Emotions in Ancient and Medieval Philosophy

Emotions in Ancient and Medieval Philosophy

Emotions in Ancient and Medieval Philosophy

Emotions in Ancient and Medieval Philosophy

Synopsis

Emotions are the focus of intense debate both in contemporary philosophy and psychology, and increasingly also in the history of ideas. Simo Knuuttila presents a comprehensive survey of philosophical theories of emotion from Plato to Renaissance times, combining rigorous philosophical analysis with careful historical reconstruction.

Excerpt

Studies on the emotions became popular in the analytically oriented philosophy of mind in the 1980s. These have been accompanied by a great number of works on emotions in ancient philosophy, since it was realized that many central questions had already been discussed in classical texts. There has not been a similar boom in studies of emotions in medieval philosophy, though this is also a topic of considerable philosophical interest. In Chapters 1 and 2 I shall discuss ancient philosophical theories of emotions, their impact on early Christian literature, and the ideas which were specifically developed in ancient theology. The first part of Chapter 3 deals with the twelfth-century reception of ancient themes through monastic, theological, medical, and philosophical literature. The subject of the second part is the theory of emotions in Avicenna's psychology, which to a great extent dominated early thirteenth-century philosophical psychology. The development of the theory of emotions influenced by Avicennian faculty psychology is considered in the last part of this chapter. Chapter 4 is about the new issues introduced in early fourteenth-century discussions, with some remarks on their influence on early modern thought.

As for ancient theories, the recent works by Martha Nussbaum, Richard Sorabji, and some other authors have been of great help. I share the view of Nussbaum and Sorabji that ancient philosophy involves high-level debates on emotions in which rigorous philosophical analysis is wedded to philosophy as a way of life. Knowledge of ancient discussions is important for the study of later philosophical views, since ancient ideas were embedded in various ways in early medieval thought, medieval university teaching, and the early modern philosophy of the emotions. I shall pay attention to those ancient works which came to shape later philosophical and theological discussions of emotions, but I am also interested in ancient theories as such. The role of the cognitive subjective feeling is considered more systematically than in other recent works. The philosophical elements of early Christian views of earthly passions and religious feelings are analysed by discussing their historical context somewhat more extensively than is usual in philosophical studies.

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