Descartes and Passions of the Soul

Passions are in Descartes a real curiosity: in fact, Descartes is the thinker of the cogitor, i.e. the certainty of the subject’s existence, that it to say an activity. But the passions are the dimension of passivity, the flaw that undermines man’s free will.

Thus, Descartes poses the problem of the passions as the problem of the action of the body (movement) and the actions of the soul (the will), extent (body) and mind (soul). Descartes describes the ontology of passion before the analysis of the psychology of the passions (what they are before saying how they are experienced).

In  Descartes, a passion is an idea that comes to me without the consent of my will, so it essentially a passive. This idea focuses on the body, the body acts as if the soul suffers, and if the body is that it is the soul acts. Passion is a feeling of the body. So the body that is passionate, who are inflicting the soul of the impersonal experience.

The soul, with passion, not as a pilot in his ship, it is exposed to the exterior, in the event. Descartes gives the example of fear: the body “has the soul to want to flee.” Passion is suggesting, is anticipated, a sketch will, it is a prerequisite for the will. Passion Mime will, it is the otherness within the subject.

Descartes also takes on the case example of the “merry widow”. There is a discrepancy between home inner emotions (the woman who was cumbersome) and the passion that I feel (sadness associated with the burial ceremony). Emotion is an emergence, a passivity without passion.

Here, again, a few quotes from Descartes on the passions:

“The passions are all good in their nature and we have nothing to prevent their misuse or their excess.” (Descartes, The Passions of the Soul)

“The passions are the salt of life” (Descartes, The Passions of the Soul)

– “Everything that is done or happens again is usually called by philosophers a passion for the subject to which it happens, and action in relation to that which happens. So that, although the agent and patient are often very different, the action and passion do not allow to be always the same thing, which has two names, because of the different things that you can bring. “(Descartes, The Passions of the Soul)

– “For it is necessary to note that the main effect of all the passions in men is that they encourage and offer their souls to want the things that prepare their bodies: so that the feeling of fear incites him to want to escape, that of daring to want to fight, and so of others. “(Descartes, The Passions of the Soul)

Cite this article as: Tim, "Descartes and Passions of the Soul, May 9, 2012, " in Philosophy & Philosophers, May 9, 2012,

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