This article is an exploration of certain central features of the affective dimension of human lives. It moves from a consideration of moods, especially as these feature into several of Emerson's essays, to a consideration of sentiments, as they are treated by Peirce, and concludes with tones. At the center of this article, there is an attempt to bring into focus some of the most important connections among moods, sentiments, and tones. The ephemeral and variable character of moods is contrasted to the abiding and integrated character of sentiments in Peirce's sense. The article concludes with a discussion of tone in general and its bearing on democracy in particular. The topic of tone is first examined in light of James's “The Social Value of the College-Bred” and, then, in that of Duke Ellington's musical experiments in hitting upon the right sound, including the right tone. This is an ongoing experimental and improvisatory process in which “mistakes” are taken up and incorporated into the flow of the music or some other endeavor. “By their tone,” James insisted, “are all things human either lost or saved.” This text is dedicated to showing the contemporary relevance of James's claim.

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