Lange vs James on Emotion, Passion, and the Arts

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review


According to what is now the standard account in the history of psychology, in the 1880s William James and the Danish physician Carl Georg Lange independently developed a strikingly new theory, commonly referred to as the ‘James–Lange’ theory of emotion. In this paper it is argued that this standard account is highly misleading. Lange's views on affect in his (1885) Om Sindsbevægelser were more cautious than James allowed, and not open to criticisms that have often been levelled against the theory of emotion that James claimed he shared with Lange. In fact, Lange argued for distinctions that James did not mention in his discussion of Lange's work. Even with regard to the primary emotions, the two thinkers’ explanatory models diverged significantly. The contrast between James and Lange on affect is especially striking in their respective discussions of topics in aesthetics, as is established with reference to Lange's little-known (1899) Bidrag til Nydelsernes fysiologi som grundlag for en rationel æstetik.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-56
JournalRoyal Institute of Philosophy Supplement
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019


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