Matthew Elliot has some helfpul discussion of the difference between emotions and feelings. For Elliot, “emotions” are what I mean when I talk about “affections,” and “feelings” are what I mean when I talke about physical passions. Here’s an excerpt:
My major point is that emotions are about our thoughts, our minds, our thinking process. They are not based or centered in our body or nerves as many early psychologists taught. See Faithful Feelings for a review of the history of this. If emotions were based in our body, we could never know the difference between being sick because of the flu and being sick out of being nervous – for example. The attachment to thinking is what makes the nervous emotional.
We could also look at it like the classic question, “What came first, the chicken or the egg.” We affirm, the thinking – conscious or unconscious – came first. Anything else is logically impossible – again see Faithful Feelings. Feelings, in a strict sense, is what we feel in our bodies and these come after the emotion, are caused by the emotion. So we laugh at something because we THINK it is funny, we feel butterflies because we THINK something or someone is lovable. Emotions produce physical feelings in out bodies much of the time – sometimes they do not but most of the time they do. Yes, sometimes you need to think, “hmm, do I have this stomach thing because of that extra piece of cheesecake or because I am about the propose to my girl?” If we think about it a bit and give it some time, usually we can figure that out without too much trouble.
Elliot’s book, Faithful Feelings, is really very helpful.