Many theorists define some emotions as basic where others are complex. Basic emotions are claimed to be biologically fixed, innate and as a result universal to all humans and many animals as well. Complex emotions are then either refined versions of basic emotions, culturally specific or idiosyncratic. A major issue is to define which emotions are basic and which are complex.
One of the problems here is that there is no consensus on the method by which basic emotions can be determined. Theorists can point to universals in facial expression (e.g. Ekman), distinctive physiological symptoms (e.g. the blush of embarrassment), or labels common to different languages. Moreover there should be some plausible developmental story concerning how the various non-basic emotions can be grounded in the basic ones.
- The Li Chi: Joy, anger, sadness, fear, love, disliking and liking (1st Century BC Chinese encyclopedia, cited in Russell 1991: 426).
- The Stoics: Pleasure/delight, distress, appetite and fear (Cicero, Tusculan Disputations, iv: 13-15).
- René Descartes: Wonder, love, hatred, desire, joy and sadness (Passions, 353).
- Baruch Spinoza: Pleasure, pain and desire (Ethics, pt. III, prop. 59).
- Thomas Hobbes: Appetite, desire, love, aversion, hate, joy and grief (Leviathan, pt. I, ch. 6).
- Paul Ekman (1972): Anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness and surprise.
- Paul Ekman (1999): Amusement, anger, contempt, contentment, disgust, embarrassment, excitement, fear, guilt, happiness, pride in achievement, relief, sadness/distress, satisfaction, sensory pleasure, shame, and surprise.
- Jesse Prinz (2004): Frustration, panic, anxiety, physical disgust, separation distress, aversive self-consciousness, satisfaction, stimulation and attachment