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79 4 Beginnings Desire, Judgment, and Action in Aristotle and the Stoics If there is a single aspect of modernity that sets it apart from classical and Scholastic thought, it is the supposition that the spheres of human knowledge and human action, theoretical and practical rationality, are fundamentally distinct and possibly altogether unrelated. Such a partitioning of the order of fact from that of value and of cognition from willing, which eventually finds its consummate expression in Hume’s Treatise, is also remarkable because it strips the emotions—that is, those states wherein the will is said to manifest itself—of any cognitive dimension. Beginning with Hobbes and continuing in the work of his empiricist and pessimist heirs, the sources of action are considered purely appetitive, emotive, and (so it is premised) of fundamentally irrational, somatic provenance. How, then, are we to assess modernity’s disjunctive view of will and intellect without finding ourselves constrained by its intellectual legacies—for example, voluntarism, empiricism, radi­ cal skepticism, associationism, scientific determinism, behaviorism? Quite possibly the only available safeguard here is to reconstruct the genesis of the modern will by tracing various conceptual shifts, transpositions, and translations as these occur both within a single philosophical tradition and, more typically, between different social and intellectual cultures. Central to the project of critically retrieving, rather than merely inventorying, an intellectual tradition is thus charting its genesis before it understood itself as a tradition. 80 rational appetite In this regard, a first question has to be how it came to pass that the will would eventually come to be appraised as the inscrutable and non-cognitive causality that Hobbes bequeathed his successors. Related to that question is the further peculiarity that seventeenth-century rationalism (whose origins we shall find to reach back into the early fourteenth century) locates the source of will and action in an equally noncognitive and discontinuous emotion, Hobbes’s “last appetite,” Locke’s “uneasiness,” Hume’s “passion”—which is to say, in some mental state allegedly incapable of selfawareness and thus impervious to philosophical conceptualization. Any alternative conception of human agency and personhood—viz., as endowed with the potential for self-awareness and with the ontological fact of its ethical responsibility—will thus have to examine how a highly differentiated vocabulary covering desire, emotion, and those qualia whereby such states attain phenomenological distinctness for consciousness prepared the ground for the formation of the early Christian conception of the will as “free choice.” If, as has often been argued, pre-Christian thought did not have a concept of the will, the reason for that state of affairs has to be sought in the ancient Greeks’ starkly different model of the emotions and their subtle interplay with human cognition. Even so, Aristotle in particular expended much thought and energy on articulating a mental faculty concerned with deliberate choosing (prohairesis ) that significantly anticipates the modern idea of the will.1 Still, it was only by attempting to translate and appropriate a uniquely differentiated psychological vocabulary that Roman and early Christian thought was able to articulate a coherent and enduring conception of human agency. So as to understand how the notion of the will, understood as a form of rational commitment, arose out of the confluence of several Aristotelian and Stoic concepts, an archeology of the relationship between emotion, desire, and cognition in Aristotle is in order. It is in the Rhetoric that Aristotle explores the status of the emotions (ta pathē) most directly, primarily because he understands rhetoric to be principally concerned with “deliberate choice” or “judgment” (prohairesis) and, concurrently, because in targeting the emotions rhetoric shows them to have a direct bearing on judgment. If one leaves aside the question of factual proof, Aristotle notes, “there are three things which inspire confidence in the orator’s own character … good sense [phronēsis], excellence [aretē], and goodwill [eunoia]” (Rhetoric, 1378a 8–9). Specifically the last of these, “goodwill,” prompts Aristotle to ponder further the relation of the passions to judgment as evinced by both the orator and the audience seeking to appraise his character: “Emotions are all those feelings that so change men as to affect their judgments , and that are also attended [or “followed” = ἕπετα] by pain [λύπη] or pleasure 1. See Arendt, who argues for prohairesis as “the precursor of the Will” (Life of the Mind, 2:62). Beginnings 81 [ἡδονή]. Such are anger, pity, fear, and the like, with their opposites.”2 Of strategic importance for our discussion here is the relation of the emotions...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780268158200
Related ISBN
9780268038403
MARC Record
OCLC
860943773
Pages
728
Launched on MUSE
2013-10-21
Language
English
Open Access
No
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