PART I: Emotions as Judgements versus Irrational Forces
7: Posidonius Judgements Insufficient for Emotion Exhaustion and Lack of Imagination
Posidonius has two arguments to show that Chrysippus’ judgements are not sufficient for emotion and three which I shall postpone to the next chapter to show they are not necessary. Two of the objections were anticipated by Chrysippus himself who attempted replies. I believe Posidonius thinks that judgements are not ever sufficient since the irrational powers of the soul always need to be involved whereas he thinks more modestly that they are not invariably necessary because sometimes the emotional movements which I shall discuss further in this chapter are sufficient to cause emotion on their own. I believe he is right that the relevant judgements are often but not always necessary and right at least for many cases that they are not sufficient.
Objection 1: judgement not sufficient when emotions fade through lapse of time or exhaustion
The first objection to the sufficiency of judgements appeals to emotion abating through lapse of time or exhaustion though the judgements remain.
Chrysippus already saw the problem that with lapse of time distress may abate (anesis) even though the two supposedly constituent judgements may appear to remain intact. He admits that the first of his two value judgements might remain that the present situation is bad. But he is not embarrassed by this admission because he thinks he has two explanations labelled (1a) and (1b) in the translation below. One explanation is that the second value judgement abates (aniesthai) with time the judgement that it is appropriate to experience contraction. That is what is meant by Chrysippus’ remark that the impulse towards contraction abates.1 And we shall see (p. 112) that Galen envisages a similar point about fear. The other explanation is of less obvious relevance. It is that with time the contraction itself may abate. For Chrysippus unlike Zeno contraction is a mere concomitant of distress. But if it is a necessary concomitant its absence would indeed guarantee the absence of distress. Chrysippus’ treatment of distress fading while judgement remains runs as follows in Galen's report:
Chrysippus himself bears witness in the second book of On Emotions that emotions are softened (malattetai) in time even if the beliefs (doxai) remain that something bad has come to pass (gegonenai). He writes as follows.
‘It might be asked how the abatement (anesis) of distress (lupē) comes about whether through some belief changing or with them all remaining and why this will be the case.’ Then he adds ‘It seems to me that a belief remains in the form that what is actually present is bad but that as the belief grows older (1a) the contraction abates (aniesthai) and as I think (1b) the impulse towards contraction.’2
The idea of Chrysippus that judgements fade when emotions do could be made plausible for one kind of case. You were wronged but that was some years ago and your present situation does not even appear bad to you. In that case you can no longer make the relevant judgement of badness for on Chrysippus’ view that has to be a judgement about the present or future situation being bad. It does not count if only the past situation was bad. Nor can you make the second judgement that contraction or retaliation would now be appropriate. It might have been appropriate once but in the new situation it would be pointless. So in this type of case Chrysippus’ position is protected for the relevant judgements—not just one but both—have perished along with the emotion.
But Posidonius seems more interested in a case which cannot be handled this way where a kind of numbness is introduced by emotional exhaustion. He rejects as unexplanatory the plea that the judgement of badness is not fresh. And he ignores Chrysippus’ plea that the judgement of contraction being appropriate has abated perhaps because that plea was too obscurely put or perhaps because it does not anyhow deal with the case that interests him. When you are drained of emotion by exhaustion this need not be because any judgement has ceased although perhaps (as I shall point out) you are too weary to attend to it.
There had been an alternative and less satisfactory attempt to solve the problem of emotion fading while judgement remains. On some accounts the problem and the less satisfactory solution had already been anticipated by the founder of Stoicism Zeno. This solution focuses on the other judgement the judgement of goodness or badness. It defines pleasure and distress as involving a fresh (prosphatos Latin recens) opinion of the presence of good or bad.3 Thus one should expect the emotions to fade even though the belief is still there provided it is no longer fresh. This is clearly an alternative to Chrysippus’ later solution.
Freshness was interpreted at some later date as not a purely chronological concept. For the belief or the evil believed in can be refreshed as it was by Artemisia who built the Mausoleum in memory of her husband.4 The idea of freshness is normally inserted only into the definitions of pleasure and distress not into those of fear and appetite. (The one exception to this is belied on an adjacent page.5) One might have thought that fears and appetites for things without a date could fade in much the same way as distress and pleasure while the judgement of badness or goodness remained intact. But the point may be6 that fears and appetites for something on a particular date are not likely to fade as the date approaches.
The ‘freshness’ analysis is also modified by later suggestions that what needs to be fresh is not the belief itself but the event which is believed to be good or bad7 or on one reading even the motive power of the belief (to kinētikon).8
In its original version the ‘freshness’ analysis has a serious defect which I think Posidonius is quite right to point out. This is that adding the word ‘fresh’ on its own explains nothing.9 It may patch up the definitions of pleasure and distress so that they pick out the right cases. But it does not explain why freshness is relevant. Cicero was later to explain the relevance of freshness and to explain it differently. But this development may have been due to Posidonius demanding an explanation.10 Cicero says that freshness makes what has happened seem bigger (maiora).11 The passage of time he says can work in two ways. It may give time for reflection (ratio cogitatio) or for familiarity (usus). In either case the lesson learnt is either that things are smaller (minora) than they seemed or not great enough (tantum) to overturn a happy life or that there is no evil at all.12 In other words the original judgement is actually replaced when it ceases to be fresh. Only the judgement that there is no evil at all should be able to remove distress altogether. But as Galen points out13 perhaps following Posidonius the judgement that the evil is not intolerable i.e. to be avoided removes another of Chrysippus’ judgements (the second judgement associated with fear) and would have provided a more consistent explanation of emotion fading than freshness.
In the meantime Posidonius had offered his own explanation of what happens when emotions fade.14 His explanation goes back to Plato's idea that there are two non-rational powers of the soul which reason has to master as a charioteer may have to master two horses.15 One horse is concerned with victory and anger one with the baser appetites. Posidonius uses the analogy of a rider as well as of a charioteer. His idea could be put by saying that what needs to be fresh for distress or pleasure to occur is not the beliefs nor the events but the horses.
Posidonius puts his explanation in terms of people being sated (emplēsthēnai) and wearied (kamnein).16 Satiety can take two forms either satisfaction17 or exhaustion.18 For example you have taken revenge or you are exhausted in the course of looking for it. If you are satisfied presumably the two judgements will have lapsed but Posidonius’ idea is that if you are exhausted they need not have lapsed at all. In case anyone thinks that it is Galen who introduces talk of satiety we should notice that it had been introduced even before Posidonius by Chrysippus.19
What gets sated or wearied is the emotional element of the soul (to pathētikon tēs psukhēs).20 This element consists of the two irrational capacities (dunameis) of the soul that Plato had called appetitive and irascible (epithumētikē thumoeidēs). It is sated and wearied by emotional movements (pathētikai kinēseis)21 which are its own22 or equivalently those of these two capacities.23 Sometimes instead it is sated with its own appetites24 i.e. presumably with their fulfilment. When satisfied it halts its own movement which was controlling the animal's impulse (ekratei tēs hormēs).25 Once the emotional element is moving moderately (metria) reason (logismos) is able to take control (kratein) of it as if it were controlling horses.26 The horses which the charioteer controls (kratein arkhein) in Galen's report of Posidonius are elsewhere called appetite and anger (epithumia thumos).27
So for one thing the emotional (pathētikon) element of the soul in time gets its fill of its own appetites and for another is exhausted by the prolonged movements. Thus when for both reasons it falls quiet and moves moderately reason is able to control it. It is as if a horse was itself carried away (ekphoros) and so carried away (exenenkai) the rider (epibates) forcibly but then as it got exhausted with running and sated with what it had an appetite for the holder of the reins (hēniokhos) again took control. This is often observed happening and trainers of young animals let them get exhausted and sated with the movements by which they are carried away (ekphoroi; kinēseis) and then set hands to them.28
Posidonius is claiming that in these cases of emotional exhaustion the emotions abate not because the judgements do but because the emotional element in the soul is exhausted by its own movements. A full assessment must await the discussion at the end of the chapter of what these movements are. They had better not be judgements (as adult human impulses and appetites are for Chrysippus) or we would not have a case in which judgements remain intact. But it will turn out in any case that they are not. Presumably you still judge for example that you have been put in a bad situation and that retaliation would be appropriate but emotion is drained for Posidonius’ quite different reasons.
Objection 2: Judgement not sufficient for emotion without imagination
Posidonius has a second objection to the sufficiency of Chrysippus’ judgements for emotion. Being persuaded by reason that an unseen evil is at hand is not sufficient to produce fear or distress if you cannot imagine or picture it (phantasia anazōgraphēsis). The point is surely a good one. Being intellectually convinced of the need to respond to a hostile foreign power will not provoke pity or fear in the absence of imagination. Some Britons may have felt like this about Hitler's invasion of Czechoslovakia. It was bad for Czechoslovakia and Britain and it would have been appropriate to react. But in Prime Minister Chamberlain's words Czechoslovakia was a distant country of which we knew little. We shall further see in Chapter 10 that modern cognitive therapy regards mental images as very important in changing the emotions of patients.
Posidonius’ explanation of the importance of imagery is that you cannot move the non-rational by means of reason unless you present it with something like a picture (anazōgraphēsis) to look at.29 This looks like the erroneous assumption that cause must be like effect but the error does not affect the plausibility of Posidonius’ conclusion. The central argument runs as follows:
For I think you have long since observed how people are not frightened or distressed when persuaded by reason that some evil is present or approaching them but only when they get images (phantasiai) of those things. For how could one excite the irrational by reason unless you present it with a sort of picture (anazōgraphēsis) like a visible one?30
Posidonius’ point is that the judgements of reason are not sufficient for fear or distress without the irrational pictures of the imagination.
This in turn enables Posidonius to explain what he believes Chrysippus fails to explain that people progressing towards virtue do not normally feel distress at the thought that their lack of virtue is a great evil. The reason is that they are led to this thought by the rational element of the soul not by the non-rational imagination.31
The importance of imagery is something rightly emphasized in ancient philosophy and much more than in modern philosophy. Plotinus makes it a test of being in love whether you have an image of the other person in their absence.32 Imagery is dropped in mystical experience according to Plotinus and Augustine and must be dropped if we are ever to achieve that.33 Augustine deplores the power of images over him as obscuring knowledge of God.34 He singles out as we shall see in Chapter 26 the power of sexual images in dreams.35 Imagination we shall see in Chapter 15 is also used as a therapeutic device when false imaginings are recommended. This is true of the relabelling technique in which one is urged for example to think of a crowd as a festival or again when it is suggested one should think of one's dead son as merely absent or one's health as secure.
Posidonius’ two examples of judgements being insufficient for emotion—exhaustion and lack of imagination—are not the only ones we could find. Emotion may be absent because of a failure of attention not of judgement or imagination as in the case of action in an emergency. A fire breaks out. One may judge that something bad threatens and that it is appropriate to flee and yet in the excitement of the moment fail to feel fear. One's attention is gripped by the necessary steps for escape rather than by the badness of what would happen if one didn't. When safety is reached one feels horror at what might have happened. Attention has switched to that. But a switch of attention is not a switch of judgement.36
It may be through weakening attention that the exhaustion to which Posidonius appeals succeeds in calming emotion. And the passage of time may also produce its calming effect through a weakening of attention. Epicurus actually recommends calming emotion by switching attention to happy memories as we shall see in Chapter 16.
Besides imagination and attention a third supplement that may be needed to produce emotion is the taking in of implications. Freud describes how calmer emotions are not immediately achieved by grasping the therapeutic facts. One has to become acquainted or conversant with them by working through them.37 On the other hand a failure to take in the implications of upsetting facts does not necessarily protect one from emotion. Martha Nussbaum describes how as the implications come to be recognized they may keep reopening the wound.38
Posidonius’ emotional movements
It will confirm and clarify what has been said if we now try to determine what Posidonius’ emotional movements are. Galen equates them simply with emotions (pathē).39 John Cooper however has made the excellent point that impulse (hormē) by which is probably meant the impulse that constitutes emotion is not identified with the emotional movements but is said to be controlled by them (krateiri) or in certain cases generated upon their occurring (gennasthai epi).40
I think that soul movements in Posidonius are literally spatial movements of the soul since this is what they are in Chrysippus and in Plato. The point about Chrysippus has been argued in Chapter 2 where we saw that Chrysippus’ expansions and contractions of the soul are spatial movements of the physical soul in the chest. It is more surprising that Plato's soul movements should be spatial because he is so keen to emphasize that the soul is not visible.41 But the point has been convincingly argued on the basis of the Timaeus.42 The world soul revolves. It is created out of the circles of the same and the different and some circles move in opposite directions to others.43 The soul is not directly visible44 but because the heavenly bodies are made to move with the movements of the world soul45 we can infer its motion from theirs. The souls of the stellar gods and the rational part of the human soul are made on the same model and in each case they too revolve.46 This is why we need a rounded head to accommodate the revolutions47 and if the circles get out of true through disuse we may be reincarnated as animals with elongated heads to accommodate the distortion.48 This is also why the movements in the body in humans when they were first created and nowadays in newborn babies obstruct intelligence. They do so by shaking the circuits of the soul.49 Sound is described as a movement that passes from the body to the soul and hearing as a movement that passes from head to liver.50 Plato's Laws takes up the same theme. The therapeutic value of nurses rocking babies and singing and of corybantic dancing is based on the bodily movements calming the movements of the soul.51
Given this background in Plato and in Chrysippus we can suppose that the emotional movements of Posidonius are spatial movements of what he calls the emotional element in the soul. That is so I argued in Chapter 5 how Posidonius thinks he can satisfy the principle that cause is like effect: the spatial movements involved in sound set up spatial movement in the emotional part of the soul. This is just what Plato had thought about hearing in general and about nurses singing to babies in the passages just cited.
For Aristotle such spatial movement of the soul would be unthinkable. The soul in his view is a familiar set of life-manifesting capacities52 not the sort of thing that could move. And he devotes a long chapter to rejecting the view of his predecessors that the soul does move.53
Cooper has made a further suggestion of great interest. He takes Posidonius’ emotional movements to be feelings of excited attraction to and repulsion from agitating objects and events.54 I am not sure that Posidonius will have worked out any further characterization of emotional movements beyond their being spatial movements of the soul and none is recorded. But I agree that if he had done it would have been sensible of him to characterize the emotional movements as being or at least as producing feelings like those that Cooper describes. For first if Posidonius’ emotional movements are in this way directed to objects of an agitating kind their fading through satiety or exhaustion will indeed help to explain our emotions fading. Secondly the emotional movements conceived in Cooper's way will be well qualified to generate (gentian) and control (kratein) emotion. The following passages speaking of the impulse which constitutes emotion say that it is generated or controlled upon the occurrence of the emotional movements:
it halts its own movement which was controlling (ekratei) the animal's (tou zōiou) impulse (hormē) and was leading [the animal] in its own direction (kath’ heautēn) to wherever the animal was being diverted.55
For impulse (hormē) is generated in the animal (zōiou) sometimes on the one hand upon the judgement (krisis) of the rational element (logistikon). Often on the other hand it is generated upon the movement of the emotional element (pathētikon).56
There is another suggestion in the literature that Posidonius’ emotional movements are an anticipation of the ‘first movements’ of Seneca's On Anger.57 The suggestion may be tempting because Posidonius’ emotional movements like Seneca's first movements occur independently of and before the hormē or impulse in which emotions consist58 and are also involuntary since they occur of necessity (anangkaiōs)59 although we can be trained to control them.60
In my view however Posidonius’ movements are not like Seneca's whichever view of them we take. If Posidonius did not go beyond thinking of them as spatial movements of the emotional part of the soul they will be too underdescribed to serve as forerunners of the first movements in the Senecan soul. On the other hand if they are conceived as being directed towards things of an agitating kind this too makes them unlike Seneca's first movements as I have construed them. Clearly they could be compared only with first movements of the soul not of the body. But first movements of the soul in Seneca I argued in Chapter 4 are wholly inner. They are contractions and expansions within the chest sensed and sensed as good or bad; they are not directed to something else. The references to movements in Seneca's Letters which have been considered particularly Posidonian seem to me to be like those in On Anger references only to inner contractions and expansions.61
This first difference is important partly because it generates a second. If Posidonius’ first movements really are directed to things of an agitating kind this will mean they are very well adapted for generating (gennān) emotions. Indeed a worry has been raised about how in view of this Posidonius can hope to control emotions.62 This point in turn makes his emotional movements very bad models for Seneca. For Seneca's whole emphasis goes in the other direction. The purpose of his discussion is to show us that we need not feel emotion. He wants us to see that a mere first movement can be discounted and that emotion need not follow. It is easier to discount Seneca's first movements precisely because they are only sensed inner sinkings and expansions and are not directed to the agitating situations themselves although they are caused by the appearance of good or bad in those situations.
This second difference between Posidonius and Seneca generates a third. They have different techniques for preventing their movements from leading us on to full emotion. Whereas Seneca believes we can learn to prevent a first movement that has already occurred from leading on to emotion Posidonius’ aim is to inhibit the occurrence of emotional movements in the first place. Since emotional movements arise from the state of the body63 they can be discouraged by physical measures. That is why Posidonius following Plato recommends a protracted regimen of food and drink from earliest infancy64 and musical rhythms of the right sort.65 I have argued that Posidonius thinks bodily movements will work because he conceives the emotional movements of the soul as being themselves spatial. I hope this does something to answer the question why he believes that emotions can be controlled.
If we wish to find Posidonius anticipating Seneca to a small extent we can do so rather in a fragment which is normally ascribed to Posidonius. This draws the distinctions which Seneca later makes among three things: (1) the emotions themselves (2) the bites and expansions (dēgmoi diakhuseis) and (3) the trembling and pallor (tromoi ōkhriaseis) and change of appearance. The first are said to be mental without qualification the second physical but occurring in the mind the third physical but occurring in the body. Seneca would agree on bites and expansions being physical but in the mind. But the Posidonian fragment tells us no more and does not point out that the bites and expansions can occur like Posidonius’ emotional movements before emotion.66