Do you control your emotions or do your emotions control you?

Philosopher's reply

Dear Megan,

Your question suggests that your emotions are not part of you. Is that what you think? Can you think of yourself without thinking of your emotions?

Some philosophers think that emotions can only be controlled by other emotions. On this view, if your emotions are not part of you. Then you do not have control over them, and they might have control over you. If your emotions are part of you, however, to say that your emotions control each other is to say that you control yourself.

Other philosophers think that reason can control emotions. On this view, if emotions and reason are both part of you, then, again, to control your emotions is to control yourself. If your emotions are not part of you but reason is, then you can control your emotions but they can control you too.

Iris Murdoch’s own view was a complicated mixture of the two above.
What do you think?

Ana Barandalla

Philosopher's profile

Ana Barandalla


I find Iris Murdoch's philosophy enormously rich and imaginative, and driven by a pressing wish to understand human life in all its fullness, complexity, and variegation. Engaging with Murdoch's philosophy opens up exhilarating vistas of what it is to do philosophy, and what it is to be human.

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