Chapter 5 Emotions and Rationality in the Timaeus (Ti. 42a-b, 69c-72e)

In: Emotions in Plato
Olivier Renaut
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Taking Timaeus 42a-b and 69c-72e as a starting point, this paper claims that emotions are rational in Plato only in a derivative sense. First, what we call “emotions” are, in the Timaeus, a complex state not only of “mind”, but of the compound “body and soul”, or, rather of the “incarnate soul”; in this sense, they are non-rational for they derive from necessity. Second, in the framework of a psycho-physiological account, emotions are, prima facie, irrational affections, insofar as they may prevent reason from working properly. Third, it is true, however, that there are some emotions that actually help the reason to command, but the cognitive dimension that is commonly found within emotions comes from a distinct and separate power, δόξα, that makes these emotions display a kind of derivative “rationality”. With such a psycho-physiological explanation, the Timaeus can better explain how to rationalize our actions and ways of being through these intermediate states, by bypassing the apparently natural process that goes from sense-perception to what is found pleasant or painful and by giving these emotions their proper (though extrinsic) object of value.

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