LEC04 – Oct.05 (Aristotle and Stoics)
II. Aristotle on Emotion (in the light of Plato)
We will be looking at:
Aristotle takes into the context in understanding what emotions are. Categorized
emotions (dichotomy between positive/negative emotions) and how we value each
category of emotions. .What they consider to be the most important key factors of
emotions and how they define emotions. Prototype emotions (or ‘basic’ emotions).
We want to see how the emotions play their roles in our social, political life.
Aristotle and Stoics (Common)
Both had similar approaches in terms of dividing the souls from the body (the rational
and the a-rational)1
What they provide for us is to argue that these sorts of actions and behaviors have their
source within ourselves. Therefore, we are responsible for our emotions. So you’re
responsible for your emotions and characters, but it is not always possible to take control
3 parts of soul in terms of orientations. (Spirit, Desire,)
Each of these parts in Plato have both rational and emotional parts in this sense. In other
words, for the petitive parts to acknowledge something, there has to be a certain
E.g. The spirit part of soul has a certain aspect of rationality – certain knowledge at
work (in terms of defining and recognizing the virtue and vice.)
It’s emotions that have been subject to regime for Aristotle.
Emotions draw both from the a-rational and rational parts of the soul. The way he
describes it in the Rhetoric is to suggest that emotions are feeling accompanied by
changes in judgment. (p.91)
Q: if emotions participate in the a-rational part, how is it different from feeling hungry?
A: Emotions are like-feeling hungry. Difference between hunger and appetite is that
feelings of hunger is never judged as reasonable. Emotional intensity can be judged
by others within certain parameters according to standards of reasonableness,
whereas non-emotional intensity (e.g. pain) is not.
1 Note: distinction between non-rational and a-rational. Non-rational contains ‘against’ while a-
ratioal is more a neutral term.
These emotions have to do with education rather than biological factors.
Aristotle’s notion of virtuous person is one that has good characters that come from
emotions. So he has high standards of which emotions are good and which characters
make one a virtuous person accordingly. Good characters can be attained through
training and education. Virtue, in other word, is a state of characters. Our dispositions
have to regulate our emotional state.
What is Rhetoric for Aristotle?
Rhetoric is defined as knowledge of means of persuasion.
What he’s trying to do here – is to arguably provide alternative account of higher moral
He is looking for what is appropriate or inappropriate appeal to emotion in political
speech. So it’s not just about whether or not you persuade one, but about you persuade
him in the right way.
3 types of speeches:
a) speeches made at the court; b) speeches made deliberately in politics; c)
speeches commemorating people
3 types of logics in giving a speech:
a) appeal through logic; b) appeal through characters (ethos) of the
individual giving the speech; c) appeal to emotion
You have to know who you are as a speaker, know the audience and the regime. Practical
judgment that is at play in speech-making. This is why it is key to understanding the
All these add up to analytic understanding of emotions
So how do we know the appropriateness?
Appeals to emotion that has nothing to do with the subject of the speech are just wrong.
According to Aristotle, good emotional appeals are relevant to the situations and
question and one that takes consideration all those factors (in the types of logics). Being
able to read your audience properly.
E.g. Anger is something that we focus on individuals rather than in general state of
Discussion of Fear:
Class Analysis: Those who are in conditions of comfortable life and prosperity and those
who had already gone through and have been immune to all the danger tend not to fear
as much as the middle class people.
Another interesting point; In situation of fear, individuals will think more to avoid the
evil in the hope of it can be avoided.
Contemporary behavioural theorist Marcus argues: anxiety actually increases
reflective citizenships, contributing to the making of democratic state.
Discussion of Pity (compassion):
What is essential to pity for Aristotle is that you will only pity someone if you can
identify the suffer of that person in relation to you.