Philosophy | Topics in History of Modern Philosophy
P522 | 25146 | Abramson

Topic:  Early Modern Theories of the Passions

This class is a graduate level survey of early modern philosophical
work on the passions, with a particular focus on French and English
theories thereof. The guiding principle of the course is that an
exploration of early modern theories of the passions can provide a
coherent framework within which to investigate and discuss topics
that lie at the nexus of traditional epistemological issues and
traditional issues in moral philosophy.
	To that end, our discussions in this course will revolve
around three sets of issues. First, we will examine the
philosopher's account of the nature and origin of the passions. This
set of issues includes: questions about what gets included for
various figures under the heading of a "passion" (for some
philosophers, the passions fall into a separate category
from "affections" and/or "desires); questions about the degree to
which or sense in which the passions are seen as cognitively laden;
questions about the general role(s) of the passions in these
philosophers' epistemology (do the passions, as with one early
modern trope, 'darken our ability to see the world as it is?" Or are
they, as with another well-worn metaphor, like an untuned lute that
plays the music of the world wonderfully if only properly informed
by reason?). The second set of issues, branching off the first, will
involve the degree, or ways in which, the passions are seen as alien
from oneself, one's person's projects, and/or one's subjective sense
of personal identity. The final set of issues on which our
discussions will focus is the place of the passions in the moral
psychology proposed by each of these figures, particularly with
regard to moral motivation and moral perception. At least some
background in the history of modern philosophy is absolutely
essential for this course.
If you have any questions as to whether you have adequate
background, please contact me.  I will occasionally supplement the
primary readings with selections from some of the terrific work on
this topic that has begun to emerge. If you would like to get a head
start in that respect, pick up (or check out) a copy of Susan James,
Passion and Action (Oxford, 1997).