Date of Award

Summer 8-1-2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Andrea Scarantino

Second Advisor

Eddy Nahmias

Third Advisor

Michael Owren


In his 1757 essay “Of Tragedy”, Hume reflected on a curious puzzle about emotions. Sometimes people seek out emotions or experiences that are typically negative and associated with displeasure or pain. People often desire to watch horror films that will make them scared or listen to music that will make them sad. Some people even engage in the pursuit of negative emotions on a regular basis such as in the case of thrill-seeking. In this paper my goal is to update Hume’s puzzle with empirical evidence from the affective sciences and argue for two conclusions. First I will argue that Hume’s puzzle still runs deep. Though some recent scientific and philosophical accounts of emotions have tried to solve it, they have thus far failed. Second I attempt to construct a psychological account that solves the puzzle. Instead of focusing on how emotions are generated as previous theories have done, I argue that what is important is how emotions are regulated.