Emotion and Reason: A Potential Dialogue

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Giovanni Cucci, SJ

 Giovanni Cucci, SJ / Issue 1701 / 10 February 2017

Emotions and reason in dialogue

A previous article demonstrated how the relationship between reason and emotions (and by this term I refer to a complex world known by different names: passions; sentiments; affections) is not a simple one but, at the same time, cannot be conceived in terms of antithetical opposition.[1] Pleasure and moral good are only contrasting in a dualistic ethic, which comes with a high price.[2] In fact, in the perspective prior to modernity, the relationship passions/reason was understood in a bi-directional manner, that is, being of mutual influence one to the other, rather, of mutual aid for recognizing and doing the good.[3]

The passions that rise from sensibility influence the intellect and one’s judgment of things, but others find their origin in the intellectual evaluation: these are the so-called “passions of the soul,” of which anger is an emblematic example.[4] Bringing this to light means denying modern anthropological dualism because, the passions, themselves, have to do with both the body and the soul and, therefore, are of reciprocal influence, allowing or impeding the accomplishment of the good.

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