The Logic and Validity of Emotional Appeal in Classical Greek Rhetorical Theory
What is an Emotion?
by Bryan Register
Date: 1 May 99
Forum: University of Texas at Austin
Copyright: Bryan Register
This is the most philosophical chapter. Here, I examine Aristotle's theory of the emotions. To begin, I look at Aristotle's general psychology from his De Anima . I then move on to consider his comments on the emotions from the Rhetoric . Aristotle's view of mind, I shall try to show, is materialist without being reductionist or eliminativist, and is functionalist broadly construed. The emotions are seen as biologically functional mental phenomena and as fully cognitive.
Section 1: The Structure and Function of the Soul
Aristotle's theory of the emotions has its roots in his philosophy of mind. To fully understand the Rhetoric's theory, then, we must first investigate Aristotle's treatise on psychology, the De Anima . In this work, Aristotle explains the relationship between the soul and the body, the various functions of soul and their hierarchical nature, and the workings of such important faculties as sensation and appetite. The goal of this section is partly exegetical, but will also be to ensure that there is a place for emotions characterized as they are in the Rhetoric .
Aristotle's theory of the soul is an application of the general metaphysical theory propounded in Metaphysics (hereafter M) Books VII and VIII. His endeavor in these books is to understand at the highest level of abstraction and generality the nature of such physical objects as artifacts and, paradigmatically, living organisms. Aristotle says by way of explaining such things that
The substratum is substance and this is in one sense the matter (and by matter I mean that which, not being a 'this' actually, is potentially a 'this'), and in another sense the formula or form (which being a 'this' can be separately formulated), and thirdly the complex of matter and form, which alone is generated and destroyed, and is, without qualification, capable of separate existence... (1042a25-33)
This passage states the central theses of Aristotle's metaphysical account of ordinary physical objects. Such objects are the only things which are, for Aristotle, both ordinarily thought of as substances and also properly regarded as substances. For Aristotle, ordinary physical objects are accounted for by the unity of two theoretical entities which are called matter and form. Matter is the stuff out of which something is made, form is that which the something is.
Aristotle elsewhere employs the example of a bronze sphere. If we ask what it is that the bronze sphere is, the most natural answer would be to look to the structure and/or the function of the thing and say 'A sphere'. A sphere is what it is to be a thing of the kind that the bronze sphere is; it is what the thing functions as. (If one may 'go Heidegger' for a moment, the form of a thing might be the 'what-it-is-to-be' of that thing.) Aristotle links 'form' to 'formula' because a thing is defined through its form. If we ask what it is to be a sphere, the word 'bronze' will not appear in our answer, because something can function as a sphere just as well regardless of what it is made of.
However, though for Aristotle the bronze sphere is first and foremost a sphere, there is no free-floating 'sphereness'. The forms of things cannot exist as anything other than the forms of things . To be real, the form must inform - structure - some thing, which thing must then not be only the form. The stuff which is informed such that a physical object can exist is what Aristotle calls matter. The bronze is the matter of the bronze sphere. Just as there are no free-floating forms, so there is no uninformed matter. Everything, one might say, is something.
Aristotle also wants to use his account elsewhere to explain the development of things. In his biology as in his accounts of conscious creation of artifacts, he talks about the matter being informed by the form. Thus he regards the matter of a thing as not actually the thing, but only potentially the thing. This is why he sometimes refers to matter as 'potentiality', even when it is informed. On the other hand, the thing's form is what the thing actually is, and so he calls form 'actuality'.
Such a metaphysical account stresses the explanatory power of the structure of things, while refusing to reify these structures into independent objects. It thus avoids both the materialist error (in Democritus) of ignoring higher-level structural features of objects in favor of explanations found only at the material level, and the idealist error (in Plato) of treating the structural explanatory principles of things as independent objects.
When applied to psychology, that Democritean error consists of materialist eliminations of mind in favor of matter, while the Platonic error consists dualistic constructions of independent souls with only a happenstance attachment to a body. Since Aristotle avoids these errors in the most general way, he avoids them more specifically as well.
For Aristotle, there is no tension between the principles which make things understandable - forms - and the stuff which makes things be at all - matter. The two are utterly unified and the distinction between them is only made in analysis. Aristotle concludes by pointing out that "to ask the cause of their being one is like asking the cause of unity in general; for each thing is a unity, and the potential and the actual are somehow one." (1045b19-22) To ask why a thing is what it is must typically be to ask "How did it get that way?"; it makes no sense to ask "How does the structure of the thing stick to the stuff that makes up the thing?" This is Aristotle's justly famous 'hylomorphic doctrine'.
The first book of the De Anima (hereafter DA) canvasses Aristotle's philosophic antecedents; it does not put forward many of Aristotle's own thoughts. Aristotle's own philosophy of mind begins in Book II, where he immediately makes reference to the principles of M:
We say that substance is one kind of what is, and that in several senses: in the
sense of matter or that which is not a this, and in the sense of form or essence, which is that precisely in virtue of which a thing is called a this, and thirdly in the sense of that which is compounded of both. (412a6-9)
He is also swift to distance himself from anything like the Platonic position on the nature of mind: "Now given that there are bodies of such and such a kind, viz., having life, the soul cannot be a body, for the body is the subject or matter, not what is attributed to it." (412a17-20) For Plato, even at his best, soul was still a thing very different from the body which was not naturally connected to the body. Plato's vision of the soul was always as a separate, independent object, but separation and independence are marks of substance.
Aristotle, though, takes the soul to be the principle of the life of living things. His concern is to explain organisms. He writes that "Of natural bodies some have life in them, others not; by life we mean self-nutrition and growth and decay. It follows that every natural body which has life in it is a substance in the sense of a composite." (412a13-16) The argument would appear to be that, since some objects live and some do not, the difference between these two kinds of objects must be that some possess the life-principle and others do not. Thus those which are alive are composites of what they share with non-living things - matter - and what is unique to them - the form in virtue of which they live. Thus they are substances in the sense of M: combinations of form and matter. Aristotle concludes that "The soul must be substance in the sense of the form of a natural body having life potentially within it. But substance is actuality, and thus soul is the actuality of a body thus characterized." (412a20-22) Aristotle is saying that a living organism is composed of, on the one hand, its matter, which is its body, and on the other hand, its form, which is its soul. The body is actually alive only in virtue of being structured by the soul; this is why the soul is the 'actuality' of the organism.
Since soul, then, is only the form or structure of a physical object, it is not capable of transcending the physical world. (Aristotle does Platonically allow for the separateness and immortality of certain components of the human soul, but this does not distort the vast bulk of his analysis or in a way with which we are concerned.) Soul is not a separate substance which is externally related to the body, but is rather the organizing principle of body (and not just human bodies either; anything alive has a soul, as we will see). Aristotle notes that "...we can dismiss as unnecessary the question whether the soul and body are one: it is as though we were to ask whether the wax and its shape are one, or generally the matter of a thing and that of which it is the matter." (412b5-8)
Aristotle characterizes life by "self-nutrition and growth and decay". The soul, then, is the capacity or function of self-nutrition and growth, which are forms of goal-directed or teleological action. Aristotle then suggests two explanatory examples. If we take an axe to be analogous to the living organism, then the capacity to cut is its soul. If we take the eye to be analogous to the whole organism, then sight is its soul.
As moderns, we may be confused by the notion that anything other than ordinary mechanical causal processes at the molecular level (or mysterious quantum mechanical processes at the atomic level) might be responsible for the activities of living organisms. Veatch (Veatch, 1974) explains how we may take this:
...in the growth or development of a plant or animal, there is a sense in which it could be said that absolutely no external force can ever make such a thing grow. ...we recognize that, given the necessary conditions, the tree must grow of itself, or on its own. Nor is this to suggest that there is no moving cause or efficient cause, as Aristotle would call it, of the maple tree's growth, but rather that such a cause is not extrinsic or external to the plant thus made to grow, in quite the way in which a corresponding moving cause is from the outside and external to the physical body that it is said to move, or at least to set in motion. (59)
According to Veatch, the soul of a living organism is not something mysteriously non-physical, but rather the capacity of the organism to act in certain ways which other things cannot do, even though these capacities are not in any way exceptions to efficient causality or physical law. They are simply capacities which are unique. To think of Aristotelian souls as somehow ghostlike is analogous (slightly) to thinking that software is somehow ghostlike. Both soul and software are simply the structuring principle and the functioning capacities of the matter which they inform; body and hardware respectively. That which distinguishes organisms from other entities is that the efficient causes of organisms' movements are internal to the organisms and are present only in virtue of the soul, while other entities are moved by efficient causes external to them. A living body may jump off a cliff under its own power, while a non-living entity could only be pushed, but jumping under one's own power will still be explicable in natural, causal terms.
Aristotelian souls have several capacities which are arranged in a hierarchy of functions. He writes that "...soul is the source of these phenomena and is characterized by them, viz., by the powers of self-nutrition, sensation, thinking, and movement." (413b11-12) Plants have only the power of self-nutrition, while animals have the power of sensation. Appetite exists wherever there is sensation, and movement in many such souls. Thinking exists at a yet higher level.
One power of thought, reflective thought, is an exception to the general doctrine of DA. But Aristotle notes that "All the other parts of the soul, it is evident from what we have said, are... incapable of separate existence though, of course, distinguishable by definition." (413b27-29) There are not several different kinds of soul within a single organism; it is not the case that a human being has a nutritive soul and also a distinct sensitive soul and so forth. While we can distinguish between nutrition and sensation even for those organisms which do both, the two functions are both functions of the same body in virtue of the same form or soul.
For Aristotle as we have seen, life means self-nutrition and growth. Thus all living things must possess the nutritive soul, which is the basic living functions. Aristotle notes that "This power of self-nutrition can be separated from the other powers mentioned, but not they from it..." (413a32-33) All other life-functions rest on the basic nutritive life-functions and cannot exist apart from them. "The acts", he says of the nutritive soul, "in which it manifests itself are reproduction and the use of food..." (415a26) The organism reproduces itself so that it can participate in permanence in the only way it can; in the permanence of its kind of organism or in things ensouled the same way it is. Food, on the other hand, "maintains the being of what is fed, and that continues to be what it is so long as the process of nutrition continues. (416b13-14) Eating, then, is how the organism sustains its individual existence, while reproduction is how the organism sustains its kind of existence.
Some organisms exist at a higher level of complexity by possessing the capacity of sensation: "...it is the possession of sensation that leads us for the first time to speaking of living things as animals ; for even those beings which possess no power of local movement but do possess the power of sensation we call animals..."(413b3-4) Aristotle's account of sensation is intriguing and central to his theory of mind.
Aristotle says that "Sensation depends... on a process of movement or affection from without, for it is held to be some sort of change of quality."(416b32-33) But what sort of change of quality? Aristotle explains how the sense-organs work by claiming that "...what has the power of sensation is potentially like what the perceived object is actually; that is, while at the beginning of the process of its being acted upon the two interacting factors are dissimilar, at the end, the one acted upon is assimilated to the other and is identical in quality with it." (418a4-6) The idea is that perceived objects are informed in that they possess certain properties such as redness, loudness, smelliness, tastiness, or hardness. When we have perceptual experience of these properties, the appropriate sense-organ actually acquires the property of the experienced object. Thus, when we see a red patch, our seeing the red just is the changing of the color of our (otherwise colorless) sense organ of sight to red. When we see red, some of the jelly in our eyes literally turns red.
Aristotle makes this into a general account when he says that "Generally, about all perception, we can say that a sense is what has the power of receiving into itself the sensible forms of things without the matter, in the way in which a piece of wax takes on the impress of a signet-ring without the iron or gold..."(424a16-21) The forms of perceptible objects are somehow transmitted into the sense-organ but without their attendant matter, much in the same way that the sculptor transmits from the idea of a statue the form of that statue into her chosen medium, or the father transmits the form appropriate to its species into the young without giving up any of its own matter in the process. The sense-organ's acquisition of the property of the object is the matter of the organism's experience of the object. When the sense-organ acquires the property possessed by the object, that is the organism's awareness of the object, in virtue of the soul of the organism.
While Aristotle's physiology is routinely wrong, one of the most interesting points made by some of the contemporary interpreters of Aristotle is that his account of mind is much like the contemporary approach known as functionalism, in which mind is treated as a set of functions and something has a mind if it is capable of performing those functions. (Cohen 1992, Nussbaum 1978, Nussbaum and Putnam 1992, Putnam 1975; for a dissenting view, Burnyeat 1992) On this view, mind can inhabit a wide variety of different kinds of matter and many different processes might perform the same function. So despite his physiological errors, Aristotle can be right about what happens at the level of soul or function, specifically, about the relationship between different mental functions and the relationship between mind and external reality.
Aristotle argues that "Every body capable of forward movement would, if unendowed with sensation, perish and fail to reach its end, which is the aim of Nature; for how could it obtain nutriment?"(434a32-434b2) Organisms with the locomotive soul, or the capacity for movement, require the faculty of sensation for their proper function. If the organism possessed the faculty of movement, Aristotle is reasoning, this must be because it is necessary for the organism to have this faculty to fulfill its proper function. Thus any moving organism will be able to flourish - this will minimally mean eating - only if it can succeed in moving. But motion can be successful in the sense of bringing the organism closer to its goal only if the organism has the discriminative faculty of sensation. Thus only animals can move, and the locomotive soul is hierarchically above the sensitive soul, which is foundational.
The sense of touch is, for Aristotle, not only the most basic but in some sense the most important of all the senses. He goes so far as to say that "While in respect of all the other senses we [human beings] fall below many species of animals, in respect of touch we far excel all other species in exactness of discrimination. That is why man is the most intelligent of all animals."(421a20-22) This is probably not true, but Aristotle nevertheless has several interesting things to say about appetite which are based on the sense of touch.
Every sense but touch has its sense-organ which is potentially what the objects of that sense are actually (as the eye-jelly is potentially colored). Aristotle denies that there is an organ of touch, but he does observe that "...flesh is the medium of touch."(423b26) Aristotle argues that each sense has its organ in the body and its medium which is not bodily; the air is the medium of light and sound, the saliva (water) is the medium of taste. Likewise, the flesh is the medium of touch, though it is not the organ of touch. Thus, while the flesh is not potentially hard or soft or hot or cold, it is still the flesh which is most intimately involved with touch.
Aristotle also points out that "...all animals have at least one sense, viz., touch, and whatever has a sense has the capacity for pleasure and pain and therefore has pleasant and painful objects to it, and wherever these are present, there is desire, for desire is appetition of what is pleasant."(414b3-6) On the one hand this means that appetite rests on sensation but that appetite is a function which, unlike locomotion, is always present when sensation is present. But, on the other hand, it means that, whenever sensation is present, pain and pleasure are present. It must, therefore, be intrinsic to each sense that it can be hurt or pleasured. Why should this be?
Aristotle claims that "...if the movement set up by an object [of perception] is too strong for the [sense-]organ, the form which is its sensory power is disturbed; it is precisely as concord and tone are destroyed by too violently twanging the strings of a lyre."(424a30-32) Very bright lights blind us, very loud sounds deafen us. Too many japaleños, one is sad to note, weaken the sense of taste. The violence of the sensed object breaks down the functionality of the sense-organ. But if the flesh is the medium of touch, and a sensed object - an object in contact with the body - is so violent that it breaks down the coherence of the flesh, the organism will die.
This explains why the senses, and especially the sense of touch, are intrinsically capable of experiencing pain and pleasure and thus give rise, on their own, to appetite. That which tends to break down the structure of the sense-organ is experienced by its organism as painful, and that which tends to break down the structure of the sense-organ which is the bulk of the body of the organism will naturally be the one most prone to yield pain. Contrariwise, pleasure would be experienced when an object is experienced which tends to enhance the functioning of the organism. (This is probably why the most intense appetites are thought to be hunger and sex drive. On Aristotle's account, food sustains the particular organism and reproduction sustains the form of the organism. Since these are the basic life-functions, they will be the basic sources of pleasure and pain.)
We are moving now into the functions of soul which are closest to emotion, which is the target of our investigation. Aristotle has argued that organisms which possess the capacity of motion must possess the discriminative function of sensation. But he also argues that moving organisms must possess the motivational faculty of appetite, and that it is appetite which accounts for animal motion.
Aristotle notes that
These two at all events appear to be sources of movement: appetite and thought (if one may venture to regard imagination as a kind of thinking; for many men follow their imaginations contrary to knowledge, and in all animals other than man there is no thinking or calculation but only imagination).(433a9-12)
The kind of thinking which might originate movement seems to be mental imagery. Aristotle seems to be suggesting that there are two possible sources of motivation or mvoement for living things: imagined future possibilities and the appetite for pleasant things. When Aristotle introduces 'thought' into the motivational picture, he is also narrowing his focus. For Aristotle, only human beings possess the faculty of thought, and so only human motivation can be directed by thought.
Aristotle continues to observe that
Both of these then are capable of originating local movement, thought and appetite: thought, that is, which calculates means to an end, i.e. practical thought...; while appetite is in every form of it relative to an end; for that which is the object of appetite is the stimulant of practical thought; and that which is last in the process of thinking is the beginning of the action.(433a13-18)
The faculties of thought and appetite play off of one another in creating action. Imagination seems to project future possibilities which are desirable. Appetite desires them. Practical thought then reasons backward from the desired future possibility to immediately possible action. Moreover, "...the object of appetite starts a movement and as a result of that thought gives rise to movement, the object of appetite being to it a source of stimulation."(433a19-20) The word 'movement' is ambiguous in this passage. In its first appearance, 'movement' refers to thought. We know this because the phrase 'that thought' refers back to the first instance of 'movement'. In its second appearance, 'movement' refers to the forward movement of the body which is toward the desirable object. The object of appetite also seems to perform two actions: to start a movement (thought) and to be a source of appetite's stimulation. It seems most plausible that these are the same action. The thinking which the object causes and the appetition which it stimulates seem to be the same thing. What is still vague here is what exactly the object is. Aristotle talks sometimes about thought in the sense of practical reasoning, and sometimes of thought in the sense of imagination. In this passage he is talking about thought in the sense of practical reasoning. This ambiguity is probably intentional. Aristotle seems to have in mind two possibilities with regard to the object of desire. The object could be an external thing, or it could be a mental image. In either case, the object would trigger appetite and the person would desire the object, reason backward from its attainment to immediately possible action, and then perform that action.
Aristotle concludes that
That which moves therefore is a single faculty and the faculty of appetite; for if there had been two sources of movement - thought and appetite - they would have produced movement in virtue of some common character. As it is, thought is never found producing movement without appetite..., but appetite can originate movement contrary to calculation, for desire is a form of appetite.(433a22-26)
In this passage, Aristotle seems to be referring to thought only in the sense of practical reasoning, because he refers to it as 'calculation'. The claim here is that appetite is necessary for motivation for movement. Calculation is not capable of proposing ends, only of calculating means. Appetite is more ultimate a motivator than thought.
How should we interpret conflicting desires? Aristotle says that
Since appetites run counter to each other, which happens when a principle of reason and a desire are contrary and is possible only in beings with a sense of time (for while thought holds back because of what is future, desire is influenced by what is just at hand...) it follows that while that which originates movement must be specifically one, viz. the faculty of appetite as such... the things which originate movement are numerically many.(433b5-14)
Aristotle says that reason and desire conflicting is how appetites run counter to each other. Moreover, the reason side of the conflict is future-oriented. His account seems to be as follows. Appetite can desire either perceptually present objects or imagined future possibilities, as we saw earlier. When there is a desire for an imagined possibility, practical reason calculates a causal sequence which will lead to the person's acquisition of the desired possible object. However, as the person pursues the plan, she may be distracted by immediately present desirable objects. It is up to practical reason to hold one on course. But since practical reason is holding one to a long-term object of appetite as opposed to an immediate object of appetite, what appears to be a reason vs. appetite conflict is in reality a conflict between two appetites, one of which is fought for by reason. Aristotle concludes by observing that this means that, though only one human faculty can originate an organism's movement, many external objects can stimulate that faculty.
This implies a fascinating conclusion. Recall that the reason organisms with sensation all have appetite is that the organs of sensation can be damaged and experience that which damages them as painful. Thus appetite is for that which makes the organism and its sense-organs function better, and against that which makes the organism and its sense-organs break down. Note also that appetite is necessary to motivate motion in those organisms which move. Unfortunately, the particular explanation of appetite moving an organism seems to hold only for humans, because it relies on practical reasoning. But what the discussion shows is that appetite, which is not unique to humans, already shows up in us as a faculty which is cognitive in the sense that it identifies beneficial and harmful objects, and necessary for human flourishing in that it is the source of motivation for motion. If the proto-emotional faculty which we share with animals is this sophisticated, what will full-blown emotions be like? And what will be the difference between them?
To find out, we must turn from DA to the Nicomachean Ethics (hereafter NE) for an account of the most developed parts of the human soul. Here, Aristotle begins by asking what is the best mode of being for humans. Since he has argued in DA that the soul is the functionality of the organism, he naturally looks to the different life-functions for the best human function. Since the human function will be unique to humans, the uniquely human parts of the soul will be the ground of the human function. Aristotle thus observes that after this process of elimination "There remains, then, an active life of the element that has a rational principle (of this, one part has such a principle in the sense of being obedient to one, the other in the sense of possessing one and exercising thought)..."(1098a4-5) It looks as the human part - the specifically rational segment unique to humans - of the soul is itself divided into two components. One of these is thought, while the other is ordered by thought. This is a merely superficial appearance, as I shall argue. I take it that the whole human soul, not merely the specifically human features of that soul, can be divided into a rational and an arational element. (These two theses must be carefully distinguished; one of them, Fortenbaugh's, claims that the human function includes an arational element, while the other one which I will defend claims that the human soul - including all its functions - includes arational elements, but that those elements are specifically those not unique to the human function.)
Aristotle explains later that "...one element in the soul is irrational and one has a rational principle."(1102a27-28) and that "Of the irrational element one division seems to be widely distributed, and vegetative in its nature, I mean that which causes nutrition and growth..."(1102a33-34) In NE, Aristotle is developing a human psychology. His new perspective is thus different in focus from DA, which was developing an account of the life-principles of all living things. This is why the nutritive functions are no longer an independent element but have faded and become only a division of the irrational part of the soul. However, this points out something about Aristotle's use of the term 'irrational'. If the vegetative soul of DA is part of the irrational part of the soul, then 'irrational' cannot be pejorative in this context. We usually use the word 'irrational' to mean something which, having had the chance to be rational, failed to take the opportunity. A serial killer is irrational, but an earthquake is not. Neither is a blade of grass, which exhibits the nutritive soul and is hence 'irrational'. Aristotle seems to use 'irrational' to mean only 'arational', not the sort of thing to be capable of rationality or the defect of irrationality.
He continues to speak of the other division by saying that "There seems to be another irrational element in the soul - one which in a sense, however, shares in a rational principle."(1102b13-14) Aristotle is returning to the notion from earlier in NE that the human soul is divided into an obedient part and an intrinsically reasoning part. Now he says that the part which he earlier identified as obedient 'shares in a rational principle', presumably through its obedience, though it is itself not a reasoning function.
The question confronting us is about the nature of this distinction. Is Aristotle merely repeating the distinction between the human and non-human elements of the soul familiar to us from DA, albeit with a different focus? Or is he postulating a new distinction between two elements of the rational part of the soul?
The question is made even more confusing by this passage: "...the irrational element also appears to be two-fold. For the vegetative element in no way shares with reason, but the appetitive and in general the desiring element in a sense shares in it, in so far as it listens to and obeys it..."(1102b29-31) The mystifying part of this claim of Aristotle's is that he says that "the appetitive and in general the desiring element" is the second part of the irrational part of the soul. This wording suggests that desire is the genus of which appetite is a species, while in DA "appetite is the genus of which desire, passion, and wish are the species."(414b2-3); that is, appetite is the genus of which desire is the species. There seems to be a clear contradiction between the two categorizations.
Fortenbaugh (Fortenbaugh 1975) argues that Aristotle is making a totally new distinction, unknown in DA. His argument is based on two passages from NE and it seems to, but does not, solve the problem. I will set up the best case for Fortenbaugh's interpretation that I can. Fortenbaugh treats the contradiction as merely verbal and explains how it can be dealt with:
...scholars have tended to confuse Aristotle's political and ethical psychology [in NE] with his biological psychology familiar to readers of the De Anima . They have tended to assume that the biological distinction between sensation and cognition [thought] corresponds to the political and ethical distinction between logical [rational] and alogical [irrational] halves of the soul. This is unfortunate, for Aristotle does not confuse politics and ethics with biological investigation.(26)
Fortenbaugh suggests that the perspectives of NE and DA are quite different. If the alogical or irrational part of the soul in NE does not correspond exactly to the nutritive and sensitive souls of DA as it seems to, then there can be an extra faculty being introduced in NE which was not present in DA in any way. Such a faculty would be the other part of what NE calls desire; the part which is not appetite. Assuming that 'appetite' means the same thing in DA and NE, we may then guess that 'desire' does not have the same meaning but now means both the kinds of appetite shared by humans and animals and some other motivational faculty which directs human actions which are uniquely human. Thus, 'desire' in NE's (still vague) sense has as one of its parts 'appetite' in DA's sense, which itself has 'desire' in DA's sense as one of its components. The irrational part of the soul has two parts, one of which is the vegetative part and the other of which is the appetite and also the distinctly human faculty of desire. This may be clumsy, but there is nothing confusing if we can simply attend to the apparently different uses of the word 'desire' in the two treatises.
Fortenbaugh's argument relies on the following passage:
That the irrational element is in some sense persuaded by reason is indicated also by the giving of advice and by all reproof and exhortation. And if this element also must be said to have reason, that which has reason also will be twofold, one subdivision having it in the strict sense and in itself, and the other having a tendency to obey [reason] as one does one's father.(1102b33-1103a3)
Fortenbaugh would argue that the appetitive function which humans share with animals is probably not this irrational element which is amenable to reason. It would be odd for animals to have as one of their functions the capacity to have their desires moved by reason, when they do not have the faculty of reason. Aristotle seems to be positing a uniquely human mental function which is similar to animal appetite (even as it appears in humans) but distinct in some as yet unknown way. Fortenbaugh concludes that Aristotle "relates the political and ethical psychology [of NE] to the biological psychology by locating both the alogical and logical halves of the soul with the biological faculty of intelligence [thought]"(Fortenbaugh, 27), in this second passage which is crucial for Fortenbaugh's argument: "There remains, then, an active life of the element that has a rational principle (of this, one part has such a principle in the sense of being obedient to one, the other in the sense of possessing one and exercising thought)..."(1098a4-5) Here, the 'rational principle' seems to mean the uniquely human faculties, so here Aristotle seems to be postulating a uniquely human function which is not itself reason but is merely obedient to reason. This would correspond to the part of NE's 'desire' which does not fit within DA's 'appetite'.
Thus Fortenbaugh's view of the structure and hierarchy of the Aristotelian soul can be shown with this diagram:
|Logical Component||Alogical Component|
|Sensitive Faculty||Appetitive Faculty||Locomotive Faculty|
|above column: NE's 'desire'|
Unfortunately, this picture is not right. There is no alogical part of the rational component of the soul.
We must focus on the four passages discussed above. Consider the first passage: "There seems to be another irrational element in the soul - one which in a sense, however, shares in a rational principle."(1102b13-14) Fortenbaugh might view this passage as confirmatory, but to do so he would have to drop its context. This sentence begins the third paragraph of a four-paragraph discussion of the soul. Two paragraphs back, introducing the discussion, Aristotle says that
...one element in the soul is irrational and one has a rational principle. Whether these are separated as the parts of the body or of anything divisible are, or are distinct by definition but by nature inseparable, like concave and convex in the circumference of a circle, does not affect the present question.(1102a27-32)
Aristotle is making an exhaustive division here between the irrational and rational parts of the soul. We know that this distinction is exhaustive because of the imagery of the comparison to concavity and convexity. Any curve is both concave and convex, depending on one's vantage point, and any curve must be, from a given vantage point, either concave or convex. Concavity and convexity are mutually exhaustive of descriptions of curves at a certain level of abstraction. If the distinction between the irrational and rational parts of the soul is analogous to the distinction between convavity and convexity, then irrational versus rational must be an exhaustive distinction of elements of the soul. On the other hand, since concavity from one perspective is the same as convexity from another, the two are internally related such that neither can exist without the other. Aristotle would not wish to regard the rational faculty as required for the presence of the animal capacities, but his imagery certainly should lead us to believe that, in human beings, the array of capacities are tightly integrated.
The next paragraph, one paragraph before the sentence which might count as evidence for Fortenbaugh, begins "Of the irrational element one division seems to be widely distributed, and vegetative in its nature, I mean that which causes nutrition and growth."(1102a33-34) One part of the irrational part of the soul is the vegetative soul, familiar from DA. One would naturally expect Aristotle to move on to discuss the other part of the irrational part of the soul and say that it is the animal part of the soul. This is exactly what he does in the passage which could have counted as evidence for Fortenbaugh. That passage continues to read "For we praise the reason of the continent man and of the incontinent, and the part of their soul that has reason, since it urges them aright and towards the best objects; but there is found in them also another element beside reason, which fights against and resists it."(1102b14-17) Aristotle is postulating an element of soul which sometimes resists reason. But he also notes of it that "...even this seems to have a share in reason, as we said; at any rate in the continent man it obeys reason..."(1102b25-26)
This leads into two of the other passages which Fortenbaugh relies on. Aristotle begins the next paragraph by noting that: "Therefore the irrational element also appears to be two-fold. For the vegetative element in no way shares with reason, but the appetitive and in general the desiring element in a sense shares in it, in so far as it listens to and obeys it..."(1102b29-31) Aristotle begins this passage with the word 'therefore', suggesting that he is inferring a conclusion. The previous three paragraphs, presumably, are the premises for the inference. Those paragraphs had distinguished between the rational and irrational parts of the soul, and had listed two parts of the irrational part: the vegetative part, and the part which sometimes strains against reason but which can be brought in line with reason. The most natural interpretation of this passage would be that Aristotle is merely repeating the two-fold distinction of the irrational part of the soul familiar to us from DA. The only thing standing in the way of this interpretation is the passage "appetitive and in general the desiring element" and the fact that this passage contradicts the usage of DA, in which desire is a species of, not the genus of, appetite.
There are at least four reasons why we should not interpret this passage the way Fortenbaugh does; three which explain how we can help but interpret as Fortenbaugh does, one which shows that we must not interpret as Fortenbaugh does. First, Aristotle may have been varying words without varying reference. The appetite is a certain component of soul, and if we ask what part of the soul is the desiring part, we will answer 'appetite'. Thus, to say 'appetitive and in general the desiring element' is to refer to the same component of soul twice, with a confusing rhetorical flourish. It is rather like saying "Leftists and socialists in general"; socialists are simply being identified with leftists in a peculiar way. Second, we need not even agree that Aristotle is speaking of appetite and desire. Leighton (1982) says of this passage that Aristotle is speaking of "hormai, impulses... [which] seem to be available to reason..."(173) The problem with the NE passage is not that it is confusing on its own, but only that it is confusing in light of the DA passage which seems to contradict it. Slightly distinct translations of terms might yield an apparent contradiction which does not at all exist in the original. Third, we might guess that Aristotle - or the student(s) whose lecture notes we are reading - simply reversed the words 'desire' and 'appetite'. Surely this is a more obvious way to bring the text in line than to propose that Aristotle is making a crucial new distinction in the soul without saying so, naming the new distinction, or doing any of the preparatory work which he ordinarily does for such things. The fourth and really persuasive consideration is that to believe that this passage introduces a new component of soul is to believe that Aristotle is smuggling in a new element of soul without even bothering to say so. In DA Aristotle is very clear whenever he speaks of an element of soul. Thus, in light of the fact that there is a natural reading which only this apparent contradiction could prevent us from making, and since there are at least three ways of explaining away this contradiction, we should revert to the simplest reading.
This leaves only one contrary passage: "There remains, then, an active life of the element that has a rational principle (of this, one part has such a principle in the sense of being obedient to one, the other in the sense of possessing one and exercising thought)..."(1098a4-5) Aristotle is narrowing in on the function of a human being and is claiming here that it is activity not according to the vegetative or animal souls as such, but according to the rational soul. The rational soul, he apparently suggests, has two parts: a natively rational part, and a derivatively rational part. However, in the passages just discussed, Aristotle claims that the appetitive component of the animal soul is subject to the commands of the rational part. In virtue of this special relationship, the appetite "shares in reason". There is no reason to believe that Aristotle is suggesting a different relationship in the present passage. Rather, he is claiming that the human function is a life according to the rational part of the soul and the appetitive part insofar as it shares in reason.
That this is the correct interpretation is also suggested by another passage of NE wherein Aristotle explains that virtue - proper human functioning - has to do with how one feels about one's actions. He writes, "...if the excellences [virtues] are concerned with actions and passions, and every passion and every action is accompanied by pleasure and pain, for this reason also excellence will be concerned with pleasure and pain."(1104b13-15) The tone suggests that Aristotle is affirming the conclusion based on the premises. This means that he must accept the inference and the truth of the premises, which claim that virtue is concerned with passion, which involves pleasures and pains. But pleasures and pains are the results of sensation and appetite. Thus Aristotle is suggesting that, when we have identified the proper human function (the function of the rational animal) is will include the sensitive and appetitive part of the soul because that part of the soul shares in reason.
The proper understanding of the organization of the soul, then, is shown in this diagram (which is, of course, similar to the previous one):
|Sensitive Faculty||Appetitive Faculty||Locomotive Faculty|
The nutritive faculty is the basic faculty. A higher level of development is the sensitive faculty, which brings with it the appetitive faculty and, sometimes, the locomotive faculty. The highest level of development is the rational faculty, which is singular.
Section 2: Aristotle's Theory of Emotions
The discussion of the emotions in Rhetoric Book 2, chapters 1-11, are the most in-depth discussion of emotions in the Aristotelian corpus and provide a theory of the emotions which is both rich and plausible. This section will explain Aristotle's account of emotions and put it in the context of his wider metaphysical and psychological theories.
Aristotle defines the emotions as "those things through which, by undergoing change, people come to differ in their judgments and which are accompanied by pain and pleasure..."(1378a21-22; all citations from the Rhetoric , hereafter R, will use the line number from the Barnes edition, but are taken from the Kennedy edition). We will analyze this definition, using examples from his discussions of particular emotions. But Aristotle continues to explain that
There is need to divide the discussion of each emotion into three headings. I mean, for example, in speaking of anger, what is their state of mind when people are angry and against whom are they usually angry, and for what sort of reasons ; for if we understood one or two of these but not all, it would be impossible to create anger [in someone].(1378a22-28, square brackets inserted by Kennedy)
Aristotle is suggesting that all emotions consist of at least three elements, and that an understanding of these three elements constitutes an understanding of the emotion, at least for the purposes of a theory of rhetoric. But there is no obvious correspondence between the definition of emotion and the three constituents of emotions. Thus there are six points to analyze in detail: from the definition, the notion of judgment, change of judgment, and pleasure and pain, and from the three constituents, the state of mind, object, and reason for the emotion.
Let us begin with pleasure and pain. As we saw in analyzing DA, the faculty of pleasure and pain emerges with sensation, which is a fully embodied mode of awareness. Pain is experienced when objects of perceptual awareness impinge on the sense-organ with sufficient violence to break down the structure of the sense-organ. Pleasure, presumably, is experienced when objects interact with the organism in such a way as to enhance the success of its vital functions. When the sense in question is touch, which uses the flesh as its medium, then objects which cause pain threaten the very survival of the organism. If emotions involve pleasure and pain, then, they are involved with the proper functioning of the organism. Moreover, they will be fully physical. This point is also made near the beginning of DA:
...a physicist would define an affection of soul differently from a dialectician; the latter would define e.g. anger as the appetite for returning pain for pain, or something like that, while the former would define it as a boiling of the blood or warm substance surrounding the heart. The one assigns the material conditions, the other the form or account...(403a29-403b2)
Though Aristotle is being casual with the particular accounts proposed here, we may take it that he is proposing the structure of the accounts seriously. Thus anger has some formal and some material account, and the material account would be something like the boiling of the blood. This is similar to the account of perception explained in the last section, wherein the sense-organ taking on the form of its object just is the subject being aware of that object. Likewise, here, it seems that the boiling of the blood just is the anger of the subject, though to not proceed past the physiological explanation to the psychological would be incomplete.
Moreover, as we saw in the last section, pleasure and pain are involved with appetite, which is motivationally necessary for an organism's pursuit of the goals necessary for its proper functioning. So when Aristotle says that emotions involve pleasure and pain, he is tying them to motivation and the proper functionality of the organism. Martha Nussbaum points out that "Emotion is a subclass of orexis " which is "reaching out, or desire." (Nussbaum 1996, p. 306) In virtue of being pleasure and/or pain, an emotion takes a goal of some kind; if a pain, the goal is the termination of the painful fact; if a pleasure, the deeper or more extended enjoyment of the pleasant fact. (Aristotle's account is quite sophisticated with regard to the involvement of pleasure and pain; he does not regard the two as mutually exclusive in a single emotion. Anger, for instance, is pain at the slight done one, but is simultaneously pleasure at the prospect of vengeance. But typically an emotion will be either painful or pleasurable.)
Aristotle's theory of emotion, then, by making emotions involve pleasure and pain, claims that emotions are embodied, analogous to sense-perception, and motivationally necessary. But in what way do emotions involve pleasure and pain? Leighton notes that "The pleasure or pain is part of the concept of the emotion; neither is separable from the emotion. For each emotion type there is a type of pleasure or pain peculiar to that emotion. They complete the emotion." (Leighton 1982, p. 157) Fear, shame, pity, indignation, envy, and emulation are all defined as kinds of pain (or distress, suggesting pain). If these are all kinds of pain, then there must be some difference between them such that they will be different kinds of pain. But Aristotle does not try to explain any difference between the experienced pains as such. Rather, he defines each as a kind of pain stemming from something different. For instance, fear is "a sort of pain or agitation derived from the imagination of a future destructive or painful evil..." (1382a22-23; Kennedy explains that 'imagination' means something like 'appearance' in this context), while shame is "a sort of pain or agitation concerning a class of evils, whether present or past or future, that seems to bring a person into disrespect..." (1383b14-16). Fear and shame are identically pains, and they are distinguished by their characteristic object. We fear pain or destruction, while we are ashamed of things which bring us into disrespect. Thus, though Leighton was right to observe that pleasure and pain are connected conceptually (rather than through a contingent or causal connection) to emotions, he was incautious to claim that each emotion has a particular kind of pain. As Martha Nussbaum points out, "Fear and pity are both painful emotions. Nowhere in his analyses does Aristotle even attempt to individuate emotions by describing varieties of painful or (as the case may be) pleasant feeling. Emotions, instead, are individuated by reference to their characteristic beliefs." (Nussbaum 1996, p. 309)
We have moved into the area of the objects of emotions. What is clear about the object of emotions is that for Aristotle, emotions actually have objects; they are unquestionably intentional states. Aristotle is to be distinguished from any theorist who maintains that emotions are merely physical, or are some kind of mindless surge of affect. Discussing this topic, Garver comments that
Just as in many contemporary accounts of emotions, the emotions in the Rhetoric are intentional, defined by their objects. But the objects of emotions are people, and not propositions. In the Ethics, we fear for our own skins, but here we are afraid of someone. Aristotle here makes the emotions correspond to the fundamental meaning of belief, pisteis, in the Rhetoric, where the primary object of belief is not a proposition but a person - we believe in, put our trust and faith in, someone, instead of believing that something is true. (Garver, p. 126)
Garver provides us with two interpretive options. We may take Aristotle to mean that the objects of emotions are persons, or else propositions. What do these alternatives mean? Are they really distinct?
There are first two small issues to deal with. First, there is a terminological issue. When Garver says that emotions do not take 'propositions' as their objects, he means by the word 'proposition' just what I mean by the word 'fact'; philosophers employ alternate usages. The sentence "John loves Mary" does the same job, expressively, as the sentence "Mary is loved by John." There is an obvious sense in which these sentences are both expressing the same thought, and that thought is called a proposition. But there is another, equally obvious, sense in which these sentences express something which is supposed to obtain in the world, and that something is called a fact. But if the sentence is thought of as expressing a thought which is called a proposition, then that proposition is itself about something in the world: what I have called a fact. Thus it is that 'proposition' and 'fact' get used to mean the same thing. Here I will retain consistency with my own usages (which is not to say that Garver's are mistaken) in which emotions are not sentences but are themselves already propositionally structured modes of awareness and so must take what I call facts as their objects. To make Garver's view and mine come into contact I will simply express them in the same language; I do not believe that this introduces any distortion into his position.
Second, I should explain the motivation for opposing Garver's interpretation. Aristotle gives us his theory of emotions in R, not where one might more naturally expect it, like NE or DA. As I will argue in chapter four, Aristotle means to make proofs by emotion a kind of syllogistic proof. But the most obvious way for emotions to be influenced by syllogistic proof is to stand in a logical relation to the premises of the proof. But logical relations hold between propositions, 'beliefs-that'. So if Garver's interpretation were correct, the task of rendering emotional appeal rational and amenable to logical validity would be much more difficult if not impossible. Luckily, as I will argue, Garver's interpretation does not seem to be correct.
Now I can turn to the interpretive questions in earnest. Propositions are expressions with a subject-predicate structure. They express or identify facts, which are the inherence of a property, relationship, or action in some entity. Thus, the proposition "The hat is blue" expresses the fact that the entity, referred to with the words 'The hat', has a property inhering in it, which property is predicated over the entity with the words 'is blue'. But for Garver, emotions are not, as he puts it, beliefs "that something is true". Garver means to say that emotions do not take facts as their objects; that emotions are not propositionally structured.
For an emotion to take a fact as its object, it would be a propositionally structured mode of awareness that some person possesses some property. For instance, anger would be the experience that the person at whom one is angry has "directed, without justification... a conspicuous slight... against oneself or those near one..." in combination with "desire... for conspicuous retaliation" or perhaps even the experience that the one at whom one is angry deserves "conspicuous retaliation" (1378a31-33)
On the other hand, it is unclear what it would mean for a person to be the object of an emotion. Before I explain why this is so, I want to point out that this is already a strong reason for rejecting Garver's interpretation. If the notion of believing-in turns out to be empty or incoherent, then claiming that Aristotle accepted the notion is to treat Aristotle rather uncharitably. With this motivational feature clear, I can move on to prove my point.
Since Garver distinguishes between a person's and a fact's being the object of an emotion, a person's being the object of an emotion cannot consist of experiencing that the person has a certain property (such as being belittling). If the emotion is not a propositional mode of experience, the emotion cannot be predicative and thus cannot take its object only under a certain aspect of that object. Garver takes this to be an advantage of his interpretation:
It is a part of the richness of Aristotle's account that the relations between
personal object and propositional structure will vary. I am angry with, or at, someone because she insulted me; when I discover that she did not in fact insult me, anger disappears immediately. But I hate someone because he can't stand listening to jazz, which I enjoy passionately. When I find out that he doesn't mind jazz so much after all, my hatred does not automatically disappear. I may well find another reason to hate him. (Garver, p. 127)
Thus Garver's argument seems to be that emotions must take persons as their objects directly, not under some aspect, because sometimes an emotion will outlast our belief in the fact which it seems to be about. Thus it is not actually about that fact at all.
Aristotle himself does not seem to force either interpretation. While he says that we should find "against whom " anger is typically directed, suggesting that people are the objects of anger, he also notes that "...[a person does not fear] that he will become unjust or slow-witted..." (1382a23-24; square brackets by Kennedy, italics mine) Thus we might be angry at people, but fear facts (that certain things are possible). In fact, the surface grammar of these sentences provides no guide whatsoever to any underlying thesis about the objects of emotions. When we say we are angry at a person, we might just as easily have said that we are angry that the person has done something; nothing should ride on this choice of idiom.
Garver's distinction between belief in and belief that is drawn from the philosophy of religion. Price, a philosopher who draws the distinction, does so on the basis of "a number of examples of belief-in which suggest that it is quite a different attitude from belief-that". (Price, p. 9) His series of examples are, he claims, on face irreducible to beliefs-that.
Unfortunately, Price's examples do not seem to support his contention. For instance, he says that one may "...believe in private preparatory schools..." (Price, p. 7) and that this belief-in is, on face, not reducible to a belief-that. However, believing in private preparatory schools is pretty obviously a case of believing that private preparatory schools give their students a good preparation for university work, or some similar belief or set of beliefs. A like point seems to hold for all of his examples.
The goal of the distinction, for Price, is to establish belief-in as the mode of believing in God; religious belief-in God is the paradigm case of belief-in. But this case seems to be identical to belief-in private preparatory schools. Belief in God consists of believing that God exists, is good, is the supreme being, and so forth. I will return to this point in a moment.
Price makes a somewhat better case for the distinction when he says that
Believing [certain relevant propositions] may be a necessary condition for trusting [someone], but it is not the same as trusting him. Trusting is not merely a cognitive attitude. To put the same point another way, the proposed evaluation leaves out the 'warmth' which is a characteristic feature of evaluative belief-in. Evaluative belief-in is a 'pro-attitude'. One is 'for' the person, thing, policy, etc. in whom or in which one believes. There is something more here than assenting or being disposed to assent to a proposition, no matter what concepts the proposition contains. (Price, p. 25)
Believing in something, Price claims, cannot be reduced to believing that it has certain properties. Such an analysis would miss the 'warmth', or attitude, of certain kinds of believing-in.
Two criticisms apply. First, even if we were to accept Price's argument that belief-in is not just a set of beliefs-that, saying that something is irreducibly a belief-in is not an analysis of the attitude. Price simply sets aside the 'warmth' element, giving no account of it. He goes so far as to surrender hope of giving an analysis, saying that "Perhaps we can only know what [trusting] is like by actually being in the mental attitude which the word 'trusting' denotes." (Price, p. 25) While it is entirely possible that we will understand an analysis of trusting only if we have experienced trusting, this does not mean that no analysis can be given. But Price does not attempt to provide one.
The second criticism returns us to Aristotle's theory. Let us assume that Garver is wrong and that Aristotle's account of emotions does in fact hold that emotions do actually take facts as their objects; they are beliefs-that of a certain kind. Also, recall that the first thing that I established about emotions is their physical nature; the emotions are pleasures and pains. Let us also assume that Aristotle's theory is right, at least so far. Now, if this is true, then the emotional 'warmth' to which Price is making appeal turns out to be the specifically physical features of an emotional belief-that. Some beliefs-that will turn out to be a richer experience than Price allows for, because Price has assumed that beliefs-that must all be experienced as sentences heard coolly in the head. The physical richness of emotional beliefs-that absolves us of any need for the notion of believing-in. Now, since we are assuming that this is Aristotle's theory, we can also assume that Aristotle's theory accounts for alleged beliefs-in by showing them all to be beliefs-that. Thus, Garver cannot appeal to Price's defense of beliefs-in, because Price's argument for the distinction rests on the falsity of the theory which we are assuming Aristotle to hold; Price is tacitly presupposing Garver's conclusion about the nature of the emotions, and so Garver cannot assume Price's distinction.
This criticism also applies to the case of belief in God. Faith in God would be a case wherein analysing everything into a set of propositional attitudes seems reductive, but it is not so. If we try to appeal to Price's 'warmth' to distinguish true faith in God from a mere set of beliefs-that, what we will do is distinguish a deeply felt, physical response to the idea of God from a more rationalistic or disembodied (albeit logically affirmative) response to the idea of God. But if it is the physical depth of the response which distinguishes faith from a mere set of propositional attitudes, then faith can be reduced without residue to a set of beliefs-that which are themselves physically rich and, presumably, pleasurable. This is the 'warmth' to which Price was making appeal. Price was very much right to call our attention to the 'warmth' of certain convictions, but it seems that he was in error about its nature.
Having shown that Garver's conclusion makes no sense, let us return to his argument. Recall that Garver's argument employs the example distinction between anger and hatred. Aristotle's account of hatred is interesting, in that he treats hatred as directed primarily at groups, and at individuals only insofar as they are members of groups:
Now anger comes from things that affect a person directly, but enmity also from what is not directed against himself; for is we suppose someone to be a certain kind of person, we hate him. And anger is always concerned with particulars..., while hate is directed also at types (everyone hates the thief and the sycophant).... the former wants the one he is angry at to suffer in his turn, the latter wants [the detested class of persons] not to exist. (1382a2-6,14-16; square brackets by Kennedy)
Now there does not seem to be anything here to support Garver's example distinction, or his argument that hating someone for not liking jazz will survive finding that the person does, after all, like jazz, while being angry at someone for some imagined insult will not survive finding that the insult did not occur.
We may take it that a paradigm of hatred in Aristotle's sense is extreme racism. Racism accrues to people because of a group of which they are a member; it is not a justice-seeking idea but rather an annihilation-seeking idea. If I hate someone because they are, say, of Asian descent, it is my preference that persons of Asian descent not exist at all. If I actualize on my hatred, I will seek to annihilate Asians (or at minimum remove them from my life in a radical way). If I hate some particular person because I believe that she is Asian, and I later discover that she is not Asian (let us say she was in disguise), then I will also stop hating her. Garver's example distinction would hold only if the Aristotelian analysis of hatred somehow implied that discovering that the person is not Asian would not make me stop hating her, but there does not appear to be such an implication. Indeed, Aristotle points out that "...it is evident that it is possible [for a speaker] both to demonstrate that people are enemies and friends and to make them so when they are not and to refute those claiming to be and to being those who through anger and enmity are on the other side of the case over to whatever feeling he chooses." (1382a17-20; square brackets by Kennedy) If a speaker can move people from enmity - hatred - then hatred does not necessarily withstand the discovery of factual error. (Discovering that, contrary to previous belief, the hated group is beneficial to one counts as discovering a tacit factual error, albeit an error of ignorance rather than of falsity.)
Garver provides a footnoted comment by Konstantyn Jelenski as an additional example to support his point about hatred. The comment is that "Poles have never come out against Jews 'because they are Jews' but because Jews are dirty, greedy, mendacious, because they wear earlocks, speak jargon, do not want to assimilate, and also because they do assimilate, cease using their jargon, are nattily dressed, and want to be regarded as Poles." (Garver, p. 278, footnote 31) It seems that the point here is not that Poles hate Jews for particular reasons and then invent new reasons should the old reasons prove insufficient, but rather that Poles hate Jews for being Jews and invent reasons. The Poles' hatred of Jews is their judgment that Jews are, in virtue of their Jewishness, utterly abominable and should be annihilated. Naturally, we could express this as a belief in the abominableness of Jews; this serves only to remind us that surface grammar is not always a perfect guide to underlying meaning. In lieu of a clearer explanation of belief-in, and in light of an analysis of example beliefs-in into beliefs-that, expressing emotions as beliefs-that is the expression which most clearly shows the apparent deep structure of the phenomena.
So Garver's argument seems to fail for at least three reasons. First, the very distinction which he was taking one side of seems to be an invalid distinction; there is no such thing as belief-in. Second, Aristotle's analysis of hatred does not seem to support Garver's cited example. And third, an empirical point about Polish anti-Semitism does not seem to support Garver.
But there is an additional reason to reject Garver's claim and take Aristotle to believe that the object of emotions are facts. This has to do with the nature of judgment and change of judgment in emotions. If there is an independent justification for the claim that emotions are propositionally structured, then that justification provides an independent argument for believing that facts must be the objects of emotions.
Aristotle defines emotions in terms of their capacity to change judgments. In an extremely insightful analysis, Stephen Leighton argues that Aristotle provides two different ways that emotions alter judgments. The first way, "change of judgment as a consequence of emotion" (Leighton 1982, p. 154), has four species. One way is through judging that a person has done some particular wrong, as a means of carrying out an emotional desire to punish the person. This applies especially in a forensic context, where angry jury members may find against the defendant because they are angry with her, not because they have considered the evidence (or even despite knowing that the evidence does not support their finding). Thus Aristotle points out that persons who are "prudent and fair minded but lack good will" may "not... give the best advice although they know [what] it [is]." (1378a12-14; square brackets by Kennedy). This may happen in either one of two ways: either 1) the person with the emotion is being dishonest to others as part of carrying out the goal of the desire (such as finding someone guilty for a crime which there is no evidence she committed, because she belongs to a despised ethnic group), or 2) she is being confused by the emotion into making a judgment which carries out the emotion's goal (such as being so angry that one cannot focus on the facts at hand). These are two ways in which emotions can alter judgments.
A third way involves emotions distorting our awareness of events so that we will judge poorly about those events. Leighton notes that "Emotion is meant to alter perception through the expectation of emotion and the 'putting together' of things accordingly. If this occurs, then, having the wrong perceptions, we are likely to go on to make inadequate judgments." (Leighton 1982 p. 151) Leighton is drawing from a passage from NE which says that "Anger seems to listen to reason to some extent, but to mishear it, as do hasty servants who run out before they have heard the whole of what one says, and then muddle the order... so anger by reason of its warmth and the hastiness of its nature, though it hears, does not hear an order, and springs to take revenge." (1149a25-31) Thus emotions may skew our attention to external objects or cause us to misintegrate perceptual awareness, thus leading to poor judgments.
Finally, noting that emotions are, physically, pleasures and pains and that Aristotle claims in DA that "when the object is pleasant or painful, the soul makes a sort of affirmation or negation, and pursues or avoids the object" (431a8-10), Leighton concludes that "...the person experiencing a pleasant emotion (e.g. love) will be moved to focus on the matter more than he who is not in a state of pleasure.... Hence, the lover is better able to understand the beloved..." (Leighton 1982 p. 153-4) Pleasant emotions will focus our attention on the object of the emotion (or, to be precise, on the referent of the subject term of the propositionally structured experience which is the emotion) and through focusing our attention will bring us to a clearer awareness and clearer judgments of that object. Thus emotions can clarify our awareness, just as well as they can distort it. This is a fourth way that emotions can alter judgments.
The fifth way that emotions can alter judgments is the most important. This is, as Leighton puts it, "change of judgment as a constituent of emotion" (Leighton 1982, p. 154) as distinct from as a consequence of emotion. The idea here is that emotions are judgments of a certain kind. Aristotle claims, in discussing indignation, which he defines as "being pained at undeserved good fortune" (1386b11) that "...if the speech puts the judges into this [hostile or indifferent] frame of mind [toward the opponent] and shows that those who think they deserve to be pitied (and to be pitied on certain grounds) are unworthy to attain it and worthy not to attain it, it is impossible for pity to be felt." (1387b17-20, square brackets by Kennedy) The idea seems to be that, since pity is pain at undeserved ill fortune, and indignation is pain at undeserved good fortune, it is logically impossible to have pity and indignation for the same person. To pity someone is to believe that she has been ill-served, to be indignant with her is to believe that she has been too well-served. Since these beliefs contradict one another, the emotions in question cannot exist side-by-side. But this indicates that the emotions are , in at least one respect, these judgments. If pity and indignation cause each other's absence, then their contradictoriness would be merely contingent. But if they contradict each other in the logical sense - if the cause of the absence of one is specifically its logical contradiction to the other - then their contradictoriness is necessary. Aristotle's language suggests that he has the latter in mind.
Aristotle suggests the same connection in discussing envy, which he takes to be "a certain kind of distress at apparent success on the part of one's peers in attaining the good things..., not that the person may get anything for himself but because of those who have it." (1387b22-25) Envy, then, is directed at making others not have something, not at leading oneself to have it. Aristotle observes that "...if [speakers] have created this [envious] state of mind [in the audience] and if persons of the sort described have thought themselves deserving to be pitied or to attain some good, clearly they will not attain pity from those in authority." (1388a25-28) Again, we cannot simultaneously envy someone (want them not to have something they have) and pity them (want them to have something they lack). These emotions seem to contradict each other in a strong, logical sense. I can, of course, envy someone about one thing and pity them for another; this would not be a contradiction.
Aristotle defines shame as "...a sort of pain and agitation concerning the class of evils, whether present or past or future, that seems to bring a person into disrespect..." (1383b15-16) We are thus ashamed of someone near us who brings dishonor upon us. But the definition indicates that shame consists in realizing that disrespect is being brought upon us. Similar comments could be made for many of Aristotle's accounts.
Martha Nussbaum agrees that emotions in Aristotle are propositionally structured. She points out that
It is not as if the emotion has (in each case) two separate constituents [on the one
hand, pleasure and pain; on the other, a judgment], each necessary for the full emotion, but each available independently of the other. For Aristotle makes it clear that the feeling of pain or pleasure itself depends on the belief-component, and will be removed by its removal. He uses two Greek prepositions, ek and epi, to describe the intimate relationship between belief and feeling: there is both a causal relationship (fear is pain and disturbance "out of" - ek - the thought of impending evils), and also a relationship of intentionality or aboutness : pity is defined as "painful feeling directed at [epi] the appearance that someone is suffering..."). (Nussbaum 1994, p. 88, first square brackets mine)
Thus Aristotle posits two relationships between the pleasure or pain and the emotional judgment: the judgment causes the pleasure or pain, and the pleasure or pain is pleasure or pain at the fact which the judgment is about. And the judgment seems to be at the very core of the emotion. In this sense, having an emotion just is having a judgment of a certain kind, and the kinds of judgments altered by emotion are the judgments which the emotions are .
But how are these judgments made? Surely Aristotle does not have in mind that we reason in some active way to conclusions, and these conclusions are emotions. Emotions seem to be something which happen to us, not something we do. Indeed, A. O. Rorty severely criticizes Aristotle's view of emotions for his notion that the passions are something in the face of which we are passive - the etymological connection between 'passion' and 'passivity' is obvious. Rorty notes that
Aristotle's views on pathe were largely formed as byproducts of his major metaphysical doctrines.... [the word] pathos has its origins in relatively diffuse common usage. In general, it means: an experience or event that befalls a person, something he passively undergoes, usually by accident, in contrast to something he actively does. Pathe came more specifically to refer to sufferings, misfortunes, or harmful experiences such as attacks of illness of disease. (Rorty, p. 523)
She continues to note that
...a person's thoughts and the reactions that follow from them are pathe [for Aristotle] if they have been externally manipulated by a rhetorician or poet, rather than formed by the person's own essential activity as a thinking agent. Even if the thoughts are true and the reactions are appropriate, manipulated thought is pathological, parasitically called thought only by courtesy. (Rorty, p. 524)
This seems to be a severe criticism of Aristotle's view of emotion. Rorty argues that Aristotle believes the emotions to be 'pathological', only accidentally connected with human functions, and objects of manipulation rather than authentic expressions of self.
But Rorty, despite her acuity with the etymology of the Greek terms, does not seem to be attending to context. Aristotle notes in NE that "Since excellence [virtue] is concerned with passions and actions, and on voluntary passions and actions praise and blame are bestowed..." (1109b30-32) Aristotle is clearly saying that at least some passions are voluntary and moreover that moral virtue involves emotions. Moreover, he argues that
Since that which is done under compulsion or by reason of ignorance is involuntary, the voluntary would seem to be that of which the moving principle is in the agent himself.... Presumably acts done by reason of anger or appetite are not rightly called involuntary. For in the first place, on that showing none of the other animals will act voluntarily, nor will children; and secondly, is it meant that we do not do voluntarily any of the acts that are due to appetite or anger, or that we do the noble acts voluntarily and the base acts involuntarily? Is not this absurd, when one and the same thing is the cause? But it would be odd to describe as involuntary the things one ought to desire; and we ought both to be angry at certain things and to have an appetite for certain things... the irrational passions are not less human than reason is... (1111a22-1111b2)
Again, we may take it that by 'irrational' Aristotle does not mean irrational in the normative but only in the descriptive sense of not belonging to the rational part of the soul. When Aristotle says that these nonrational "passions are not less human than reason" he is clearly tying emotions to humanity in an essential way, because rationality is the essence of humanity for Aristotle. Moreover, when he ties virtue, or proper human functioning, to emotions, he is again placing the emotions at the heart of what it is to be human and flourishing. And when he says of actions done from anger or appetite that they are done voluntarily, he is claiming that such actions do not simply happen to people who are passive in the face of them, but rather that they are an expression of the person's own values and proper functions.
Kosman provides an analysis of emotional activity and passivity which can allow us to make sense of this. He notes that "Action and passion... represent terms of a fundamental structural principle of human activity. 'Activity' must here take on a sense broad enough to include both acting and being acted upon - must, that is, include modes of active human being in which the human individual is both subject and object of the action, both agent and patient." (Kosman, p. 105) Both things that we do and things that are done to us count as activities in some broad sense, Kosman is claiming. But it seems obvious enough that things that happen to us are not our activities. Kosman continues to note that in a moral theory which, like Aristotle's, emphasizes virtues, or character traits, "...we are primarily called upon... not to act and be acted upon in certain ways but rather to be the kinds of persons disposed so to act and be acted upon, the question of what feelings are or are not immediately within our powers may be moot." (Kosman, p. 106, emphasis added) Kosman is claiming that, while we may be passive in the face of individual emotions in particular moments, we are not passive in the face of kinds of emotions over spans of time. We may make ourselves the kind of person who experiences emotions appropriately or inappropriately. There is an openness to self-transformation in our emotional life.
Kosman proves this point by attending to the broader metaphysical context of Aristotle's theory. He notes
Passive potentialities, we [in Book 9 of M] learn, are elements within an entity's nature, not simply external to it, and are connected to more obviously integral aspects of the entity's being. To say that oil is burnable is to ascribe to the oil a power that belongs to it and is a potentiality for being affected in a certain way, for having something done to it, and is at the same time to link this capacity to certain positive states and characteristics of the oil. ...[one] class of such [passive] powers, and one that for Aristotle is paradigmatic and important, includes the faculties of the soul. The perceptual capacities, and the faculties of reason and thought as well, are potentialities of the sensitive and intelligent subject to be affected in certain ways, to be acted upon by the sensible and intelligible forms of objects in the world. When we think about them this way, there is nothing particularly mysterious about these powers: they are simply the abilities to be open to certain affections and closed to certain others - the reciprocal capacities, we might say, of being discriminatingly receptive and resistant. (Kosman, p. 107)
Thus if Rorty's critique of the Aristotle's view of the emotions were to hold, the critique would have to apply similarly to all faculties of the sensitive and rational soul, because sensitivity and rationality are forms of receptivity just as are the emotions. Moreover, Rorty's critique does not seem to hold any water at all, because Aristotle does not regard receptivity as something not under the control of, or natural to, the receptive thing.
Thus we have a richer understanding of emotional judgment. The judgments which are constitutive of emotions are made passively, under the influence of external persons and events. But the faculty of making such judgments is something which is under the long-term control of the one having the emotions. Such judgments are just like our commonplace non-emotional recognitions of objects and persons. For instance, I may see a person whom I have briefly met and recognize her as who she is. Now, I do not reason to the conclusion that the person is who she is, I simply recognize her. But I recognize her in virtue of my previous experience of seeing her and my being the kind of person who recognizes people whom I have only briefly met.
Moreover, with our account thus enriched we may proceed without (much) doubt that emotions are, in Aristotle's conception, judgments. But if emotions are judgments, they are propositionally structured and will take facts as their objects. Kosman's account also pushes us toward Aristotle's account of the state of mind of one with an emotion.
Analyses of emotional state of mind and reason should fall out rather easily, now that we are relatively clear on the central features of emotions. Let us look first at state of mind. Consider anger. Aristotle says that people
become angry whenever they are distressed; for the person who is distressed desires something. If, then, someone directly opposes him in any way, for example, preventing his drinking when he is thirsty... and if someone works against him and does not cooperate with him and annoys him when so disposed, he becomes angry at them. (1379a10-15)
So far, this is unhelpful, though it does lay a context. This paragraph specifies only the conditions under which a person becomes angry, which one would have thought would belong to the causes of the emotion. However, Aristotle continues to note that "From this, then, it is evident what seasons and times and dispositions and ages are easily moved to anger and where and when and that when people are more in these [conditions], they are also more easily moved [to anger]." (1379a25-27, first square brackets by Kennedy, second are mine) State of mind does not, then, refer to the feel or content of the emotion itself, but to the psychology of the person with a propensity toward the emotion. This ties back to Kosman's argument about the voluntary nature of emotions, despite their passivity. This interpretation is further encouraged by the next sentence, which begins the discussion of those at whom we become angry: "People so disposed then are easily moved to anger..."(1379a28) The disposition in question is the one referred to in the previous section of R about the state of mind. Thus state of mind is a disposition.
Likewise, when Aristotle discusses calmness, he says that people are calm "for example, in play, in laughter, at a feast, in prosperity, in success, in fulfillment..."(1380b2-4) He is describing circumstances under which people will have a propensity to be calm (that is, to tend not to be angry).
Finally, we should ask about the reason for an emotion. The first thing to notice is that Aristotle does not say 'cause', but rather 'reason'. This suggests that emotions are rational responses to their objects, rather than mechanical responses. (Kennedy, in introducing section titles, does refer to the 'causes' of anger and so forth. This seems to obscure Aristotle's meaning.) Let us look again at anger. Aristotle says that one is angry "because of a conspicuous slight that was directed, without justification, against oneself or those near one." (1378a32-33) But we should notice that the fact that "a conspicuous slight that was directed, without justification, against oneself or those near one" is also the object of anger. Let us look also at friendship. Aristotle says that "[Doing] a favor is productive of friendship..." (1381b35) But of course friendly feelings take as their object the fact that someone has done one a favor. Likewise for fear, which is "derived from the imagination of a future destructive or painful evil" (1382a23), but for which the imminent peril is also the object. In each case, it seems that the cause of the emotion is also its object. This would explain how it is that the object and the emotion become connected; the object causes the subject to become aware of it, and the subject experiences the appropriate emotion about that object. This causal theory would explain how it is that emotions can sometimes go wrong. When some occurrence causes an emotion, that occurrence may have been masked, distorted, or confusing. It may thus have been falsely taken to be of a certain type. The taking it to be of that type is the emotional response; the emotion has gone wrong insofar as its cause is not in fact the right kind of thing to cause (or justify) it.
We are now clear on at least the essentials of Aristotle's theory of emotions. Aristotle seems to specify that emotions are a propositionally structured mode of awareness of facts of the world, that they are pleasurable and/or painful experiences and are therefore bodily, that they are not chosen individually but rather are products of character traits which one chooses for oneself over time, that they interact with one another not just causally but logically, that they are caused by their objects, and that they are characteristically desires. The following diagram may make these relationships clearer:
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