This paper reflects the research and thoughts of a student at the time the paper was written for a course at Bryn Mawr College. Like other materials on Serendip, it is not intended to be "authoritative" but rather to help others further develop their own explorations. Web links were active as of the time the paper was posted but are not updated.
Big Books Home
2006 Fourth Web Report
philosophizing, economizing...and Big Books?
Name: Anne Dalke (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: 03/28/2006 13:23
Link to this Comment: 18714
We are hosting two visitors this week: We were given a "mini-lecture on the philosophical history of the passions and emotions" by Amelie Rorty this morning; on Thursday we'll be having a discussion w/ David Ross about "rational choice and economic behavior." Please post here your anticipatory and reflective comments, and/or musings on the relevance, to the BigBooks, of all this philosophizing and economizing....
wise words of Aristotle
Name: Hester Prynne (email@example.com)
Date: 03/30/1652 12:03
Link to this Comment: 18743
Looking forward to this weekend, and the opportunity it will afford me to sit alone in my room, sew, and think about all I've done wrong this week, I wanted to talk a moment first and reflect on Amelie Rorty's lecture concerning the history of emotion.
It seems to me that Aristotle said it right, recognizing passions as an invasion. We have a soul, an original self that is pure, and right, and the passions that strike us do just that; attack, violently, and from the outside. In this way, all passions are the same, whether it is the passion for hurting another person, or the passion for... say... sewing. Like all other joys, I reject it as sin. But when the urge comes to you, or a flare of creativity, the desire, the need, to burning passion to sit down with your needle comes upon you, it is obscenely hard to resist.
But we must do just that to have virtue, as Aristotle recognized. Sewing is but one example in a world filled with temptation after temptation. Though we cannot erase our desires, there is no excuse for not learning how to manage the passions, to suppress them until we no longer have to hear them. If, perchance, we are so successful at this suppression, that we no longer know ourselves, that is, sadly, the price we pay. If we do not succeed in deflecting our pathos, then the punishment is ours to bear.
Now I'll dive into Huck Finn! It's about time we heard from some children in this course, many, I find, are wise beyond their years, beyond what we give them credit for.
saying "how interesting!"
Name: Roger Chillingworth (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: 03/30/1652 15:21
Link to this Comment: 18745
Honestly folks, I do not know why everyone was so enamored with this Rorty woman. Clearly she is hiding something. I saw through her "cute old Jewish grandmother" guise within seconds of her entering the room. No one else could see there are secrets there?
She did, however, do a fair job of explaining some of the crackpot theories of emotion, as well as one of the few grains of truth I've heard this semester. The stoics, it is so clear to me, are one of the few groups of philosophers who understand the proper way of dealing with emotion.
It is true, as they say, that we, as human beings, are relationship forming beings. We may, (though we are likely to later regret it), bond with other human beings, through marriage, friendship, or some other, perhaps inappropriate relationship. Intimacy is not to be discouraged. But there is a step further: what we do and how we behave when these relationships invariably go wrong.
Grief is inevitable, but rather than suffer that grief, the Stoics are correct: one must use the grief to understand better the secrets of the human heart. Not everyone is suited to this type of investigation, but for those of us who are, it is our duty as human beings with highly developed minds to look inside, deep inside, those around us. When we do this correctly, passions will disappear, and turn into something greater.
the passion of me
Name: the Rev. Arthur Dimmesdale (email@example.com)
Date: 03/30/1652 22:58
Link to this Comment: 18746
I know, I know, no one will be surprised by this. Dimmesdale sides with the Christians again. Didn't he cry enough at the end of UTC? you'll all say. And now here he is again, going on and on about the "Christian" thing to do. Well sorry guys, but that's what you get when you welcome religion majors into your 19th century literature class.
And can anyone convincingly argue that of all the philosophers Ms. Rorty presented us with in class, can anyone really say that the Christian theories didn't get it most right? Yes, Hester, certainly Aristotle was wise in recognizing passion as a deflection from the natural course. We all know that the wrongs we have done were motivated not from within, but rather forced upon us like shiny-haired, wild-eyed coquettes. And yes, sometimes we give into these passions. But what, I ask, shall we do with this reality? Simply investigate it, as Chillingworth claims? Investigate, sure, but then what?
Christ died for our sins, and in this way we have the modern model of what it is to be active in emotions and passion. The way we deal with the emotions presented to us come from ourselves, and we must go beyond virtue, we must be Christ-like in our suffering, taking on the pain of others, suffering for them, understanding their sins and carrying that weight.
I have tried to do that in all of my work and studies. I suffer, believe me I suffer. Probably more than anyone of you can even come close to understanding. I have problems. Big ones. You cannot begin to imagine what I deal with. And I know some of you have some gripes of your own that you think are suffering. I, as the religious leader of this class, want you all to know that I am taking on those passions for you. I live so deep within my dark passion and pain filled soul, you might not even recognize me some days. But it's me alright. Carrying that weight. Don't thank me, please. Just hate me.
mind and body
Name: Pearl Prynne (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: 03/31/1652 0:39
Link to this Comment: 18749
It was such a shock to come in from playing in the new spring sun, bathing on Merion Green, tossing the disc around, to find all of you so serious on the forum. And to find myself in such forceful disagreement!
I just one to throw in my vote for the wise old Descartes. Sure, passions come from outside, claim that, if you all would like. But what, I ask, is the difference between the outside, and ourselves?
We are made up of equal parts mind and body. And the way those parts of ourselves perceive the outside world is fascinating. But we have to accept that Nature, every leaf, stick, drop of water rushing down the creek, every other person out there, is a part of us. The mind deals with the passions that come to us from the body, and the body is a part of everything else.
I refuse to sit in at this computer and argue with you all. It's a warm night; I'm going for a walk. Maybe I'll go read Huck Finn on the moon bench, see what's in the sky tonight.
all of you have interesting points, but there are many of us, and what we say goes
Name: Puritan townspeople of Boston (email@example.com)
Link to this Comment: 18750
All of you are getting at different things, and that is surely interesting to turn over in the marketplace. But enough debate already.
Listen here: passions are evil. Fact. We like Rousseau; the idea that women cannot be citizens is a rather obvious one, but he makes a decent defense of this un-debatable point. And it is important to stress that the example the mother sets for her children in the early years are critical. Which is why we cannot afford to have un-Christian women raising children in our community. (Unless they happen to be amazing seamstresses.)
But Rousseau's idea that we must preserve cooperation, become free and independent, and not fashion ourselves to please each other? Ridiculous. If we are not forming ourselves in comparison to each other, how will we know what is good and what is bad? How will we make clear moral judgments? How will we pass judgment?
Rather, we'd like to embrace only a few sentences of Spinotza, and throw out the rest. There is a totality to everything, and it is to that all encompassing universe, say, us, that individuals are responsible. We are not sure that's exactly what he meant, but most of us think its right enough.
On to Huck Finn. Right away, this boy looks like trouble. He will, we are certain, have to be punished.
| Course Home | Serendip Home |