PART I: Emotions as Judgements versus Irrational Forces
2: The Emotions as Value Judgements in Chrysippus
The four generic emotions as value judgements
In the century after Aristotle the Stoics selected four emotions as the most generic ones under which all other emotions could be arranged as species. The four are distress (lupē aegritudo
) pleasure (hēdonē laetitia
) fear (phobos metus
) and appetite (epithumia libido appetitus cupiditas
These four are arrived at by taking a pair of emotions directed to the present and a pair directed to the future one of each pair involving apparent goods one apparent evils.2
Highly similar divisions still appeal nowadays although one modern author expands his list by including emotions directed to the past3
while another substitutes the criterion of uncertainty for that of futurity.4
Clearly the Stoic classification differs from that of other schools. We have seen Aristotle for example treating fear as a species of distress not co-ordinate with it.
The Stoics make a further exceedingly bold claim. Every emotion Involves two distinctive value judgements. One is that there is good or bad (benefit or harm) at hand the other that it is appropriate to react.5 Distress is the judgement that there is bad at hand and that it is appropriate to feel a sinking. Pleasure is the judgement that there is good at hand and that it is appropriate to feel an expansion. Fear is the judgement that there is bad at hand and that it is appropriate to avoid it. Appetite is the judgement that there is good at hand and that it is appropriate to reach for it. The two judgements can often be expressed as one complex judgement but for some purposes we shall see it is important that they can be separated.
The subspecies of emotion are sometimes though not always6
distinguished by the particular type of good or bad in question. Pity is distress at bad befalling another anger appetite for the supposed good of revenge. The four most generic emotions distress pleasure fear and appetite are defined in terms of generic good or bad only not of particular kinds.
When I say that the good or bad is judged to be at hand the ‘at hand’ is short for the Stoic requirement that it is judged to be present or future. As to why the Stoics do not think it enough that the good or bad should be judged wholly past I shall return to this question in Chapter 9.
‘Appropriate’ in ‘appropriate to react’ is a wide term corresponding to the Greek kathēkei
and a number of gerundive endings pheukton
(paired in the emended text with orekton
) anupomonēton akarterēton
. The Latin renderings are oportere rectum esse aequum esse ad officium pertinere officium debitum ius
It is by no means confined to judgements made on moral grounds although it includes for example the case in which mourners come to think they have a moral duty to react.8
The judgement that it is appropriate to react covers two very different types of reaction.9
In pleasure and distress the reaction approved is internal present and involuntary. It is an internal contraction (sustolē meiōsis tapeinōsis
Latin demitti contrahi
) or expansion (eparsis diakhusis
What contracts or expands is said to be the mind (animus
and the mind is a physical spirit for the Stoic materialists. There is no agreement at present about the psychological character of the Stoic contraction and expansion.12
But I shall argue below that the contraction is a felt sinking is felt as being located in the heart and finally is felt as being bad while an expansion is a lift felt as being good.
In fear and appetite by contrast the approved reactions are behavioural voluntary and directed to the future. There is an opinion (doxa
) that the bad thing is to be avoided (pheukton
) and is not to be tolerated (intolerabile anupomonēton akarterēton
) or (in the text adopted by Meineke and Wachsmuth) that the good thing is to be reached for (orekton
) and that its immediate presence would be of use (ex usu
). In anger for example the idea is that it is appropriate for me to be avenged (oporteat me vindicari
) or for him to be punished (oporteat hunc poenas dare
I need not think in such a case that I am myself in a position to carry out the reaction or even that anyone else is. It is merely that punishment would
Although anger is classed as an appetite looking forward to revenge the idea of vengeance imports a reference to a present evil which makes anger akin to grief. The Stoics help us to see how easily anger and grief can slide one into the other.
Inner reactions and outer (behavioural) reactions can be causally connected because although fear and appetite take the lead (proēgeisthai
) pleasure and distress follow on them (epigignesthai
) according to whether we do or do not get what we desired or feared.14
The description of the two types of reaction is not always as clear-cut as it is in the main texts cited. For example it is sometimes not made clear that the approved reaction in distress is a contraction.15
But this unclarity about the precise reaction is natural for if one thinks it right to experience an inner contraction one may well think it right to indulge in the other phenomena of distress as well.
The need for a second judgement
Chrysippus needed to insist on the second ‘appropriate to react’ judgement for at least four reasons. First he thought it was the main thing that needed to be attacked in consoling the distressed. In this he differed from his predecessor Cleanthes who simply mounted a blanket attack on the first judgement saying that (almost) nothing was good or bad since it was all indifferent. As Cicero complains that was useless for therapy since it could only be taken in by those who were already sages and sages need no therapy.16
The second judgement is also needed in order to deal with the case of Alcibiades being exposed by Socrates as lacking in virtue. If someone like Alcibiades has not yet attained virtue his situation is genuinely bad so how can he be advised not to feel distress? As Stephen White has shown Chrysippus’ reply can easily be inferred: although he would be right to judge his situation bad he would be wrong if like Alcibiades he added the second judgement that inner sinkings would be an appropriate reaction.17
Presumably the most appropriate reaction would be a determination to improve. But why should not a contraction or sinking also be appropriate? I think the answer is that it can indeed be appropriate to the novice's circumstances if it acts as a spur to improvement. And the Stoics in fact allow the novice who is merely making progress to indulge in such reactions. The mistake from the Stoic point of view is to suppose that contraction or sinking is ever appropriate absolutely. Cicero gives a reason why it is not: it detracts from constancy gravity and composure.18
It must then remove the novice still further from being a sage. I would add something closer to the novice's point of view: I have conjectured that a sinking must be felt as bad (or good) or there would be no question of its being judged appropriate to bad (or good) circumstances. Even the novice then can recognize a sinking as something it would ideally be better not to have. I shall return to this subject below when I ask why the Stoics allow the sage analogues of other emotions but not of distress.
The third reason why the ‘appropriate to react’ judgement is needed is that emotion we shall see below involves a particular type of judgement namely an impulse. Now an impulse is stirred not by the first appearance that there is good or bad at hand but only by the second appearance of how it is appropriate (kathēkon) to react:
They say that what stirs impulse (hormē
) is nothing other than a motivating (hormētikē
) appearance of what is of itself appropriate (kathēkontos
The fourth reason why Chrysippus needs to postulate a second judgement will emerge in Chapter 5 in connection with emotions fading despite the retention of the first judgement that the present situation is bad. As interpreted below Chrysippus seeks to solve this by saying that the second judgement fades the judgement that contraction is appropriate.20
Is the good bad and appropriate actual or possible?
One can feel horror at what might have happened or might have been going to happen and at what might yet occur. So the good and bad that one makes judgements about can be a merely possible good and bad. In Chapter 5 I shall maintain that one can also feel emotion in relation to good and bad in fiction and historical narratives but I believe Seneca tries to disallow this.
Is the judgement that pursuit or avoidance is appropriate open to similar qualification? It must be in at least two cases. One is that in which pursuit or avoidance is impossible. Then at most we could judge that it would be appropriate if it were possible. The other case is that in which the good or bad situation is merely one that might have occurred. Then pursuit or avoidance is otiose although it was once or could have been appropriate.
Things are different when the judgement concerns the appropriateness of our present inner expansions or contractions. We may well consider those actually appropriate even in relation to what merely might have occurred. A case in which a person could only judge that reaction would be appropriate is that in which he lacks the appropriate expansion or contraction. But below I shall offer some reason to doubt whether such a person would be thought by Chrysippus to be in a state of pleasure or distress.
Judgements not contractions and expansions
The definitions of the four generic emotions as value judgements were not the only ones that the early Stoics tried out. Many of our sources give us an alternative set of definitions21
and we are told that Chrysippus wrote out both.22
We are also told that he wrote out (gegrammenoi
) definitions offered orally (eirēmenoi
) by the founder Zeno.23
In some of the alternative definitions distress is an irrational contraction pleasure an irrational expansion appetite an irrational desire (literally ‘reaching’: orexis appetitio
) and fear an irrational disinclination (literally Meaning away’: ekklisis declinatio
). One source tells us that Chrysippus thought the emotions actually were the judgements which we have been discussing whereas Zeno and many other Stoics thought the emotions occurred on the occasion of (epi
) judgements but (in the case of distress and pleasure at least) actually were the contractions and expansions.24
This testimony is too explicit to ignore. In contrast with Chrysippus’ account of emotions as judgements Zeno seems to concentrate on various kinds of movement the movements being physical movements since the soul consists of physical pneuma
. Not only are the contractions and expansions movements but so are the Teachings and leanings away. One of Zeno's general definitions of emotion says that it is a movement of the soul.25
It is Zeno too who introduces the idea to be discussed below that every emotion is a fluttering (ptoia
The claim that Zeno did not identify emotions with judgements is not impugned by the evidence that he referred to judgements in his definitions of distress and pleasure.27
For he evidently defined them as being contractions and expansions on the occasion of (fresh) judgements of evil and good. Only once by a form of shorthand does he define distress as a belief rather than the result of belief.28
This causal pattern of definition is preserved (without reference to Zeno and with some non-Zenonian additions) by Stobaeus who presents the four generic emotions as being
a contraction expansion reaching or leaning away but offers the judgements as the cause
The same pattern is preserved by Diogenes Laertius for one of the four definitions namely that of pleasure as irrational expansion upon (epi
) the presence of something believed to be choiceworthy.30
I think then that Zeno in identifying the four generic emotions with contractions expansions and perhaps Teachings and leanings away still brought in judgements as their cause. What Chrysippus did was to turn the cause (the judgement) into the emotion itself.
I believe that turning the judgement into the emotion itself was more than a merely verbal change and was to be important for later Stoic developments. The contrary has been argued. But Chrysippus’ denial that emotions are contractions and expansions became important when later Stoics introduced contractions preceding as well as accompanying emotion to serve as a pre
-emotional state. They insisted most strongly that these pre-judgemental contractions were not yet the emotion. This insistence becomes virtually unintelligible if the emotion is itself a contraction. How can it then differ significantly from the contraction which is supposed to precede it? Indeed it has been denied by ancient and modern commentators that there is any difference.31
But this is to go against the insistence on the distinction in the texts. Furthermore it prevents us understanding the methods for controlling emotion in the later Stoics because the claim that the preliminary contractions were not yet the emotion was supposed to help you stop the emotion itself from ever forming and to keep control in a tight situation. This will be further explained in Chapter 11.
A rearguard action might be attempted: could not Zeno have anticipated Chrysippus’ view that emotions are judgements? For suppose the contractions and expansions with which he identifies certain emotions are thought by him to be impulses and impulses to be judgements. But the links in this chain are weak. We have already seen and the evidence will be reinforced later that for Zeno impulse and emotion are not identical with but merely occur on the occasion of (epi) judgements. And as for contractions and expansions I have argued that at least Zeno's successors do not regard them as impulses.
Contractions and expansions as necessary concomitants though not components of distress and pleasure
When Chrysippus rejects the view that distress and pleasure are contraction and expansion he need not be denying that they are often so accompanied and perhaps always so. There is some evidence on this. Chrysippus said that when the opinion of evil is fresh it both contracts (sustellei
) the soul and produces distress but after a time it does not entirely or so much contract it.32
The distress too we learn abates (aniesthai
) as well as the contraction.33
Already it appears that distress and contraction are invariable concomitants. The contraction may even be necessary to the distress in spite of not being a component. That is the most obvious interpretation of Chrysippus explaining
the abatement of distress initially by reference to the contraction abating.34
To avoid concluding that contraction was necessary to the distress we should need to resort to the more complex interpretation that it was necessary to the distress being particularly noticeable. But it is easier to suppose that contraction though not a component is for Chrysippus a necessary concomitant.
It will be useful to translate Cicero's account of the four definitions of emotions as judgements after issuing four warnings. First when Cicero uses the verb videatur
(‘be seen as’) we should take him to be referring not to a mere appearance but to a full-blown judgement. (The distinction will be clarified shortly.) Secondly the word ‘fresh’ (recens
) is included in the definition for a reason that will be fully investigated only in Chapter 7. But roughly speaking the word makes an important acknowledgement that distress and pleasure can abate over time even though the original value judgements are still in place. Thus the judgements on this view need to be fresh or at least refreshed if there is to be emotion. Thirdly pleasure ought to be defined in terms of judging it appropriate that one's soul should expand
. When Cicero instead speaks of judging it appropriate to be carried away
) he is borrowing a term which Seneca associates with a later stage of emotion. In Latin it is easy to confuse the two stages of expansion and of being carried away because the past participle of efferri
(‘to be carried away’) in Latin is borrowed from another root: it is elātum
‘to raise’. Latin writers use the cognate elātio
(our ‘elation’) to render the Greek word eparsis
(rising) which is applied by the Stoics to the expansion of the soul as well as using it for carrying away. In fact the two concepts should have been distinguished. Finally Cicero's wording tends to obscure the judgement of appropriateness in connection with the two behavioural reactions involved in appetite and fear. However his talk of judging something intolerable
in fear corresponds to gerundives in the Greek texts: anupomonēton akarterēton
(not to be endured) and pheukton
(to be fled).35
And his talk of judging something useful
in appetite is a weak version of Seneca's talk of judging it appropriate (oportere
) to be avenged and of the gerundive orekton
(‘to be reached for’) in the emended Greek text of Stobaeus.36
is a fresh judgement (opinio
) of present evil in which it is seen as appropriate for the mind to be lowered and contracted. Pleasure
is a fresh judgement of present good in which it is seen as appropriate to be carried away. Fear
is a judgement of impending evil which is seen as being intolerable. Appetite
is a judgement of good to come such as it would be useful to have present now and here.37
Contractions and expansions
To complete the clarification of these four definitions and of the alternative set of four I should finish saying what I believe the contractions and expansions to be. So far I have said that they are physical contractions and expansions of the mind which was itself regarded as physical by the Stoics. But what is their psychological character? They cannot be impulses at least in the late Stoics who contrast initial contractions and expansions with emotional impulse. And there is no sign that they are impulses in Chrysippus. I shall argue that their psychological character is that they are sensed. The crucial evidence for their physical and psychological character has I think been commonly overlooked perhaps because it comes from passages not included in von Arnim's collection of Stoic fragments. In PHP
books 2–3 Galen quotes Chrysippus on a wide range of movements of the mind involved in emotion.38
Contractions are not explicitly mentioned but ‘bites’ are and bites seem to be sharp little contractions. They are often associated with contractions or little contractions (contractiunculae
and like contractions are associated with distress.40
In addition as we shall see a sinking of the mind is connected with fear and outward rushes with anger.
Chrysippus’ aim is to show that the command centre of the soul is located in the heart.41
His argument is that in emotion we actually feel the bites sinkings and other physical movements as located there. Bites are explicitly mentioned when Galen complains of Chrysippus’ cardiocentric argument:
You will find that the same holds with the argument from the bite (dēxis
) in cases of distress. For the bite is clearly (enargōs
) in the mouth of the stomach but they refer it to the heart.42
The sinking of the soul towards the heart is cited by Chrysippus in the following passage:
For the palpitation (palsis
) of the heart in fear is evident (ekphanēs
) and the running together (sundromē
) of the whole soul to this place. These [movements] occur not as a mere after-effect as when one part has a natural sympathy with others. It is in virtue of people sinking (sunizanousin
) into themselves and collecting themselves (sunagomenoi
) towards this as being the command centre and at the heart as being for them the guardian of the command centre.43
The reference to our feeling the location of the movement has so far been in terms of the location being evident (ekphanēs) or clear (enargōs). But in two passages Chrysippus uses a more explicit verb for self-awareness sunaisthanesthai:
Most people seem to me to be brought to this common view as if they were conscious (sunaisthanomenoi
) of emotions (pathē
) in the mind happening around their thorax and especially where the heart is arranged. This happens for example especially in cases of distress fear and anger and most of all rage. For impressions arc produced in us as if something were being vaporized from out of the heart and were being pushed out to certain parts and blowing into the face and hands.44
Why does Chrysippus say merely that it is as if
) people were conscious? Galen perfectly fairly in my view makes a lot of this qualification because he wants to show how far Chrysippus has to go to argue from the sensed movements being in the region of the heart to the emotions being there to the mind being there and finally to the command centre of the mind being there and not just (as Plato would allow) that part of the mind that is concerned with anger. Chrysippus has himself been scrupulous in saying that it is only as if
people were conscious of the emotions there because what they are directly conscious of there is the movements which in Chrysippus’ view as opposed to Zeno's are not identical with the emotions themselves. In the next quotation from Chrysippus it is not the emotion but the accompanying pain (algēdōn
) of which people are said to be conscious so no ‘as if’ qualification is required:45
For just as when our foot or head hurts the pain occurs in those places so too we are conscious (sunaisthanometha
) in a case of distress (lupē
) of pain (algēdōn
) occurring in the thorax.46
These passages concern phenomena which the Stoics connect closely with contractions. From them I conclude that the physical contractions of the mind are felt and felt as being in the heart according to Chrysippus. But there is one more question to be settled: how can the contractions be thought appropriate
to one's situation as his definitions require if they are felt as merely neutral sensations?47
Two answers seem possible. The sensations are thought appropriate either because they have been associated with unpleasant things in the past or because they themselves feel unpleasant. The second option fits with something that is said by Justin Gosling and Christopher Taylor on independent grounds when they are talking about pleasant and unpleasant sensations in the Stoics more generally.48
Such sensations even if the word ‘pleasure’ is sometimes used of them49
must be distinct from pleasure and distress in the strict sense since the sensations do not require the assent of the mind whereas according to the Stoics pleasure and distress do. In order to distinguish them Gosling and Taylor suggest that pleasant and unpleasant sensations for the Stoics consist in the appearance as good or bad of bodily functions an appearance which does not require the mind's assent.
It will be noticed that it is not only pleasure and distress which involve some kind of contraction or expansion. Fear involves an internal sinking or massing of the mind at the centre (I suggest reading sunathroiseis
instead of sunthroēseis
in the relevant passage of Plutarch).50
And anger which is a type of appetite involves a felt blowing as if of vapour out of the heart.51
The Stoic appeal to contraction and expansion seems to me entirely realistic provided we reinterpret it in physiological terms as Galen actually does followed by Plotinus and by Gregory of Nyssa.52
Emotions often involve not indeed movements of a physical soul but physiological movements which are felt as sinking or expansive sensations or as bites. Moreover we do often judge them to be highly appropriate responses to our situation.
Appearance or belief?
The belief (doxa
) or judgement (krisis
) involved in emotion is distinguished by the Stoics from mere appearance (phantasia
Latin species visum visio
) by the idea that belief or judgement involves an additional mental operation. It involves assenting (sunkatathesis
Latin adsensus consensio consensus
) with the mind or reason to the appearance.53
Strictly speaking assent is given to propositions54
and hence to the proposition contained in the appearance. Seneca insists that the mere appearance of injustice (species iniuriae
does not amount to anger without an assent of the mind (adsensus mentis
by which the appearance is approved (adprobare
The mind must agree that there really is an injustice.
Plato had treated appearance (phantasia
) as merely one kind of belief (doxa
)—belief combined with sense perception.58
It was Aristotle who first insisted that appearance and belief were different things although he distinguished them by something other than the Stoic assent.59
Whether emotions require belief or appearance remained controversial. Aristotle had interchanged the terms freely in his account of human emotions in the context of the law courts where it made no difference.60
But we shall see in Chapter 9 that one Aristotelian Aspasius rebukes another Andronicus for taking what was in fact the Stoic view that actual belief is required.61
I shall argue in Chapter 8 that on different grounds again not only Aspasius but also the Stoic Posidonius and the Middle Platonist treatise Didaskalikos
allow emotions to occur without judgement. This too may often have been on the basis of mere appearance. In those chapters I shall argue that Posidonius is right: there are examples of emotion in which assent is not given.
None the less we may overestimate how common those example are if we do not take into account the Stoic training in evaluating appearances and withholding assent. Untrained people in an emotional state the Stoics would say are likely to have assented to appearances so automatically as not to recognize assent as a distinct operation. It is the Stoic training that makes one conscious of the distinction between appearance and assent. If one sees a person who is really evaluating appearance there will not be the same temptation to suppose that they are already indulging in emotion. The idea that appearance is sufficient for emotion is partly due to the failure to notice that in the absence of training assent will already have taken place without being noticed. We must wait for Posidonius’ objections to see why there really are cases in which appearance without assent is sufficient for emotion.
Mind or will?
Seneca requires assent of the mind for the first of the two judgements involved in anger that there has been an injustice. But when he comes to the second judgement that it is appropriate to react he speaks instead of the will (voluntas
). There is an act of will to the effect that it is appropriate for me to be revenged since I have been harmed or that it is appropriate for him to be punished since he has committed a crime.62
The switch to talking of the will is no doubt because the proposition has to do with action. But Seneca writes as if there was not a radical difference between assent and will. Why not?
The first thing to notice is that the term ‘will’ (voluntas
) is not here used in its technical Stoic sense of a reasonable desire but is used of an unreasonable desire. It seems to stand for the Stoics’ main general term for desire namely hormē
. The standard translation is ‘impulse’ quaintly since there need be nothing impulsive about it. De Lacy prefers ‘conation’ and ‘desire’ would also have been better but I shall not tamper with the convention. The important point for the present is that impulse is at least sometimes equated with assent (sunkatathesis
In other words it is just another case of assent on the part of reason but assent to an appearance about how it is appropriate (kathēkon
) to act. That it is assent to an appearance about how it is appropriate to act we learn from a revealing passage which says that what stirs impulse is a motivating appearance (hormētikē phantasia
) of what is appropriate (kathēkontos
This view of will and impulse as assent to an appearance of how it is appropriate to act explains a number of things. First it explains Seneca speaking in our passage65
as if there was no significant difference between an act of will (voluntas
) and the acts of assent by the mind which he had been discussing just before. Secondly it explains how Chrysippus can have said that impulse in humans is their reason
) but their reason ordering them to act (logos prostaktikos tou poiein
Chrysippus I shall argue in Chapter 3 may have been correcting Zeno for Zeno held impulse to be caused by not identical with judgements of reason.
It is hard for us to believe Chrysippus’ view. If you merely judge an action appropriate in some way (it would serve him right) it does not follow that you desire it at all. If you judge it appropriate all things considered it may be only under some descriptions that you want it (the medicine is horrible but I want what will make me better). Conversely if you desire something e.g. an illicit action you may think it would be for example exciting but it does not follow that you think it in any way appropriate. Further even in so far as judgements of appropriateness are correlated with desires it does not follow that they are identical with them.
The sharp divide between desire and reason that we feel strongly today was something that Aristotle believed he had to insist on against Plato. The Platonists had separated from each other will (boulēsis
) anger (thumos
) and appetite (epithumia
) assigning the first to the rational part of the soul (logistikon
) and the others to the non-rational. But in fact according to Aristotle the capacity for desire (to orektikon
) should be recognized as having as much claim to be a distinct part in its own right as the rational part or any other. And its distinctness will be essential for explaining voluntary movement.67
What Chrysippus’ unitary psychology is doing in effect is blurring Aristotle's sharp distinction. There is a unitary faculty of reason and in will it simply gives its assent to a particular type of proposition. In Chapter 6 we shall see that the Stoic Posidonius once again resists the unitary character of this account.
Chrysippus’ unitary account also explains how emotion can on the one hand be equated with judgements in which assent is given and on the other be defined as an impulse. Emotion is repeatedly defined as an excessive impulse (pleonazousa hormē
It is now clear that an impulse is simply an assent of reason to another kind of proposition.
I cannot agree with Pohlenz's view that Seneca changed all this and that for him the will ‘is not a matter of the intellect’ although this view has been the dominant one.69
No such consequence follows from Seneca's contrasting the will (voluntas
) to return a benefit with a rather different
piece of knowledge viz. how
to return it.70
Nor does it follow when talking of unreflective willing (velle
) he says that no one knows how it begins certainly not from deliberation (consilium
In Seneca On Anger
2. 4. 1 the term ‘will’ in the broad sense of impulse most certainly is interchanged with the term ‘mind’ or ‘intellect’. I shall explain in Chapter 21 why I believe the Stoics did not formulate a full-blooded concept of will.
Impulse not sufficient for action
I take it that the impulse in emotion does not guarantee corresponding action. But since this goes against what I believe to be the standard view that impulse is sufficient for action72
I had better explain. I would find it surprising if the Stoics thought impulse guaranteed action. When I have the impulse to take revenge the time may not be ripe it may never be ripe or when it is the impulse may have changed. There is a particular reason why the impulse involved in emotion is unlikely to guarantee action. For in a passage already mentioned73
we are told that for the Stoics emotion involves an oscillation between two impulses assents or judgements the emotional impulse and one's better judgement. It is presumably not possible for both to be acted on. A passage has been cited on the other side in which Cicero speaking of the Stoics says that since (quoniam
) impulse follows acts of assent action follows on assent.74
But I do nor think Cicero's purposes require that impulse should guarantee action only that it typically produces it.
Emotions as voluntary because eradicable
The Stoics not only talk of will but also relatedly represent the emotions as voluntary75
though for quite different reasons from those of Sartre in modern times.76
Seneca introduces his analysis of anger by saying that its whole point is to show whether anger is controllable and it will be controllable on his view only if it is a judgement dependent on assent and will.77
Seneca's analysis of the stages of development in anger helps to show how they can be subjected to voluntary control. The initial appearance and the first movements or shocks do not have to lead on to emotion precisely because emotion requires acts of assent and will. It has been well pointed out that Latin is quite different from Greek in displaying an etymological connection between the words for will (voluntas
) and for voluntariness (voluntarius
In Greek the corresponding words boulēsis
have no connection.
The voluntariness is based on the idea that one is free to question appearances and withhold assent from them. If you do not bother to do so that is your own fault. If you do then there are many therapeutic techniques to help you cast doubt on appearances. I shall illustrate and discuss the effectiveness of these techniques in Chapters 11–12 and 15–16. But arguments for voluntariness were also provided. Emotions are due not to nature but to our own judgement79
which on the Stoic view involves voluntary assent. Examples reveal that emotions can be inhibited or self-induced.
It is necessary for those who claim to be able to attain freedom from emotion to treat the emotions as in some sense voluntary. Accordingly this happens not only with the Stoics but with the Pyrrhonian sceptics who also aspire to freedom from emotion (apathēs en tois doxastois).82 I shall discuss further in Chapter 14 how they contrast the sensations of pain which the sceptic cannot avoid with the emotions for which one must be held responsible (aitiateon).83
Other schools reject the claim of voluntariness. The Aristotelians84
think the emotions unavoidable although I shall suggest in Chapter 14 that the difference between Chrysippus and Philodemus the Epicurean on this point may be little more than verbal since Philodemus believes that a kind of anger is attainable which the Stoics would consider freedom from anger. It has also been argued that which particular emotions you have is up to you on the Epicurean view because it is up to you which of the innumerable incoming images you select for focusing upon.86
The Middle Platonist Didaskalikos
sides against Chrysippus and denies that emotions are ‘up to us’. The evidence it cites is merely that they often (pollakis
) occur despite our reluctance and resistance (akousi antiteinousin
But the conclusion is the more far-reaching one that they are in general not up to us.
The claim of voluntariness has been described as bizarre88
and in the light of Freudian psychology it may seem especially so. But I hope that when we consider the ancient therapeutic techniques it will be seen to have an element of truth on its side.
Deciding to believe
The belief in voluntariness is opposed to an idea in modern philosophy that we cannot decide to believe anything.89
In effect the Stoics are disagreeing although the terminology is not theirs. We do decide to believe that there is good or bad at hand and that it is appropriate to react. The Stoics do not put this in terms of the will
except in contexts where the belief happens to be concerned in the relevant way with action. But we shall see in Chapter 21 that when Augustine gives his view he makes the assent to appearance that is involved in belief to be an act of the will in every case.90
In this he is followed by Descartes who uses the idea in order to argue that erroneous beliefs are our own fault: we have failed to use the free will we have in order to withhold assent.91
Good feelings: eupatheiai
There is a final task for this chapter. To see what pathē emotions are for the Stoics and eventually to see what Stoic freedom from emotion is we must understand what is not counted as emotion. In the rest of this chapter I shall consider attitudes which the Stoics treat as acceptable. First and foremost are the good states of feeling (eupatheiai) which only the sage has. Although these states are not classed as pathē a proportion of them would be counted by us as emotions and so they constitute exceptions to the claim which I shall explain in Chapters 13 and 14 that the Stoics reject emotions and urge their eradication. But I believe these exceptions are few first because the two fullest Stoic lists of eupatheiai which very nearly agree with each other recognize only a very few types and secondly because only a sage would have eupatheiai and it is unclear whether the Stoics believe that anyone has yet attained to sagehood. It is to a large extent an ideal.
There are three kinds of eupatheia
: joy (khara
) will in the strict sense (boulēsis
) and caution (eulabeia
). The Latin word for will (voluntas
) is used in a much looser sense when it is applied to the impulse involved in the non-sage's emotion. The fullest list of species of eupatheia
Four species of will (boulēsis)
Good will (eunoia) is wishing (boulēsis) good things to another for his sake.
Kindness (eumeneia) is lasting eunoia.
Welcoming (aspasmos) is uninterrupted eunoia.
Three species of joy (kharā)
Delight (terpsis) is a fitting joy at one's advantages (ōpheleiai).
Gladness (euphrosunē) is joy at the deeds of the temperate.
Cheerfulness (euthumia) is joy at the conduct of the universe and at its leaving nothing to be desired (anepizētēsia; or at enquiry into it—epizētēsia or similar in Grosseteste's Greek).
Two species of caution (eulabeia)
Modesty (aidōs) is caution about due blame.
Piety (hagneia) is caution about sins towards the gods.
Joy is most obviously an emotion caution not obviously so. What distinguishes joy from the emotion of pleasure which is condemned is presumably not the judgements involved. For in feeling joy wise people evidently judge themselves to be in the presence of good things (the advantages of wisdom the deeds of the temperate the conduct of the universe). And since they are said to expand94
they presumably judge that expansion is appropriate. The judgements have the same structure but the stated difference is that the expansion is reasonable (eulogos
). Reasonableness (eulogon
) enters the definition of all three kinds of eupatheia
. Joy is a reasonable expansion will is a reasonable desire (orexis
) in other words a reasonable impulse or assent and caution a reasonable disinclination (ekklisis
In Chrysippus’ view I think a still more basic difference will have been that the judgements are true whereas for reasons I shall explain in Chapter 12 the judgements involved in emotion are thought to be false. It is a further difference that the judgements will also be rational in the sense of avoiding the kind of disobedience to reason which will be discussed in Chapter 3. Moreover since eupatheiai
are confined to the sage the requirement of reasonableness is likely also to involve a further background of understanding which makes the judgement rational and stable. And that in turn may help to explain Cicero's rendering eupatheiai
in Latin as constantiae
and calling them constant and peaceful states (placide atque constanter
Seneca confirms that joy does not cease or turn into its opposite96
although there are rival reports that joy is not permanent nor the property of all sages at all times.97
Despite these differences of reasonableness and truth Plutarch repeats an old complaint that caution is merely the emotion of fear and caution about blameworthiness (aideisthai
) merely a species of fear viz. shame (aiskhunesthai
). He adds that instinctive inclination (prothumia
) which I shall treat separately because it is not a eupatheia
is no different from the emotion of appetite (epithumia
It is true that some at least of the eupatheiai
are what we
would call emotions but Chrysippus is entitled to treat them separately on the grounds of reasonableness and truth.
What is less clear is why only the sage should be able to make the relevant reasonable and true judgements.99
The requirement of reasonableness (eulogon
) is said to fall short of the requirement of knowledge (katalēpsis
so it does not explain the restriction to sages. But the explanation may lie in the non-sage lacking the information needed for recognizing what conduct to avoid or what to rejoice at in the deeds of God or of other humans. These failures of information are in turn likely to rob the non-sage of the constancy that marks the sage. Even the non-sage's desire for good character lacks the stability which would be supplied by a sufficient background of information and rational understanding.
I have been presenting the types of eupatheia
as few and the instances as rare. There is also an extra quite deliberate omission from the list since there is no eupathic analogue of the emotion of distress.101
But why it may be asked would not the sage be absolutely right to feel distress at bad character in others? The Stoic answer has already been given in the earlier discussion of why Alcibiades the non-sage is wrong to feel distress at bad character in himself. Contraction although the sage may feel it as a first movement102
cannot be judged by him appropriate not only because it is unpleasant but because it detracts to the extent it occurs from his serenity.103
Perhaps the sage is also fortified by being able to see how bad character in others fits into the overall pattern of goodness.
There is a further restriction on the range of eupatheiai
in that the eupatheia
of will in the strict sense seems to be very narrow because the four species listed cover willing things for others not for oneself. One modern interpretation sought to expand the category by treating welcoming as a welcoming of what happens rather than of people. But it was admitted that it should then have been classified as a kind of joy.104
Will may be a little wider in so far as it is said to include hairesis
which on one interpretation is the sage's calculated selection of indifferents as an example of genuinely good action.105
Even so it will be confined to the sage.
There may have been some small compensating expansions in the range of eupatheiai and the Stoics may themselves have added to the list. In Chapter 18 I shall consider their endorsement of Platonic homosexual love. This too is not a pathos as I shall explain.
Non-Stoics also made their preferred additions. Plotinus for example adds the state of mystical love.106
But he could have taken this directly from Plato who uses the verb eupathein
and the noun eupatheia
Proclus and Damascius call the pleasures of intellect a eupatheia108
and Philo of Alexandria without speaking of eupatheia
calls Moses’ frank speaking to God a case not of tolma
audacity but of eutolmia
Philo adds a mistaken entry to the list: finding no eupatheia
corresponding to distress he inserts bites and contractions presumably because these like eupatheiai
are not classified as emotions.110
But this is a mistake and whatever the additions the list of eupatheiai
may play a role in another context because the Stoics say that all wise people benefit (ōphelein
) each other even if they do not know each other at all.111
This may seem surprising for they do not depend on each other for their good character. One answer may be that they gain the eupatheia
of joy from the thought of good character in others. This would be in principle possible because although joy is not the same as the supreme good of good character but is only an offspring (epigennēma
) of that112
it is still classed by the Stoics as a good.113
It may seem to create a further problem if sages rejoice in and also wish for good in other people because that good is not under their control.114
Moreover the Stoic sage not only welcomes good character in others but also wishes it for others and so wishes something not under his control. Presumably however he welcomes it merely in so far as he believes it exists and wishes it merely with the reservation ‘if nothing prevents’ a reservation more frequently applied to preferred indifferents.
Emotions temporarily useful to the novice but eventually to be shed or replaced by the sage
Four further acceptable attitudes remain to be discussed. Besides the sparse list of eupatheiai
there are some common or garden emotions which can be welcomed as useful to the novice although they would eventually be shed or replaced by the sage. I have already given the example of the novice's yearning for good character. It has also been pointed out115
how often the novice who is progressing in character is exhorted by the Stoic Epictetus to feel distress116
at his present character to rejoice118
at progress made or to be cautious119
about mistakes. Likewise Seneca encourages hope by presenting virtue as a prize to be won.120
The advocacy of shame and distress seems to involve a clash with Chrysippus’ reaction to the story of Alcibiades distressed at learning from Socrates of his own bad character.121
There distress was the wrong reaction. Yet this is surprising because Socrates and Epictetus alike think that self-dissatisfaction is a vital spur to improvement and Epictetus says that the novice's reaction to his lectures should be one of agony.122
I have suggested that inner contractions in shame and distress are indeed appropriate to the circumstances but that there is still something inappropriate about them which the novice overlooks. For besides being unpleasant they are the antithesis of the calmness of the sage123
who at most suffers only little preliminary contractions. Rejoicing at progress is also not altogether appropriate for progress is not itself a good but a preferred indifferent124
so the joy which judges it a good is mistaken. As for the novice's caution this when it is an emotion at all is one that occurs randomly and is likely to be wrong about what to avoid. If these mistaken pathē
are none the less approved for pedagogic purposes this is no more than we find with the technique of Evagrius to be discussed in Chapter 23 who finds emotions or temptations useful at the stage when they are being played off against each other in order to weaken them although they are in the end to be eliminated.
Prothumia: instinctive inclination
Another acceptable reaction was prothumia
. We have noticed Plutarch complaining that prothumia
(Latin desiderium naturae
) was distinguished from ordinary appetite as acceptable and Cicero agrees.125
The best interpretation of prothumia
is that it is a preliminary instinctive inclination prior to an assent.126
We have a prothumia
to join in play with children to talk with responsive people sheep have a prothumia
to eat the right sort of grass.127
for sex can make us take up our natural duties in the family.128
have to be allowed because they are involuntary although development into an epithumia
or appetite would be voluntary.
A preliminary inclination will not yet involve assent. Perhaps it is sometimes simply an appearance that something is good. Such appearances can lead to the first movements which will be discussed in Chapter 4 including involuntary erections and Teachings towards and such first movements might also be included under the heading of prothumia.
Selection (eklogē): seeing the preferred as preferred
There is another possible attitude besides seeing the indifferent as good (emotion) and seeing the good as good (eupatheia
). For one may instead see preferred indifferents for what they are: as preferred indifferents appropriate to reach for. The Stoics have a name for this attitude eklogē
selection and for seeing dispreferred indifferents as dispreferred indifferents appropriate to avoid they use the name apeklogē
As I shall explain in Chapter 13 this means that the Stoic who abandons emotion still has plenty of other sources of motivation. Even without being a sage he will employ selection and disselection and we shall see Epictetus explaining that this attitude is the source of a more genuine kind of family affection than the untutored emotional kind.
Wanting with reservation
There is one final recommended attitude which I shall discuss further in Chapter 15 namely qualifying one's desires and expectations with a reservation (hupexairesis
The most general form of reservation is to add ‘if God wills’ or ‘if nothing prevents’. Expecting with reservation is merely recognizing that things may happen otherwise and so avoiding disappointment. Wanting with reservation is less clear. I suggest it can be perspicuously represented as follows:
I desire (judge appropriate): I shall avoid illness and Zeus’ will shall be done
or failing that (Greek ei de mē ‘but if not’): Zeus’ will shall be done.
Reservation is said either to exempt the Stoic from frustration or at least to lighten any frustration.131
How does it do so? First all along the Stoic desires that God's will be done and this desire is satisfied. But more than that although at present the first option is preferred he is already on this interpretation disposed to abandon it at latest when he finds he cannot satisfy both conjuncts in it. He would then according to Epictetus’ report of Chrysippus even come to desire (hormān
) illness. Epictetus adds that he might come to will fever death or torture.132
Both the continuity of the second desire and the readiness to abandon the first enhance tranquillity.
Practising reservation in your desires could help you to avoid emotion if the readiness to abandon the option you prefer led you to re-evaluate that option as something which it is natural and right to prefer but which is actually only a preferred indifferent.
Reservation as Tad Brennan has shown can be exercised by someone in a state of emotion who fails to make this re-evaluation. It can also be used by someone whether a sage or not who is merely selecting indifferents. And it may perhaps be exercised by a sage who is wishing good character a genuine good to other people. The attitude is not confined to the sage although it is said that the sage desires most things only with this qualification133
and that it is the right attitude to most things because they are indifferent.134