Surprise as Emotion: Between Startle and Humility

  • Anthony J. Steinbock
Part of the Contributions To Phenomenology book series (CTPH, volume 97)


I consider the experience of surprise within the context of my current work on the emotions. To do this, I examine surprise in terms of its belief structure, distinguishing it from a startle (1). I then suggest that surprise is a being caught off-guard that is related to being attentively turned toward something (2). As the latter, I qualify surprise as an emotion in its being thrown back on an experience in a way that is different from affectively turning toward something (3). This constitutes surprise as a disequilibrium in distinction to a diremptive experience like we find in the moral emotions of shame or guilt (4). Finally, I distinguish surprise from a gift, which is peculiar to the experience of humility. I then suggest that surprise is an emotion while being neither an affect, like a startle-reflex, nor a moral emotion, like shame, guilt, or humility.


Surprise Startle Humility Gift Phenomenology 

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anthony J. Steinbock
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophySouthern Illinois University CarbondaleCarbondaleUSA

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