On Emotions and Passions: Being Clear about Analytical Categories (Part 2)


four humours late medieval

Response Post:
In her insightful blog entry on the passions, Sarah Russell attributes to Ribot the view that passions organize emotions. I do say so much, or at least strongly suggest this, in some of my writings on Ribot. But in fact I do not believe that Ribot ever makes the point that clearly. One who does is Edward Shand, in an early review of Ribot’s 1907 ‘Essay on the Passions’ published in the journal Mind. However, Shand restricts his application of this thesis to Love, the passion. He does not take it as far as I do in my writings: as general thesis about many passions; not necessarily all the passions all of the time, but at least many of the more complex passions much of the time. It is certainly an interesting and important thesis in my view. It helps explain Ribot’s view that, while related and born of a common ancestry in simple feelings, passions and emotions actually represent different ascending forms of affectivity of increasing complexity. In effect, along with feelings, they are different theoretical categories (or better: prototypes) in a full theory of the affective life, or ‘affectivity’. This tripartite division of the affective life is in my view Ribot’s most important contribution to contemporary philosophy of emotion and affective science. It certainly deserves further study.

Louis Charland

The University of Western Ontario

Selected publications by Louis Charland:

‘Conceptual and Ethical Issues in Eating Disorders’, in Current Opinion in Psychiatry, (In press).

‘Anorexia Nervosa as a Passion’, with Tony Hope, Jacinta Tan, Anne Stewart, & peer commentaries in Philosophy, Psychiatry, Psychology, (In press).

‘Moral Undertow and the Passions: Two Challenges for Contemporary Emotion Regulation’, in Emotion Review, 2011 (3), pp. 83-91.

‘Reinstating the Passions: Lessons from the History of Psychopathology’, in Peter Goldie (Ed.), The Oxford Handbook for the Philosophy of Emotion,  Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2010, pp. 237-263.