Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.



Committee Chair

Kimball, Robert H.

Author's Keywords

Religion; Emotion


Thomas, Aquinas, Saint, 1225?-1274; Emotions--Religious aspects


This dissertation is a philosophical analysis of religious emotions. It draws upon Thomas Aquinas’s theory of the passions to build and apply a framework for thinking about religious emotions and their role in the spiritual life. The first two chapters are dedicated to building the theoretical framework. Chapter one outlines Aquinas’s theory of emotions in a very general way and compares this account to recent versions of cognitivism. By placing Aquinas in conversation with contemporary accounts, I show that his theory is able to capture the central insights of this mainstream philosophical view. According to the Thomistic account that emerges in this chapter, emotions are psychosomatic forms of concern. In the second chapter, I begin to outline what makes an emotion a religious emotion. Drawing on Robert Neville’s theory of religious symbols, I suggest that religious emotions are emotions that have religious symbols interpreted in a devotional context1 as their object. With this account of religious emotions in hand, the next two chapters are dedicated to illustrating and applying this framework in a phenomenological and comparative mode. In chapter three, I apply the framework to illustrate its promise in highlighting common emotional patterns across religious traditions. In chapter four, I show how this account can also illuminate the diversity of emotional religious life both across and within religious traditions. In the final chapter, I use this model to explore the role of religious emotions in the religious life, particularly the relationship among religious emotion, cognition, and practice.