Big Books of American Literature: Alchemies of Mind
Day 19: Tuesday, March 28, 2006

(Anne's notes on)
Amelie Rorty's mini-lecture on the history of the passions and emotions

(like a 20-minute "history of art," showing every slide for 1 second apiece,
to illustrate a pattern, with continuity:
the transformation of the conception of passion )

on teaching ethics in China: "English majors got the idea of multiple perspectives"

many different words for emotions: feelings/passions/sentiments-> not an actual "class"


"pathos"/passion a metaphysical (and physical) principle that pervades the cosmos
something that "comes from the outside," "deflecting" or "distracting" the doer
"receptivities from somewhere else"
virtue="passion management" =knowing what to do with the passions you get/learning how to use them well
every creature is subject to them/can't erase them
passions are invasions: recognize them as responses to something that is not really you
Stoics a mistake to think that they tried to suppress the passions
they took from Aristotle the notion that wisdom & virtue consist in understanding our condition/situation/place in the universe
the "essential you" is not someone who loses a friend (for instance),
but a mind capable of understanding the inevitability of mortality
in this approach, passions disappear
the Stoics knew we form attachments; they recognized that it's not surprising we grieve
but rather than wallowing in it, we can say "how interesting"
analogy to a bad cold: you catch it/take note that you are "the kind of body capable of infection"
you "don't suffer the flu, because you understand it"
you are active in relation to it: you think about it/investigate it
the Stoics were extremely elitist; they didn't think most people were properly constituted to follow their recommendations for development of mind
(for the masses, they offered the alternative of rituals)
for the select, they recommended the disciplines of logic, math and science
here is where passion acquired a huge, negative role (="bad press")
the passion of Christ was his suffering
Christianity picked up from Aristotle and Plato the idea of passion as a "deflection from the natural course," a diminuition or suffering
what was different here was that Christ was wiling to undergo this suffering to save us all
passion was now analytically connected with suffering:
it became a good and noble thing to undertake for others, a "new way to be active"
Christians were like the Stoics, in presenting ways to deal with/use pain
it was "not outside character"
the germ of this came from Aristotle:
what you had to deal with came from yourself, emerged from your nature
the Stoics recognized the dangerous force of bad habits
and the importance of using rationality to understand one's emotions
not to do so was to be contaminated and destroyed by a reliance on reflex
there was a tremendous emphasis here on early education
what does real education consist of?
what is inside us? what is outside?
where are the passions located?


human beings as compounds of mind and body
(cf. Aristotle: organisms with passions)
passions still come from the outside, but the outside is now one's own body
Stoics saw us as basically mind, and passions as ideas in the mind, perceptions that come from the body
the virtues were a special class of "functional" passions
Descartes has received much bad press for loathing the passions & the body,
but what he argues was that we depend on the passions for good or ill
we would not take care of the body except for these clues
the mind is physician to the body, performing self assessments of reactions
Spinozathere are not two different substances interacting,
but every experience is registered in two ways, as mental and physical
("think of double-entry bookkeeping")
these are one and the same thing, described in two different vocabularies
Spinoza was in some way a Stoic, arguing that we should recognize our place in the universe
we are bodies; our experiences are mere causes and effects, passions are just affects
wisdom is being able to transform the diagnosis of this condition from passive to active,
learning to understand how all experience is connected to all other experience, how it expresses the universe
the trick (when, for instance, one is writhing in pain from cancer) is to understand that this is an expression of what one is: a collection of growing cells
recognizing that "cancer is you, a part of the world," you become active-- & you are free
you act from your nature/express your essence/identify with it (as a fast growth of cells)
there is no space for your wanting to be otherwise
consider, for instance, the phenomenon of love,
which involves the idea of someone else enhancing you
attached to you, they bring out the best in you
this makes you dependent on them
you don't realize the extent to which you have chosen this object, and so made yourself passive
rather than think of this person as the thing that enhances you, think of him as the "last little quiver in the big causal sequence that is the universe"
what enhances you is the totality of the world
this world view allows room for the intellectual love of God,
as an understanding of the structure of the beautifully organized, intimately connected cosmos, of which you (and your lover) are just expressions
the action here is one of transforming the "invasion"into appropriation
it is a "refusal to think victim, to use it as a banner"
Hume emergence of a new word (following "passion," then "affect"): "emotion"
e-motion -> thing from which you move
the mind is static; emotions motivate us
Hume also introduced a special class of passions, the sentiments (=Descartes' good passions)
these are "not responses to an invasion, but dispositional habits," all kinds of moral attitudes/habits of responses that are well to develop
Rousseauoffered a critique of modern society, which cripples our self-sufficiency, makes us dependent on mutuality
fashioning ourselves to please another, we become dependent, not free
we manipulate ourselves to preserve cooperation
how to regain our autonomy?
from the social contract, we become legislators and subjects @ the same time
we develop the aspect of self that is free and autonomous
but Rousseau had a terrible story to tell: that women can't be citizens
it's based on a view of early childhood (=Dewey, Montessori), that healthy development requires megaattention in the first six years
the child needs 1 person to form an attachment bond, totally committed to their welfare
that person (the mother) does not think as a citizen, but focuses on the family
once her mind is formed by such habits, she can't switch
how to answer this concern? by dropping these ideas abt. early childhood
it's an empirical question: that no real self-reliance can develop, without special attention early on, is a theory of psychological development that will need to be changed
Freud "the man who has been loved by his mother will be invulnerable for the rest of his life"
autonomy=capacity to differentiate from the group
a strong citizen is one capable of thinking for himself
the irony here is that Rousseau himself was both an orphan and the father of many orphans (whom he abandoned)
"he was raised by books"
was Hester a great mother (in these terms) to Pearl?
"Why did you stop working on the passions?"
"I got bored with the philosophical controversies": Are they cognitions, or just connected to them?
Are they judgments (as per Bob Solomon)?
(If so, judgments about what?)
Are they evaluations?
Are they always felt?
Are they good/bad/neither/both?
Are they connected to morality?
(I.e: do you have to feel them, to be moral?)
Philosophy won't answer such questions. It's dumb to raise them.
We don't know what we are talking about, when we raise them;
different answers will result from different definitions of the terms.

Why not offer a useable, if arbitrary, idea to work with??
But if you have one definition, & I have another...then what??
If you define one very small set, what of all the counter examples that don't fit the set..?

(What is Amelie working on now?
A defense of ambivalence....:)

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