Aquinas on the Emotions

Aquinas on the Emotions: A Religious-Ethical Inquiry

Diana Fritz Cates
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Aquinas on the Emotions
    Book Description:

    All of us want to be happy and live well. Sometimes intense emotions affect our happinessùand, in turn, our moral lives. Our emotions can have a significant impact on our perceptions of reality, the choices we make, and the ways in which we interact with others. Can we, as moral agents, have an effect on our emotions? Do we have any choice when it comes to our emotions? In Aquinas on the Emotions, Diana Fritz Cates shows how emotions are composed as embodied mental states. She identifies various factors, including religious beliefs, intuitions, images, and questions that can affect the formation and the course of a person's emotions. She attends to the appetitive as well as the cognitive dimension of emotion, both of which Aquinas interprets with flexibility. The result is a powerful study of Aquinas that is also a resource for readers who want to understand and cultivate the emotional dimension of their lives.

    eISBN: 978-1-58901-718-4
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-20)

    All of us want to live happily and well. We want this not only for ourselves but also for others who are part of us or closely connected to us. When something happens that appears to bear notably on our own or a loved one’s wellbeing, a situation forms and holds our attention. We receive impressions and make judgments about what is happening and about how it concerns us. More than this, we are moved by what we apprehend. We might not be moved outwardly, in the form of physical movement, but we are moved inwardly.

    Imagine that the phone...

  5. CHAPTER ONE Religious Ethics
    (pp. 21-39)

    There are many ways to approach the study of emotion. This book takes a religious ethics approach to the study of Aquinas on emotion. There is disagreement among scholars about how to define religious ethics. Hence, it would be good to set out a working definition. It is important to indicate what I take to be “religious” about religious ethics. It is important also to signal the openness and flexibility with which I approach the religious dimension of life and thought. In this chapter I clarify the subject matter of religious ethics and the sort of inquiry that is appropriate...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Religious Ethics and the Study of Emotion
    (pp. 40-61)

    A religious-ethical approach to the study of emotion recognizes that there is a complex relationship between religion and emotion. In particular, there is a relationship between a person’s religious worldview—the way in which the world appears to have a mysterious kind of depth—and the way in which a person is moved, emotionally, by various objects in that world. One way to elucidate this relationship is to consider the connection between religious thought and imagination, on the one hand, and the cognitive dimension of emotion, on the other.

    Emotions clearly involve some form of cognition. Feeling an emotion involves...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Approaching Aquinas on the Emotions (I)
    (pp. 62-79)

    To explore further how ways of being religious can affect the composition of emotional states, it is necessary to delve further into the structure of emotion. Even if we are not particularly interested in the impact that religion has on people’s emotions, it is important to understand how emotions are composed if we wish to become more articulate about our interior lives, more deliberate in shaping our emotions, and more discerning about the constraints that our “nature” imposes on this sort of ethical work.

    Aquinas offers a remarkable account of this structure. In outline, he argues that passio or an...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Approaching Aquinas on the Emotions (II)
    (pp. 80-102)

    In order to approach Aquinas’s account of emotion, we must appreciate the distinction between apprehension and appetite. “Apprehension” refers very broadly to the power (or set of powers) to acquire and process information. It includes the power to receive sensory impressions, to form and manipulate sensory images through the use of the imagination, to make sensory judgments, to make higher, intellectual judgments, to think, to engage in reasoning, and the like. “Appetite” refers very broadly to the power (or set of powers) to be moved or to move oneself interiorly, and perhaps also exteriorly, in relation to objects of apprehension....

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Approaching the Human Sensory Appetite from Below (I)
    (pp. 103-128)

    Human beings are embodied souls. We have begun to explore some of the implications of this thesis for understanding the way in which emotions are composed. I want to step back now and put humans in some perspective. Aquinas holds that everything that exists can be characterized relative to a scale of being. The principle of his scale is that “the nobler a form is, the more it rises above corporeal matter, the less it is merged in matter, and the more it excels matter by its power and its operation.”¹ At the top of the scale is God, namely,...

  10. CHAPTER SIX Approaching the Human Sensory Appetite from Below (II)
    (pp. 129-163)

    In Aquinas’s view, the sensory appetite “stands midway between [the] natural appetite and the higher, rational appetite, which is called the will.”¹ By virtue of the natural appetite, an entity “tends to [an] appetible thing without any apprehension of the reason for [the thing’s] appetibility; for natural appetite is nothing but an inclination and ordination of the thing to something else which is in keeping with it, like the ordination of a stone to a place below.”² By virtue of the will, a being that has intellectual powers “tends directly to the very reason for appetibility itself in an absolute...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN Approaching the Human Sensory Appetite from Above (I)
    (pp. 164-190)

    When we approach the human sensory appetite from below, with reference to Aquinas’s scale of being, we put ourselves in a position to imagine that all existing things are marked by appetites or tendencies of one sort or another. The tending of each part toward its own being and perfection—in relation to the tending of all other parts—reflects a principle of order according to which the cosmos as a whole is tending toward perfection.¹

    A small number of entities within this comprehensive appetitive field stand out from the rest because they have sensory powers. By virtue of their...

  12. CHAPTER EIGHT Approaching the Human Sensory Appetite from Above (II)
    (pp. 191-212)

    The powers of intellectual and sensory apprehension make it possible to understand and assess aspects of one’s world that bear on one’s happiness. The connection between the intellect and the cogitative power, in particular, makes it possible to judge an object, on an intellectual level, to be an object of a certain kind with which one could unite in a way that contributes to one’s flourishing, even as one judges the same object, on a sensory level, to be useful, helpful, friendly, or the like. The connection between the intellect and the cogitative power makes it possible also to engage...

  13. CHAPTER NINE The Formation of Distinctively Human Emotions
    (pp. 213-240)

    The power of intellectual apprehension (the intellect) makes it possible to apprehend the intelligible goodness of various objects—their likely contributions to one’s distinctively human happiness. The intellectual appetite (the will) makes it possible to tend toward this goodness or toward objects in respect of their intelligible goodness. At the same time, the power of sensory apprehension makes it possible to apprehend the sensible goodness of particulars—their attractive five-sensory qualities and, with higher-level operations of the interior senses, the objects’ contributions to one’s well-being as a sensory being. The sensory appetite makes it possible to tend toward particulars that...

  14. CHAPTER TEN The Religious-Ethical Study of Emotion
    (pp. 241-266)

    Thomas Aquinas’s account of the structure of emotion is partly what Robert Roberts (in describing his own account) calls “mentalist.”¹ Aquinas construes emotions as embodied states of mind or awareness, and he analyzes them from the perspective of the subjects who experience them. Yet Aquinas analyzes the structure of emotion relative to what he takes to be the structure of reality as such. In this chapter I present a summary of Aquinas’s account, recollecting some of its metaphysical depth and making explicit the way in which, in his view, certain principles or laws at work in the universe and in...

  15. APPENDIX Aquinas on the Powers or Capabilities of a Human Being (Relevant Selections)
    (pp. 267-268)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 269-276)
  17. Index
    (pp. 277-288)