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Francis Garden - 1878 - Table of contents

Diccionario filosófico
Complete edition

Diccionario de Filosofía
Brief definition of the most important concepts of philosophy.


A Dictionary of English Philosophical Terms Francis Garden

Vocabulary of Philosophy, Psychological, Ethical, Metaphysical
William Fleming

Biografías y semblanzas Biographical references and lives of philosophers

Brief introduction to the thought of Ortega y Gasset

History of Philosophy Summaries

Historia de la Filosofía
Explanation of the thought of the great philosophers; summaries, exercises...

Historia de la Filosofía
Digital edition of the History of Philosophy by Jaime Balmes

Historia de la Filosofía
Digital edition of the History of Philosophy by Zeferino González

Vidas, opiniones y sentencias de los filósofos más ilustres
Complete digital edition of the work of Diogenes Laertius

Compendio de las vidas de los filósofos antiguos

A brief history of Greek Philosophy
B. C. Burt


A Short History of Philosophy





Passion. Passio. The Latin equivalent etymologically considered to the Greek πάθος. The πάθη in Greek philosophy were therefore what we should now call the passions, but the force of the term extended somewhat farther. Πάθος meant not only mental feeling, but every form of being acted on, as opposed to acting, every case in which if the subject be the nominative, a passive not an active verb will be demanded.


Hence Aristotle speaks of the πάθη of inanimate things. Generally, however, the term was used to denote mental affections. Cicero rendered the πάθη by perturbationes. Augustine tells us that some used this word, others denoted the same things by affectiones, and others passiones, which last is the one employed by himself.(1) It has held its ground, and the passions may be considered the received psychological term for generic mental affections.

These, however, have been for the most part treated in a limited way. As they are only distinctly seen and observed when they manifest themselves forcibly, it is to such forcible manifestation that moral philosophers have in great measure confined themselves. To this they may have been further led by Cicero's name for them, perturbationes. But properly speaking, all mental affection caused by external things, all mental condition which is not act but being acted on, should be regarded as πάθος.

It is, however, in pronounced manifestation, as I have said, that these are distinctly seen, that they are felt to be universal ingredients in human nature, and that they admit of classification. The rough enumeration made by Aristotle,(2) has on the whole been adhered to. One would not look to Collins's Ode for accurate philosophy, but he gives pretty much the list of passions commonly recognised. The admission of some mental states into that list is questionable. Hope seems more of a disposition and frequently even of a habit than a passion. It exists independently of any present action of the outward. Love on the other hand, though in part the result of such, is itself quite as much act as passion.

The passions naturally attract the notice of the philosopher when he begins to treat of the active powers. This may at first sight seem strange, inasmuch as passion and action are each other's opposites. But though the passions are, no doubt, in themselves results upon us, they are such results as by their very nature lead us into action, even as the external air entering into and dilating our lungs forces them into movement. Mere thought stays by itself. Emotion prompts at least to action if action be within our power. Moving us it stirs us, and each form of stirring has its appropriate action. The tendency to the action, and perhaps the comparative ability of its performance, will be as the strength of the passion. When a man of general capacity is unusually deficient in the performance of some acts mental or bodily demanding no more natural power than many not very different in kind in which he excels, the cause is to be found in an apathy greater than common as regards the matter with which they are concerned.


In so far as passions are elementary we cannot without blasphemy regard them as evil. When evil, it is because they are not directed to their proper objects or are allowed in an unseemly excess. Envy is grief, and grief for a worthy cause is no sin, but the prosperity, or the popularity of another, or the admiration bestowed on him, are no fit objects of the passion. Even fear, one of the basest affections when it exists to a marked extent, has its legitimate scope in a cautious conduct. Anger when within bounds is but the right sentiment towards moral evil.

The word passion is used very commonly in. a limited sense, and is confined to the one emotion of anger, and a passionate man denotes in ordinary speech one who is prone to ebullitions of rage. A melancholy indication of the fact that anger is at once the most frequent and the strongest and most visible perturbatio among men.

Another use of the word is to denote mere suffering of pain, other passiones not being taken account of. In this use it is limited to our Lord and Saviour, of whose Cross and Passion we speak in moments of solemnity.

Απάθεια, from privative and πάθος, denotes of course the absence of passion. Apathy and apathetic convey in common language the notions of stupidity and sluggishness, and would be ordinarily regarded as denying activity or energy. It was of course otherwise in the cases of the ancient Stoics and Pyrrho.

Impassible likewise denotes the absence of passion but further the insusceptibility of it, and is applied to God, Who must be always thought of as pure energy or act. It is the word used in the Latin of Article 1, the English giving us as its equivalent "without passions." For the sense in which this is to be held, see Anthropomorphism.


(1) AUG. De Civitate Dei, L. IV. c. 4.

(2) Eth. Nic. II. 5.



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