I have found that evolutionary neurology has something to say on this subject. However, I must also stipulate that the knowledge of the evolution of our nervous system and its affect on our emotions does not change the fact that the emotions are very real and important in defining who we are on a personal and interpersonal level.
In short, "gut" feelings came first (enteric nervous system), followed by more complex feelings involving heighted breething or increased heart rate (reptilian brain), followed by a sense of perturnatural attachment and affection (mamallian brain or limbic system), followed ultimately by the neocortex which provides me the ability to model and analyze my emotions.
The Paradox of Reason and Emotion
The effect of this is that when we "feel" emotions, our central nervous system is responding to the output of the various "lower" nervous systems while our neocortex is trying to understand what the sum total emotion is that results from these "feelings". This would then seem consistent with Athenian's intuition of there being 'higher' and 'lower' emotions, with the 'higher' emotions being abstractions of the neocortex (and thus distinctly human) and 'lower' emotions being more animal-like in quality.
That's the way I look at it anyway.