Surprise: A Circular Dynamic of Multi-Directional Verbalization

Natalie Depraz


To understand the dynamics of the verbalization of surprise, I will start with the philosophical theoretical place that is, in my opinion, the most remarkable in terms of the descriptive phenomenology of surprise, namely, its approach by Paul Ricœur in Freedom and Nature in terms of what he calls “emotion-surprise.” This theoretical position will lead me to retrace, in a second step, the archeology of what Ricoeur calls the “circular phenomenon” or the “circular process” of surprise, which includes body language in a burst of "shaking" and the language of cognitive as well as aesthetic "shock". There is an a priori antinomy here that is based on a post-Cartesian duality of the body and the mind, but it is circularized by Ricoeur. On the basis of this dual model of surprise, I will retrace its genealogy in a number of authors (Darwin, James, Izard, and Ekman on the one hand, and Peirce, Husserl, Dennett, Davidson, on the other hand) and will analyze some first-person descriptions that come from “microphenomenological interviews” [entretiens d’explicitation].


Microphenomenology; surprise; emotions; Ricoeur; first person description

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