Abstract

ABSTRACT:

In An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Locke is of two minds when it comes to human emotion. On the one hand, our passions represent an innate sensing faculty, given to us by "the infinite Wise Author of our being," for interpreting the intrinsic good and evil in things. On the other hand, feelings like love and hate, joy and sorrow are the end product of rational cognition, whereby we determine the meaning of an initial, provoking "uneasiness." This article argues that Locke's paradox provides important insight for reading the passions in eighteenth-century discourse. It presents close readings of essays on the passions from The Spectator to demonstrate a fundamental difference between Addison and Steele that can be traced to An Essay's self-contradiction. Close attention to Steele's essays on grief reveal a significant move away from The Spectator's dominant role of training readers to rectify their passions, encouraging them, instead, to bear witness to the "pleasing Perplexities" of affective intensity. Addison and Steele's divergent positions, via Locke, reflect a cautiously negotiated, and conflicted, conversation taking place in the eighteenth century regarding the nature, function, and value of the passions.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1935-0201
Print ISSN
0193-5380
Pages
pp. 449-467
Launched on MUSE
2018-01-30
Open Access
No
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