Aquinas on the Passions
Following Aristotle's lead, medieval philosophers generally accepted, first, a distinction between the cluster of principles and capacities that account for movement and sensation, known as the sensitive part of the soul, and the cluster of principles and capacities that account for thought and volition, known as the intellective part of the soul; 1 and second, a distinction between the apparatus of powers whereby information about the world is acquired and assimilated, known as the cognitive or apprehensive potencies, and the apparatus of powers whereby one engages the world, known as the appetitive potencies.
These distinctions cut across each other. The intellective and sensitive parts of the soul each have cognitive and appetitive faculties; cognition and appetition take place in both the intellective and sensitive parts. There are thus four fundamental departments into which psychological experience may be divided. The principle of cognition in the intellective part of the soul is the intellect itself, where thinking and reasoning take place. The principle of appetition in the intellective part of the soul is the will, responsible for volition and choice; the will is literally 'intellective appetite. ' The principle of cognition in the sensitive part of the soul is called 'sensing, ' where sensation and perception occur.
My focus is on Aquinas's treatment of the fourth department of psychological experience: the principles of appetition in the sensitive part of the soul, namely the eleven kinds of passions of the soul: the six concupiscible passions of love and hate, desire and aversion, and joy and sorrow; the five irascible passions of hope and despair, confidence and fear, and anger. 2 Aquinas's account of the nature and structure of the passions as psychological phenomena, developed in his Summa theologiae (especially in IaIIae.22–48), is a model of the virtues of medieval scholasticism. This essay concentrates on making sense of Aquinas's theory. The first section explores his analysis of