Colloquium 1

The Role of Emotions in Aristotelian Virtue

in Proceedings of the Boston Area Colloquium in Ancient Philosophy
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Colloquium 1

The Role of Emotions in Aristotelian Virtue

in Proceedings of the Boston Area Colloquium in Ancient Philosophy


1. See Part II, Article 52 of The Passions for some suggestion that Descartes is himself treading the path taken by Aristotle in the Rhetoric. I am grateful to Dan Robinson for guidance on this point, and in general, for insightful, critical com- ments on an earlier draft of this essay.

2. For contemporary cognitive views of the emotions in experimental psychol- ogy literature, see Averill 1974, 1976; Frijda 1986; Lazarus 1966; Parrott and Sabini 1989. For philosophical accounts, see Davis 1987, 1988; de Sousa 1987; Gordon 1987; Greenspan 1988; Lyons 1980; Roberts 1988; Solomon 1973. A sig- nificant contribution to the discussion comes from psychoanalytic object rela- tions theorists. For an excellent review of the field, see Greenberg and Mitchell 1983.

3. Martha Nussbaum develops the idea of a eudaimonistic conception of emo- tion in her Gifford lectures on the emotions delivered in Edinburgh, Spring 1993. 4. So Aristotle tells us ethical inquiry makes claims that hold only for the most part (cm io -noX-6), leaving time and effort as co-partners of the process: EN 1094b19-27; 1098a22.

5. See Skinner 1953. Also Arnold 1960; Frijda 1986, 71: "'Action tendency' and 'emotion' are one and the same thing." 6. In this regard, there is similarity between behaviorism's push outward and the classical Freudian notion of the release of drive, though Freud was by no means offering a behavioral account that reduced the mental to outward movement.

7. The notion of appraisal occurs in contemporary cognitivist psychology liter- ature as well; see Arnold 1960; Frijda 1986; Lazarus 1966.

8. For contemporary warnings against a strict judgmentalist account of emo- tion, see Greenspan 1988; Davis 1988; Stocker 1987.

9. See also MA 703b5ff. where Aristotle says that an arousal response, such as palpitation or an erection, may be caused by phantasia without the command of thought. Aristotle's point is that such arousals are not voluntary actions. In the De Anima he seems to want to say they are not emotions, either. 10. The term "phantasia" appears at 1382a21-3 in the definition of fear (see also EN 1149a30 in the definition of anger), but the Rhetoric definitions of the other emotions rely on verbal forms of

12. Although the Stoics speak of melancholia regularly. 13. Some psychoanalytically oriented researchers have speculated that these emotions are "unconscious" in part because they are originally stored in memo- ry prerepresentationally or at least prelinguistically. See Greenspan 1989.

14. Greenspan 1988. Here we might also want to put conditions such as panic syndrome which some researchers regard as chemical disturbances lacking (at least at moments of onset) even indefinite, intentional focus. 15. E.g., at 1378a30; at 1378 bl.

16. For the syllogism as representing the "movers" of desire and belief, see DA 433a9, MA 7OObl9. Accordingly at MA 701a25 Aristotle refers to the major premise as the premise of the "good" and the minor premise as the premise of the "possible". Cf. EN VIL3 for the idea of the major and minor premises as "universal" and "particular." For a detailed discussion, see Sherman 1989, ch.3. 17. Contrast Wittgenstein's remarks here: "When I am angry about some- thing, I sometimes beat on the ground or against a tree with my cane. But I do not for that matter believe that the earth is guilty or that beating is of any help. I ventilate my anger. And all rituals are of this sort" (quoted in Solomon 1983). 18. I recently read in the paper that when Jerry Brown was asked by a sup- porter to autograph a picture of him in which Clinton also appeared, he first scratched out Clinton's face! 19. The example is Rosalind Hursthouse's (1991).

20. Hursthouse 1991. Dan Robinson has suggested that the case of my kissing my son is no different from the standard thirst-slaking case, and so does not challenge the practical syllogism model. If I kiss my son as an habitual mode of gratification, then the "because" is answered by the pleasure the action secures. My point is that kissing or tousling hair is, in some cases, not in order to secure pleasure or in order to express affection. Instead, in these cases, the action expresses the emotion rather than instrumentally achieves some good.

21. See Solomon 1973, 1984 for an attack on this position, and critiques of Solomon in Roberts 1984 and Gordon 1988; see also Peters 1962. Solomon's argument accepts the inference that if emotions are passive, then they must be involuntary. His solution is to deny the premise. Emotions, he argues, are not passions but kinds of actions. As actions, they are within the domain of our responsibility. Gordon and Roberts deny that passivity entails involuntarism. This is essentially Aristotle's position.

22. Absent in this discussion is any notion of constitutional differences of tem- perament. Contrast Pol. VIII where there is discussion of different emotional temperaments, notably along class lines. 23. See EN VIII.12 and Pol. IL1 for a sketch of the development of the attach- ment relation in natural philip, and my discussion in Sherman 1989, chs. 4 and 5. Aristotle interestingly includes as a part of the EN account the idea that chil- dren's love for parents requires the development of intentional capacities for focusing on objects: "children love their parents only after time has elapsed and they have acquired understanding or perception" (1161b25-8). On developmen- tal remarks about intentionality and the discrimination of objects, see. Meta. 980a20-27, Ph. 184bll-12, Poet. 1448b4-12, Rh. 1371blO. It may be, as some researchers now think, that intentional capacities for discriminating objects are originally connected with the formation of object ties to parents ( Shapiro and Stern 1989).

24. Nussbaum 1987.

25. This is Aristotle's point at EN 1103a14-18: character excellence depends upon habituation and experience, not abstract, intellectual instruction (Ôtôa(J1((X.Â. iaç).

26. A version of this paper was presented at Brown University, under the aus- pices of the Boston Area Colloquium in Ancient Philosophy. Earlier versions were presented at NEH summer institutes at Eastern Kentucky University and Rogers State University. My thanks to members of those seminars as well as to Alisa Carse, Wayne Davis, Alfonso Gomez-Lobo, Paula Gottlieb, and Dan Robinson.

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