we feel shame,
pleasure or jealousy, or the way it pales when we feel fear or anxiety. In short, there
is a strong continuity between the physiological appearance of the heart—its holistic
bodily function as an integrated, circular blood network—and its lived manifes-
tation with respect to concretely expressed feelings, emotions, and affects. What is
indicated in the dictionary as (so it seems) a sheer metaphor—i.e. ‘the heart is the
Depraz and Mauriac (2006).
Such an understanding of the ‘heart’ as ‘the body of the body’ stresses the amazingly bodily
character of the heart as center or hearth of the body. The stylistic emphatic expression aims at deepening
the role of the heart within the body as a the fundamental experience of inner feeling. Within the context
of Eastern Christian theology the heart is thus described as the ‘body of the body’ precisely because it
provides us with such an inner self-transcending intensity.
As a first step, see Depraz (1999).
The rainbow of emotions 243
seat of the emotions’’—exists in direct continuity with the physiological dynamic
between the heart and the body as a whole.
Recent neuroscientific research shows that emotions are produced in the different
areas of the brain that make up the limbic system (i.e. the hippocampus, amygdala,
and cingular cortex). One might ask: is there any contradiction between a brain-
centered model of neuro-physiological regulation and a heart-centered model of
affectivity? Maybe not, because the functioning of the brain and the one of the heart
are strikingly similar. There is a rather similar structural dynamic at work in the
relationship between the brain and the body as far as sensorimotor functioning is
concerned. Efferent and afferent nerves produce a double movement from the brain-
center to the organ-periphery and vice-versa. The circularity of the nervous system
is responsible for our bodily movements and actions in a way that is parallel to the
way that the circularity of the circulatory system is responsible for our bodily
tonicity and dynamism.
We contend that these two systems exist in an integrated parallelism, each
playing a role complementary to the other. The brain system is more directly action-
oriented, with a primacy given to the objectivation of actions and their formal
cognitive counterpart; whereas the heart system creates the inner dynamics of the
living body and gives access to affective-embodied cognition.
Until now, our description of the organic pulsation of the heart has remained
situated at the correlative level of physiology and psychology, thus providing us
with an interesting continuity between the biological and the phenomenal aspects of
the heart-experience. In order to provide such a psycho-phenomenological level of
analysis with an empirical-transcendental dimension, we need to introduce the
ontological experience of ‘pulsional intentionality’ (Triebintentionalita
trary to the basic sort of objectifying intentionality, through which we are able to
identify an object, pulsional intentionality is strictly operative, which means that it
does not give a primacy to the result of the intention but rather to the process itself.
As Husserl described it, it is (quite astonishingly) an intentionality without an
object. This non-objectifying movement, in its lived, immanent operation, is
constitutive of the very process of emergence. The dynamics of pulsional
intentionality, we argue, reveal the transcendental-ontological aspect of the organic
pulsation of the heart.
4.2 Thumos and Gemu
t as integrative dimensions of the heart
The brain and heart systems are not only parallel in the sense of being formally
correlative. They are also mutually constraining, in the methodological sense that
Varela proposed in his model for the reciprocal generativity of first-person and
third-person approaches to cognition. In that respect, the first advantage of the heart-
centered model is that the heart system is double-faced in the same way as the body
The German concept Trieb,’ used widely by Freud and invoked by Husserl in his later manuscripts,
was first commonly translated in English psychoanalytic literature as ‘instinct,’ but has more recently
(and more aptly) been rendered by the term ‘drive.’’ The French translation of Trieb’’ i s ‘‘ pulsion,’’ the
English cognate of which is being employed here because of the way that it preserves the continuity
between Triebintentionalita
t and the pulsation of the heart. See Depraz (2001c).
244 N. Depraz
system as a whole: it is both objective and subjective, physical and lived. In
German, we benefit from two different words to describe such a distinction. In the
same way that the Ko
rper/Leib polarity distinguishes between the physical body and
the lived body but also describes the unified reality of the body (‘‘corps’ in French)
as seen from two perspectives; Herz refers to the objective, physical heart, while
t refers to the heart as lived, both being two aspects of the one reality of the
heart (‘‘cœur’ in French). The brain system, by contrast, remains one-sidedly
physical and objective. For this reason, it is limited to the third-person approach, for
which the mind or consciousness can only appear as ‘correlative’ (though
irreducible) dimensions.
Similar to the way the Ko
rper/Leib system indicates the relation between the
physical and phenomenal aspects of embodiment, the heart system furnishes us with
the relation between the physical and phenomenal aspects of affectivity. Further-
more, it deepens the integrative complexity that is already furnished by the Ko
Leib system, in so far as it enables us to articulate the subpersonal, neural aspects of
emotional mechanisms (via the limbic system, and the physiology of blood
circulation) with the immanent lived, expressive aspects of emotions at the
subjective phenomenal level. To empirically and more concretely elaborate how the
heart system bridges (i.e. unifies) the physical and phenomenal dimensions, one
would have to investigate the self-regulation inherent in the thymic system and its
ability to increase immunity not by resisting aggressions from the outside, but by
welcoming them as parts of one’s own thymicity.
A correlative transcendental
way to elaborate this bridge can be found in contemporary psychotherapy and ethics
in the investigation of the status of the person as an individuated and integrated
unity with intrinsic relational abilities.
In both contexts, the heart is a central
experience, both as a thymic regulator of the integrity of the subject and as an
indicator of the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of the subject’s relations with others
as a persons.
In this light, it is also interesting to explore other words that reference the heart at
a generic subjective level, not to prove or explain anything, but only to confirm the
validity of our contention about the heart-system. In Plato, for example, thumos
refers to a vital force that is situated beyond or beneath the body/soul distinction.
The same linguistic root is shared by the thymic system, the modern name given to
the physiological system that is linked to humoral dispositions. Thumos also
indicates the articulation between the heart (the Latin cordis, which is manifested in
the English adjective ‘cordial’’) and the virtue of courage.
Besides, contra the
post-Cartesian brain-centered, physiological model of cognition and perception,
Aristotle’s approach is in many ways heart-centered. For, just as he claims that the
eye is the seat of sight, Aristotle claims that the heart is the seat of all the sensory
Varela shows such a generative continuity of first- and third-person approaches with regard, not to the
heart, but to the thymic system and its self-regulative function in the framework of immunology. Cf.
Varela (1997).
nyi-Nagy (1987); Michard (1991).
Plato (1997).
Tellenbach (1961, Chap. 2).
The rainbow of emotions 245
capacities, as well as motor and nutritive capacities.
In Eckhart as well as in Kant,
for example, Gemu
t also accounts for the global, broadly affective notion of
subjectivity, which encompasses the different faculties, and even Geist insofar
t endows the latter with a non-exclusively intellectual meaning.
more, the heart is the locus of a remarkable spiritual opening, which is exemplarily
manifest in the Eastern orthodox heart-prayer.
From the most subpersonal, neural dimensions of the limbic system to the most
personal, spiritual dimension of the heart-prayer, the heart may be unfolded in a
multiplicity of levels via the inner circular physiology of the blood system, its
psychic expressivity through sensory modalities, as well as its felt proto-ethical
meaning as thumos and Gemu
Of course, that there is a generative discursive
tradition according to which the heart is taken as embracing both the physiological
and phenomenal dimensions, doesn’t necessarily mean that there is an ontological
articulation of these two levels. Our claim is rather that the generative discursive
reference to the heart as the seat of emotions is indicative of such a non-dual
ontological articulation of the physical and the phenomenal, which is supported by
phenomenological and physiological evidence.
4.3 Breath, rhythmicity, and the overcoming of interior/exterior
To this seamless continuity—exemplified by the dynamics of the heart system,
between the neurally-anchored physiological circularity of emotions and their
phenomenally-situated expressivity—we would like to graft the primal, self-other
experiential field. In fact, the very organic rhythm of the heart (systole/diastole)
paves the way for intersubjective experience in its broadest sense.
In addition to its pulsating function in blood circulation, which remains centered
in the interior, the heart-rhythm is also originally manifest at the level of the breath.
Inspiration and expiration are part of the basic activity of the living being. Breathing
is regular, ceaseless, and preconscious, which means that it is always there without
my having to pay attention to it. In a sense, this involuntary mode of operation is
characteristic of every inner organ of our body: the liver, the stomach, the intestine;
they constantly operate within our body without our being conscious of their
activity. Interestingly enough, though, the unique characteristic of breathing lies (1)
in the fact that we can quite easily become aware of it, and (2) in its exemplary
situation at the conjunction of inner sensation and outer expression.
Breath, in this way, provides a strictly organic key for the very possibility of the
inner-outer distinction as an intersubjective dynamic between myself and otherness.
Aristotle (1941, Book II, Chap. 1), Aristotle (1978, Chap. 11).
Eckhart (1963); Kant (1998).
Cf. the articles ‘Cœur’ and ‘Gemu
t’ in Cassin (2004, Vol. 27, pp. 493–494).
We do not intend to go into the etymology of breath and its link to soul and life (in Latin, in Greek and
in Hebrew), which will need an article as such. For a first step, cf. Alter 3 (1995): ‘L’animal.’ As for the
link with speech, which is also noted in these traditions, it would require an articulation between the
living being and the human being, which we prefer to leave open here.
246 N. Depraz
While we are breathing, we literally take otherness within ourselves (welcoming it)
and expulse it outside of ourselves (rejecting it). Breathing is a heart-centered,
organic emergence of the self-other relationship. The inner–outer distinction of the
correlational structure of intentionality might be seen to emerge from recurrent
patterns of inspiration/expiration, somewhat parallel to the way that Varela,
Thompson and Rosch argue that cognitive structures emerge from recurrent
sensorimotor patterns of involvement.
Hence the central role of breath, for
example, in meditation and prayer activities within religious contexts, according to
which in breathing the most organic preconscious activity of the living being
coincides with a unique relatedness between the living being and the divine. As we
shall argue below, such a co-incidence is absolutely not involuntary or metaphorical
(i.e. used only heuristically in meditation practice). We contend, on the contrary,
that it is quite literal, that the heart is the very organ of the body where such a
coincidence is able to operate. In what sense? Allow us to make a comparison:
breathing is like walking. While walking, you experience the to-and-fro of your
right and left feet and the unity of your body achieved thereby. In short, co-
incidence maintains the distinction, which is the condition of a deeper unity which
we will call an ‘antinomic model.’
These three analyses of the heart—as organic pulsation, as affective thumos, and
as spiritual rhythmicity—attest to what we are calling the structure of ‘bodily self-
transcendence’’: the excess of the body over itself. This structure offers an inspiring
and provocative response to the current issue of the explanatory gap, which has been
much discussed in recent years within the debate about consciousness in the fields of
cognitive science and philosophy of mind. While there are proposals in the
philosophy of mind
and phenomenology
that acknowledge the irreducibility of
consciousness to neurobiological networks, or that argue that consciousness is
generative of neural dynamics itself.
To our knowledge, none of these proposals
takes into account the functioning of the heart. The most integrative (i.e., non-
reductionist) analysis of emotions relies exclusively on the neural dynamics of
emotions and searches for an inner continuity with inner lived emotional
Another interesting attempt is to consider (in the Jamesian vein
reinterpreted) that emotions are strictly identical with the physiological changes
undergone by the body.
As we already mentioned, our own proposal is not directed against such
integrative, enactive approaches. On the contrary, acknowledging the relevance of
such advances, we want to articulate our proposal as it is positioned with respect to
it. When Varela and I first began asking why the heart was never taken into account
as an access to cognition that might offer an interesting alternative to the brain, we
Varela et al. (1991).
Cf. e.g., Chalmers (1995, 1996) (available at
Given the general anti-naturalism of phenomenological philosophy, the literature here is too extensive
to sight, as it would include the majority of the field.
Roy et al. (1999).
Damasio (1994, 1999, 2003).
Cf. e.g., Pickard (2003).
The rainbow of emotions 247
were answered (by scientists) that the heart was a sheer muscular organ, poor when
compared to the cognitive complexity of the brain, or (by metaphysicians) that it
had an affective and spiritual meaning that was purely (and fortunately!)
metaphorical, that is, symbolic. The heart was either strictly biological, or strictly
spiritually symbolic! This is precisely our point: the heart system provides us with
something that the brain system, in virtue of its analytical complexity, does not;
namely, the synthetic globality and amplitude of the affectively anchored
intersubjective structure of experience. Recently, there have been phenomenolog-
ically more sophisticated accounts of the ‘hard problem’ from the side of
experience, accounts which might structurally map onto our own concern. However,
they either remain situated at the transcendental level to the exclusion of the
or they remain only on the level of the bodily system.
In either case,
while they provide relevant indications toward a renewed epistemological direction,
they neglect to explicitly broach the issue of the heart system.
5 Self-previousness: the co-generation of awaiting and being surprised
What we have approached thus far, first at the phenomenologically structural level,
as a circular dynamics of (intersubjective) coupling and (affective) valence, and
then at the physiologically emergent level, as a self-transcendent bodily process
through the heart-experience, now needs to be situated at its specific temporal level.
The next step we would thus like to take is to situate the bodily-intersubjective
dynamics of coupling and valence, which is centered within the self-transcendent
heart-experience, with respect to its own temporalization. As an essential
component of our existence as human beings, the temporality of bodily self-
transcendence through coupling and valence, must be accounted for in order to
articulate its concrete dynamic. We will conduct this description using the generic
term of what we have elsewhere called ‘self-previousness.’
By ‘self-previousness’ we mean a kind of temporalizing process that is
particularly open to the indetermination of the future. In this respect, the concept
stresses a temporal horizon that Heidegger already underlined, in contrast to
Husserl, who gave more weight to the temporal horizon of the past and to its
possible reactivation. Our proposal is near to Husserl, however, insofar as we
consider such an openness toward the future as not completely indeterminate, but
insofar as the future is under certain conditions anticipated in the form of
‘awaiting.’ We therefore rely here on Husserl’s careful attention to the possible
cognition of events that are not given through the memory of the past. But such
cognition is only possible if one is attentive to the emerging quality of the future
event, to its very process of arising. Husserl calls this kind of presence to the future
‘protention.’ Similarly, ‘self-previousness’ aims to describe the quality of
presence to that which is not programmed or predelineated to happen, that is, a
Bruzina (2004).
Hanna and Thompson (2003).
Depraz (1998).
248 N. Depraz
kind of knowledge of that which is not yet given. Self-previousness combines a
sense of anticipation with an attitude of welcoming the radical newness of the event.
This is why we have posed the experience of surprise as an exemplar, in the
emotional realm, of the temporalizing process of ‘self-previousness.’
5.1 The generic dynamics of self-previousness
How might the temporality of the processual dynamics of the lived body be more
specifically characterized as an affective and intersubjective structure? Contrary to
Husserl’s presentation of lived time as a living present composed of retentions,
impressions, and protentions, we contend that time-consciousness is guided by the
experience of the future. In contrast to the similar position that Heidegger puts forth
in Being and Time, however, we argue that future-oriented lived time is originally
affect-laden. This does not mean that affectivity has a primacy over temporality, but
rather that the temporalizing process is not a merely formal dynamics, from which
affect can remain absent. In our article about valence, Varela and I contend that
affect is at the core of time in a sense that is meant to abolish the primacy given to
the one or to the other.
The dynamic of self-previousness proper is articulated according to three phases:
the future component, which we call ‘imminence’’; the present component of the
‘crisis’’; and the ‘aftermath,’ which corresponds to a possible return to what
happened. The characteristics of the three phases lie in the intrinsic emotional
content of their temporal process. Moreover, the dynamic of self-previousness is
obviously non-linear (i.e., non-successive), given the primacy of futurity to the very
approach of present and past. This primacy of the future is central to the emotion-
embedded time we are attempting to bring into view. If each affective-temporal
phase is itself governed by valence, we arrived at the correlative series outlined in
Table 1.
5.2 The scales of self-previousness
Self-previousness is a circular time-dynamic that unfolds in correlation with
multifarious modes of givenness, which in turn correspond to various scales of time.
It is thus necessary to distinguish different degrees of this time-dynamic and to unfold
its correlative types of affectivity. While ‘self-previousness’ designates a generic,
standard-form of an affect-laden, future-oriented dynamic, we need to articulate and
differentiate levels of time and qualities of affect. The term of ‘scale’ was first
thematized by Varela as a way to overcome the tendency to present an overly formal,
compact, and homogenous characterization of the structure of temporality.
Varela and Depraz (2005).
For a discussion of the French use of this notion and a more detailed analysis of the concept, see
Depraz (2001b).
Heidegger (1968); Varela and Depraz (2005).
Varela (1999).
The rainbow of emotions 249
Varela first suggested a three-scaled model of affective temporalization, starting
from Husserl’s own distinction between (1) a pre-individual living present,
comprising retention, impression, and protention; (2) an individual constituted time,
linking the horizons of past, present, and future; and (3) a generative collective
temporality, comprising sedimentation, habituality, and reactivation. Varela then
described the types of affect relevant to each of these time-processes: respectively,
(1) unconscious organic fluctuations (valence); (2) individual constituted affects
(affection); and (3) generative collective emotions (emotionality).
In attempt to exhibit its non-successive circularity, Varela and I renamed the
elements of this three-scaled model and added a level so as to more clearly
distinguish an intersubjective, collective emotional temporality from a generative,
phylogenetic one (Table 2).
5.3 Surprise: the emotional quality of unexpectedness
Having identified the generic temporal structure of self-previousness and specified the
scales of its unfolding, we can now focus on what we take to be the core of this dynamic:
the experience of being surprised. The experience of surprise is involved at each time-
scale, whatever ability we develop to forecast the future event. At the pre-individual
time-scale, even when we are prepared by means of a disciplined stabilization of
attention to, for example, the emergence of a figure against a background in perception,
we can’t help but feel a slight touch of joy or pleasure at the very moment of its
appearance, which attests to our rejoiced surprise. If we are less prepared or completely
unprepared for its perceptual appearance, we might feel disturbed or shocked. As a
matter of fact, however, affectivity is an intrinsic component of the phenomenon of
surprise, varying only in the degree of its positive or negative value.
Table 2 The scales of self-previousness
Scale Imminence Crisis Aftermath
Pre-individual Presentiment Instant Remnance
Individual Anticipation Event Working memory
Intersubjective-historical Awaiting Crisis Commemoration
Generative-phylogenetic Futurity Mutation Immemoriality
Valence Hope/fear Marvel/disaster Serenity/depression
Table 1 The valence-phase correlations of self-previousness (Depraz 2001b, p. 103)
Future horizon Present horizon Past horizon
Phase Imminence Crisis Aftermath
Valence Hope/fear Marvel/disaster Serenity/depression
Depraz (2001b, p. 103).
For more details on this matter, cf. Depraz (2003).
Cf. e.g., Lutz et al. (2002, 2004); Varela and Depraz (2004).
250 N. Depraz
At the individual time-scale, although, for example, epileptics may develop or be
provided with third- and first-person techniques in order to help them anticipate the
oncoming of a seizure, the arrival of such an event remains somatically shocking, or
at least laden with depressive features.
At the intersubjective-historical time-scale,
the sudden occurrence of an historical crisis—e.g., the French Revolution or the
economic crisis of 1929—though it may have been awaited, was inevitably
experienced by subjects as a deeply anchored and long-lasting state of turmoil.
Finally, at the generative-phylogenetic scale, the slow emergence of a species
mutation over the course of evolutionary time, characterized as it is by randomness,
is open toward the future in such a way that its scientific observers remain
constantly astonished by the form changes of living organisms.
A differentiated micro-temporal analysis such as this paves the way for
understanding how the self-present living being generates directly from itself and
globally experiences unexpected novelty. At present, I wish to deal with the subtle
quality of unexpectedness via with the experience of surprise at the very level of the
individual living being. To do this, I will begin by reviewing the development of
Varela’s work from the biological principle of autonomy to the cognitive and
evolutionary principles of enaction and natural drift, respectively. The relation that I
am attempting to articulate between the experience of surprise, or the phenomenal
appearance of novelty, and the emergence of novelty in natural living systems is the
following: regardless of the scale of the time-dynamic, the experience of
unanticipable phenomena has a common structure, which provokes an emotional
shock when it appears. Because such a shock is not absolute, insofar as we are
necessarily related one way or another to that which we experience in surprise, it is
precisely by means of this relatedness that we might anticipate the experience of
surprise itself. I would like to show how Varela explicitly understood the living
being as an intrinsically ‘surprised’ qua ‘surprising’ being.
As early as 1981, in an analysis of the arising of novelty in the natural world,
Varela displays the threads of embodiment and temporality as tightly woven
In a remarkable synthesis of his groundbreaking work Principles of
Biological Autonomy, Varela offers a renewed presentation of the autonomy of
living beings.
He employs the idea of autonomy to characterize a system endowed
with a strong inner self-determination, also called self-affirmation. Varela considers
this notion necessary for understanding natural systems—cells, multicellular
organisms, the nervous system or the immune system—because it calls for an
understanding of the system in terms of its inner coherence or ‘operational
closure,’ i.e. as a structural coupling between the self-regulated organism and the
world with which it interacts. Varela makes a clear-cut distinction between
(computational) input coupling and (embodied) structural coupling. The first is
Cf. e.g., Le Van Quyen et al. (1999); Varela and Depraz (2004), second part.
For a general and detailed account of these four time-scales of self-previousness, cf. Depraz (2001b,
pp. 85–102).
Varela (1983).
Varela (1980/1987).
The rainbow of emotions 251
behaviorist, in that it depends upon an exteriority of a representational kind; the
second is phenomenological, governed by an intrinsic interconnectivity and
production of creativity. The phenomenon of novelty is not a product of privation,
due merely to the ignorance or partiality of our perspective; rather it is a positive
phenomenon, proceeding directly from our immanent self-knowledge, understood
as a cultivated ability to question a system in its behavior whilst interacting with it.
Less than 10 years later, Varela develops two concepts to describe what in the
analyses of 1979–1981, given their stress on the autonomous identity of the living
being, had been left relatively in the shadows: namely, the radical unexpectedness,
or contingency of life. In the earlier analyses, the originary world-organism
coupling was at the service of the coherent self-affirmation of the system. In the
analysis of the early nineties,
the project of enactive cognitive science—at the
developmental level—and the theory of natural drift—at the evolutionary level—
endeavor in parallel fashion to account for the decisive role that nature (both
ancestral and environmental) plays in our organization as living beings. The
enactive approach to embodied cognition requires that we rethink self-organization
as the co-emerging or co-originating of living being and world. The autonomy of the
living being proceeds directly from this reciprocal process of structural coupling.
‘Enaction’ designates this mutual emergence, emphasizing its practical operation
and its distinction from any representational or hermeneutical process.
The notion of ‘natural drift’ represents an interesting attempt to remove the
representationalist presuppositions that underlie the adaptationist notion of ‘‘fitness’
in evolutionary biology, while still accounting for the possible arising of unknown
events that would affect and transform the inner dynamic of the living being.
Against the notion of an optimal adaptation (an efficiency coping) of the living
being to/with the world, understood as a regular process of progressive fitness, the
idea of natural drift describes the evolution of the living being as a co-determination
of the self and its world in which both results are interwoven or co-implicated.
This inner coupling between living being and world requires a more explicit
study of its intrinsic temporality. Therefore, in ‘The specious present: A neuro-
phenomenology of time-consciousness,’ Varela directly tackles the issue of the
neural-dynamic roots of the horizons of present experience, while relying on
Husserl’s detailed account of time-consciousness.
What is at stake here is to bring
together the third-person account of the dynamic synchronization of long-distance
neuronal assemblages in the brain, and the first-person account of lived time. The
underlying hypothesis is that the two accounts describe processes that are not only
isomorphic but that literally co-generate each other, that is, produce both (1) new
experience and (2) renewed categories on both sides. The nature of the co-
generation we describe is clearly twofold: it is (1) a phenomenal-biological co-
generation in which the co-generative elements are (a) conscious activity and (b)
neuronal activity, which co-generate each other (along the lines, e.g., of
contemporary neuroscientific research on neuro-plasticity); but it is also, correla-
tively, (2) a discursive co-generation in which the co-generative elements are (c) the
Varela, et al. (1991, Chaps. 8 and 9).
Varela (1999).
252 N. Depraz
discursive accounts of phenomenologists and (c) the discursive accounts of
biologists, which commingle to co-generate further cross-disciplinary accounts.
These two levels—i.e. the discursive and the (prediscursive) phenomenal/biolog-
ical—clearly need to be conceptually disarticulated, but they also need to be
experientially coupled and assumed as interwoven. If not, the conceptual-discursive
will, in the final instance, tend to unduly guide the co-generation.
This two-fold analysis of the living present led Varela to insist on the role of
protention as playing a generating part in the constitution of the extended now, and
on the part played by the emotional dimension therein. The generative role of
protention and its emotional component, which are not explicitly present in
Husserl’s analysis (though they are implicitly indicated), become central in Varela’s
description of the now, because the neuro-dynamic analysis itself seems to support
them. ‘Being present’ comes to refer to the cultivation of the ability to anticipate
the unexpected, and to becoming aware of the strong emotional quality of such an
‘unexpectation.’ Welcoming what is radically unexpected is the very experience of
the surprise.
5.4 Is the time of the heart a ‘self-previous’ time?
How are self-previousness and the heart-system related? That is, how is this temporal
dynamic related to the rhythmicity of the heart as a physiological system? This is, of
course, a very difficult problem both philosophically and scientifically, so I won’t be
able to conduct any kind of full-blown investigation of the problem in the present
paper. But something needs to be said about the connection between the phenomenal
and the physiological, i.e., between self-previousness and heart rhythmicity.
The ‘time of the heart’ is characterized by its ‘rhythm’ or ‘beat.’ A heart
rhythm has the temporal characteristics of regularity (repetition and recurrence) and
harmony (stability and pendularity), as is also exemplified in musical and poetic
meter, as well as in nature. What we generally construe as objective time (i.e., the
clock time of quantitative measurement) is phenomenally lived primarily as
aesthetic and psychological. In a sense, the experience of rhythm undoes the
distinction between objective and subjective time; the heart-rate embodies such an
The pre-consciously lived, recurrent regularity of the organic beating of the heart
intrinsically includes an emotional component that contributes to the way it is
subjectively thrown in relief as lived. The heart quickens while one is expecting
news, it slows down when one gets bored, it flutters when one experiences strong
emotions (such as those related to trauma). Indeed, through its rhythms, the heart
functions as an organic, pre-conscious recorder of every emotional fluctuation of my
inner psychic life. The temporal fluctuations of the heart-rhythm range from
‘normal’ speeding or slowing; to pathological arrhythmia, bradycardia, tachycar-
dia, tachyarrhythmia (seizures); to the liminal rhythms of fainting, cardiac arrest, or
heart attack. The notion of a non-precarious, absolutely regular heartbeat—though
sometimes considered ‘normal’’—is completely idealistic; it is as abstract and
fictive as the idea of an un-affected self. As lived temporality is intrinsically
The rainbow of emotions 253
valence-laden, so the heart is immanently permeated with an always potentially self-
altered rhythm. In that respect, the temporal rhythm of the heart is immanently
‘self-previous’’: it is open to the possibility of alteration due to unexpected (i.e.,
surprising) emotional events, while basically remaining within a temporality
composed of awaited regular recurrences.
Of course, the details of the phenomenal/physiological connection qua self-
previousness/heart-rhythmicity remain to be worked out by future transcendental-
empirical research that would contribute to investigating the possibility of such a
Here we wish only to suggest such a possibility by proposing the
heart-centered approach as an alternative to the current route through neural
networks. The analysis of self-previousness is thus intended as a recasting, at the
temporal level, of the heart-system proposal we made above in response to the
problem of the explanatory gap.
6 The rainbow: a generative network of emotions
We have outlined how (Sect. 2) coupling, on the intersubjective level, and (Sect. 3)
valence, on the affective level, serve as the two correlative keystones of (Sect. 4)
our heart-proposal about the explanatory gap, and how (Sect. 5) self-previousness
provides us with the possible temporality of the heart. We now offer the ‘rainbow
of emotions’ as a descriptive model of the heart system in each of its possible
concrete emotions. What the heart-system model contributes at the conceptual,
theoretical level can be developed and validated at an experiential, descriptive level
by taking into account a network of concrete and polarized emotions. In moving
from the heart to the rainbow of emotions, we move, metaphorically speaking, from
the hearth to its radiating energies or from the sun to the rays. We intend our
description of the ‘rainbow of emotions’ as a phenomenological validation of our
heart-model proposal.
The model of the rainbow-structure was first suggested and delineated by Varela
as a way to show the concrete valence of emotions in their intricacy with
intersubjective coupling and with ontological existential underpinning.
Varela’s scheme (Fig. 1) provides the four components that we are looking for,
though they carry different names: ‘valence’ is the general transversal component
(the horizontal line); ‘concern’ refers to the intersubjective component; ‘being’
corresponds to the time-dynamic of self-previousness; ‘assessment’ expresses the
heart component. As such, however, the scheme remains a bit mysterious and in
need of explication. It is for this very reason that I propose the scheme here.
is a central focus, which corresponds to the crossing of the three directions or axis,
that remains undetermined. If I follow the image of the rainbow, I may determine
Allow me to mention the ongoing neurodynamical work done in the Laboratoire de Neurosciences
Cognitives et Imagerie Ce
brale (Paris) by Michel Le Vanquyen and some of his students on heart
rhythms, as well as a common project (both empirical and philosophical) we have with Diego Cosmelli
based on the experience of breathing.
Varela did not suggest a detailed understanding of his scheme. While, I could proffer some ideas and
hypotheses, I was left with the task of explicating it.
254 N. Depraz
this center as the color ‘white,’ from which every color radiates like a prism, each
linked to a particular emotion. The center might refer to the bodily subject itself—to
the heart as ‘body of the body’’—which generates the multifarious emotions from
him- or herself like the rays of the sun. The horizontal ‘valence’ axis, which is
situated upward in the scheme and provides it with its general dynamic, seems to
confirm this interpretation, since it unfolds on both sides from the self (self-to-
others/self-in-public), narrowly linking it to the coupling experience of self and
other. In any case, the bodily subject is ‘white,’ i.e. the non-color containing all
colors, insofar as it is the zero-point of valence. The bodily subject is generative of
valence, as well as its modes of relationship with others, its temporalization, and its
heart-bodily self-transcendent dynamic.
Another striking dimension of the scheme is that as it proceeds from the center to
the periphery (whichever axis one considers), it correlatively proceeds from
negative to positive emotions. The scheme thus dynamically represents the double
movement of opening and closing, dilatation and contraction. The more I open up
toward others, the more I am led to welcome them, to be receptive to their positive
and negative emotions, to their joy or to their suffering; the more I turn toward
myself, the more I contain my own feelings, be they negative (e.g., despise) or
positive (e.g., admiration). This dichotomy is, of course, abstract and simplistic.
Sometimes opening up toward others occasions a great deal of pain and turning
Fig. 1 Varela’s rainbow of emotions
The rainbow of emotions 255
inwards can have a rejuvenative affect. However, I would contend that the suffering
linked to opening toward others contains a possibility of self-freedom, whereas the
positive affect generated by an exclusive inwardness ultimately leaves one detached
and dissatisfied. The very dynamic of the rainbow is activated and created by the
pulsation of the heart as the source of the generative bodily subject, where affective
valence and the intersubjective self-other fold play together. Moreover, insofar as
surprise is the experience of the very process of self-previousness, temporality
functions as the very source of the heart-dynamic.
7 Conclusion
Our suggestion that the brain-centered model be displaced in favor of a heart-
centered model is an attempt to contribute to the general effort of research in
phenomenology and cognitive science to move ‘‘beyond’’—i.e. beyond ‘‘the gap,’
beyond traditional ‘‘paradigms.’
We suggest that the investigative elaboration of a
heart-centered model might lead toward a renewed understanding of the body as a
deeply unitary and circular experience—the heart as the ‘body of the body’’—in
which neural-dynamics, mental-dynamics, physiological-dynamics, and lived
intersubjective experiences are integrated and immanently articulated, that is,
restored in their mutual generativity. Whereas the brain-model, which is prevalent
among scientists of cognition, is neurobiologically-centered and often excludes/
reduces the phenomenal dimension, and whereas the consciousness-model, which is
favored by many philosophers of cognition, is phenomenally-centered and often
excludes/reduces the natural dimension, the heart-model offers an alternative,
affectively-centered model that opens up a greater possibility of unifying both poles.
Of course, many directions remain to be explored. For example, on the
descriptive level of a phenomenological psychology, we need to further investigate
the relevance of these different emotions through specific regional studies, e.g. on
shame, etc. On the interpretive level of a hermeneutical phenomenology, we need to
develop a structured comparison between the dynamic, generative typology of the
rainbow of emotions and the classical philosophical (e.g., Descartes and Spinoza)
In my view some crucial emotions are still lacking here: (1) ‘‘hope,’’ which the French language would
differentiate in espoir’’ o r ‘‘espe
rance,’ and which would well fit in the ‘Being’’/Self-previousness’
axis along with ‘‘joy’’ and opposed to ‘‘despair’’; (2) ‘‘happiness’ will take place on the same axis near to
‘serenity’’; (3) suffering, pity, compassion may be situated on the ‘Concerns’’/Intersubjectivity axis,
between fear and anxiety for the first one, with respect and love for the two others; (4) as for ‘‘anxiety,’’ I
would situate it on the ‘Being’’/Self-previousness axis, and not on the ‘Concerns’’/Intersubjectivity one,
because it has to do with my ontological state more than with my relationship with others; (5) as for
‘shame,’ we have in French two possible translations of it, either as honte or as pudeur.’’ ‘Pudeur’’
is a positive emotion, which has to do with tact, modesty and a sense of decency. Furthermore, it seems to
enter into a certain way of being with others, more than merely being in public, as honte,’ which is a
more negative feeling associated with guilt and disgrace; finally I find that ‘‘self-esteem’’ and ‘‘pride’’ are
in English basically positive emotions, whereas in French they possess an intrinsic ambivalence: ‘self-
esteem’ is at the same time estime de soi’’ ( +) and ‘vanite
’’ ( -); ‘‘pride’’ is fierte
’’ ( +) and ‘orgueil’’
(-). But these are minor complements, additions or modifications to the general scheme.
Roy et al. (1999).
Bruzina (2004).
256 N. Depraz
and psychological typologies of emotions. The philosophers of the seventeenth
century provided typologies of the emotions which are motivated by metaphysical
concerns. Descartes, for instance, foregrounds a series of bodily-based emotional
couples (e.g., love/hate, joy/sadness) that remain primarily brain-derived.
gives a central role to the brain in such a way as to satisfy the demand for coherence
with his metaphysical dualism between body and mind.
In contrast to metaphysical concerns based on dualism or monism, the classical
psychological typologies stem from different motivations, probably linked to the
experimental research in neurophysiology which is concurrently discovering the
brain-areas, localization, and neural functioning of emotions. Our own attempt to
provide a typology of emotions is motivated by the search for a non-dual, dynamic
ontology based on processual differentiations, by the need to move away from static
emotional typologies, which are insufficiently concerned with the emergence of the
emotional drive, toward a dynamic typology that insists on such an experiential
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This is so despite Descartes claim that the brain is connected to the extremities by nerve fibers through
which pass ‘animal spirits,’ which he defines as ‘the most lively and finest parts of the blood, which
have been rarified by the heat in the heart, [and which] constantly enter the cavities of the brain’ (331),
thus creating a link between the heart and the brain. Cf. Descartes (1985[1649]).
It is interesting to note that Descartes (following Plato and Aristotle) gave the emotion of ‘wonder’
(astonishment) a privileged place among the primary emotions, calling it ‘the first of all the passions.’
He claims that it is the most ‘philosophical’ passion precisely because it is not ‘accompanied by any
change in the heart or in the blood, such as occurs in the case of the other passions. The reason for this is
that it has as its object not good or evil, but only knowledge of the thing that we wonder at.’ As such, he
argues, wonder ‘‘makes us disposed to acquire scientific knowledge.’’ He concludes from this that wonder
only has relation to the brain because it is the brain ‘‘in which are located the organs of the senses used in
gaining knowledge.’ Through Descartes’ analysis of wonder, the brain is again given a primacy as more
generative of philosophical and scientific knowledge than the heart, which is designated as the
metaphysical seat of affects.
The rainbow of emotions 257
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The rainbow of emotions 259
... In short, the heart-rhythmicity results an interactive circular dynamics at three levels at least: (1) the circular organicity of cardiac pulsation; (2) the mobility of emotional microfluctuations; 3) the structural breath-rhythm (Depraz, 2008;2009). ...
... In short, the heart-rhythmicity results an interactive circular dynamics at three levels at least: (1) the circular organicity of cardiac pulsation; (2) the mobility of emotional microfluctuations; 3) the structural breath-rhythm (Depraz, 2008;2009). ...
... Along previous investigations (Depraz, 2008(Depraz, , 2015, I was led to question the onesidedness of such approaches of surprise. In physiology indeed, surprise is reduced to its bodily startle reaction basis (Darwin); in psychology, it is considered as a primary emotion among others (Ekman, 1971); in cognitive sciences, it is seen as the upsetting of my beliefs within a cognitive process (Davidson, Dennett); in neuro-computational ones it is identified to a brain mismatch, that is, as an error within a predictive coding which tends minimize surprise (Friston); in ontological metaphysics finally, which would reject surprise as too much empirical in favour of an astonishment (thaumadzein) only referable to man (Heidegger), it equates to the very source of questioning proper to philosophy (Plato, Aristotle). ...
... 20. Такой позиции придерживаются энактивисты, а также сторонники «кардиофеноменологии» -феноменологии эмоционально-аффективно «заряженных» интерсубъективных соматовегетативных процессов: Varela, 2001;Depraz, 2008. Это на первый взгляд аксиологически нейтральное указание на «надобность», «необходимость» тех или иных медицинских манипуляций можно проанализировать двояко. ...
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This paper conceptualizes the experience of the child in need of palliative care. Incurable diseases expose the pathic experience of the body as an object of treatment and care. The child’s life is subject to regulation in clinical or hospice care institutions that arranges the flow of time, routine actions, and communication. This leads to the reduction of the patient’s personality, as if woven into the triad “child-parent-doctor”. Articulation of a cognitively intact child’s self is embedded in the strategies of silence and half-truths, finding ways of manifestation in games, conflict behavior, and attempts of separation. The traditional view of doctor-patient communication underlying this difficulty requires revision since it is based on the abstraction from the embodied intersubjective interaction in the triad. A child receiving palliative care does not conform to the normative concept of a rational autonomous patient. This requires ways of conceptualizing the patient’s status as the owner of the pathic experience which manifests itself through the development of the disease. Instead of normative and universalist ethics, a phenomenological and medical anthropological view of “maternalism” is proposed, which points to the socio-cultural ambiguity of the idea of the “innocence” and “immaturity” of the child. The interaction within the triad is cross-cultural, and, hence, requires reconsideration of concepts of individuality, autonomy, and communication.
... В кардиофеноменологическом ракурсе сердце (шире -сердечно-сосудистая система) функционирует как регистратор эмоциональных флуктуаций психической жизни индивида. Динамика частоты сердечных сокращений в спектре от нормального учащения/замедления до брадикардии или тахикардии, возникновение нарушений ритма сердца и сердечных приступов, согласно данным исследователей, находится в отношениях обратной связи с субъективными эмоциональными состояниями па циентов: работа сердечно-сосудистой системы служит одновременно и маркером эмоционально-аффективных состояний, и фактором их интенсификации или депривации в субъективной жизни пациента [9]. Это значит, что субъективная симптоматика кардиологических заболеваний (затрудненное дыхание, раздражительность, расстройства сна, усталость) напрямую зависит от комплексных психологических и социокультурных процессов, затрагивающих разные уровни системной организации жизни пациента. ...
... We thus read of "embodied subjectivity" (Hanna & Thompson, 2003;Jensen & Moran, 2013;Zahavi, 2005), "embodied mind" (Lakoff & Johnson, 1999;Thompson, 2007;Varela, Thompson, & Rosch, 1991), "embodied language" (Gibbs, 2006), "embodied experience" (Gallagher, 2000), "embodied cognition" (Depraz, 2008;Varela, Thompson, & Rosch 1991), "embodied self-awareness" (Zahavi, 2002), "embodied action" (Varela et al., 1991), "embodied simulations of actions, emotions, and sensations" (Freedberg & Gallese, 2007), and even of "embodied movement" (Gallagher & Zahavi, 2012;Gibbs, 2006;Varela & Depraz, 2005). It is an equally notable, if seemingly passed over, fact that feelings are not embodied. ...
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This article begins by putting basic themes in Jung's psychoanalytic in the context of present‐day conceptual predilections that warrant questioning, specifically in relation to feeling and to being a body. The questioning leads to insights into the dynamic congruency of emotions and movement, to the political reality of demonstrations, protests, marches and so on, and from there to Jung's notion of a “psychic epidemic,” an epidemic that takes hold by way of a “totalitarian mass state.” At one point, Jung states that such epidemics can be mitigated only by “collective therapy.” Jung does not describe this form of therapy. On the way to specifying and describing just what practice might constitute “collective therapy,” the article focuses on what Jung specifies as the interconnected nature of the self, the living body, symbolic thought and the basic unity of psyche and body. The article's specification and description of “collective therapy” is anchored first in a real‐life, real‐time 20th‐century description of the international power of kinetic silence. The article then documents the historical nature of that power by way of classicists' descriptions of real‐life, real‐time community circle dances that silently attest to the value of moving in concert.
Abstract: In this text, I draw on two publications by Nathalie Depraz concerning the role of emotions in the exchanges between the subject and the environment to understand the contributions of neuro-phenomenology, its distinct position vis-à-vis “cognitive / mind centred” neuroscience, and its possible use in the analysis of works of art. My presentation consists of two parts: a theoretical part offers a critical analysis of the two texts by Nathalie Depraz in view of the affective neuroscientist literature on the formation of emotions. A second part examines how her proposal can be of use to analyse experiences in which both emotions and cognitive challenges are at play. I apply these proposals to the analysis of installations by Andy Goldsworthy and Qiu Zhijie, chosen for their intuitions on the role of the body in the construction of the aesthetic emotion. Keywords: emotion, heartbeat, appraisal, Nathalie Depraz, Antonio Damasio, Somatic Marker Hypothesis, epochè, Husserl phenomenology, reduction, Körper, Leib, embodiment, Francesco Varela, Qiu Zhijie, Andy Goldsworthy.
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How is it possible for me to engage in an intersubjective world? In enactivism, cognition is defined as the living system’s interaction with the meaningful world. What is missing, here, is the conceptualization of intersubjectivity. In this paper, I try to reconstruct the enactivist view of interrelationships between intersubjectivity, teleology, and enaction within the living system’s life cycle. I draw on the enactivist intuitions on teleology and foundations of autonomy with the appeal to the intersubjective view of science as practice. Next, I proceed to the idea of epigenetic development of mind as the instantiation of the bio-phenomenological intertwinement of two living systems. I show that it is the affective interaction of two epigenetically developing systems, involved in an “originary relationality,” which is the true subject of transformation.
The aim of this chapter is to discuss the relevance that emotions can play in our epistemic life considering the state of the art of the philosophical debate on emotions. The strategy is the one of focusing on the three main models on emotions as evaluative judgements, bodily feelings, and perceptions, following the fil rouge of emotion intentionality for rising questions about their epistemic functions. From this examination, a major challenge to mainstream epistemology arises, the one that asks to provide prominence to the epistemic agent and to her affects. This chapter discusses these implications, also providing an overview of the many alternatives available nowadays in epistemology, arguing for an open, comprehensive, and interdisciplinary approach to emotions in knowledge.
To make progress on the problem of consciousness, we have to confront it directly. In this paper, I first isolate the truly hard part of the problem, separating it from more tractable parts and giving an account of why it is so difficult to explain. I critique some recent work that uses reductive methods to address consciousness, and argue that these methods inevitably fail to come to grips with the hardest part of the problem. Once this failure is recognized, the door to further progress is opened. In the second half of the paper, I argue that if we move to a new kind of nonreductive explanation, a naturalistic account of consciousness can be given. I put forward my own candidate for such an account: a nonreductive theory based on principles of structural coherence and organizational invariance and a double-aspect view of information.
It is a commonly shared opinion among phenomenologists that temporality is a constitutive part of subjectivity. As living subjects, we are bound to time, but we are able, as Refslecting subjects, to alter or to change this external, objective time into an immanent, lived one.