Theorists of emotion typically recognize a number of features common to them: emotions are intentional, being directed towards objects in one's environment (including oneself); emotions involve the evaluation or appraisal of those objects as possessing various positive or negative values; emotions feel a certain way, in that there is something it is like to undergo an emotional experience; and finally emotions are expressed, involving a readiness or disposition to move one's body in a number of ways. Emotional expression in its variety – the topic of this volume of essays – is a phenomenon with which we are intimately familiar. It is something that we experience, both in ourselves and others, on a daily basis. As Edith Stein wrote, somewhat poetically,
I blush for shame, I irately clench my fist, I angrily furrow my brow, I groan with pain, am jubilant with joy […] as I live through the feeling, I feel it terminate in an expression or release expression out of itself.(Stein 1970: 51)
But is a phenomenological description such as this supported by the scientific study and philosophical analysis of emotional expression? What is it for something to be an emotional expression and how do such expressions relate to other aspects of human psychology and behaviour? A common thought is that emotional expressions serve to communicate the emotional state of the expresser; indeed, the facial expression of emotion is often taken as the paradigm case in which the psychological states of others are made manifest to us (see, e.g., McNeill 2012; Smith 2013). Is this common-sense picture correct? In what sense can emotional expressions be thought of as communicative and what is it that they communicate? Further, emotional expressions are naturally thought to be subject to certain norms: a particular facial expression is required for an apology to be considered sincere, another when receiving a gift and so on. What, we may ask, is the role of such norms in guiding our emotional behaviour and how do they interact with the ‘release’ of emotional expression that Stein speaks of? These questions are amongst those pursued in the chapters of this volume and may be thought to fall under three broad headings: the nature of emotional expression, the communicative role of emotional expression and the normative significance of emotional expression.