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Emotions are fundamental to human life; they define its quality and motivate action. In the past, social scientists who have studied emotions have treated them as biological, cultural or social phenomena. These approaches have tended to fall on either side of the culturally recognised division between nature and culture, and so have failed to recognise that emotions bridge this division, that they are thought of as both biological and cultural, as consisting of both physical feeling and cultural meaning. In this article, an alternative approach is presented in which emotions are treated as ecological mechanisms that operate in the relationship between an individual human being and their environment. In this approach, which draws on models of emotion proposed by William James and Antonio Damasio, emotions connect individual human beings to their surroundings and play an important role in learning. A focus on the individual as the centre of analytical attention—often referred to as ‘methodological individualism’—is a logical consequence of the ecological approach to emotion, which also has significant implications for the relationships between ecological anthropology and other branches of the discipline, and between anthropology and other disciplines. In the face of an ecological understanding of emotion, all relations, including social relations, become ecological and social anthropology melts into and is subsumed by ecological anthropology. At the same time, anthropology tends to lose its distinctiveness from biology, psychology and other disciplines by focusing on a phenomenon that is of common interest to all the human sciences.