Re: [stoics] Illustration - Hot Mug of Emotions
- On 11/29/2010 10:15 PM, David H. Hatch wrote:
> Learning and expression here, is often best done through illustrations
> and pictures. An example follows...
> Emotions can be like hot coffee in a mug. For one who holds such a mug,
> they may have burns to their fingers. He cannot drop the mug or spill
> the contents. The holder of the mug goes thru all sorts of contorsions
> to minimize the pain yet not drop the mug or spill the contents. He
> passes it back and forth between his hands. It occupies all of his
> It owns him and in a sense, controls him. He becomes inefficient and
> ineffective. An old passerby suggests that the holder use the mug's cool
> insulated handle with which to grasp and manage the hot mug, instead of
> it managing him. The pain subsides. Balance resumes. Now he manages the
> hot mug, it does not manage him. Efficiency and effectiveness return.
> The faculty of the mind is that handle. The old passerby is a Stoic.
I understand and appreciate the analogy, but I don't think
it's Stoic. The Stoic view is that, once we look at the world
correctly, the heat _goes away_. There no longer exists any hot
emotion for the Stoic to deal with--we don't have to manage the
blistering contents of the mug, because the mug is now empty.
Below is an excerpt from the article Keith recommended on how the Stoic Sage loves by William Stephens:
In order to resolve this dilemma we must first distinguish between the natural feelings which the Stoic has—affection, gentleness, helpfulness, etc.—which are entirely positive, and the feelings which disrupt his mental serenity. For example, one would think that, from the Stoic's perspective, when one's child dies grief—a passion which destroys one's peace of mind—is not ‘natural’ in the sense of being appropriate. Rather, such passionate grief is only ‘natural’ in the sense of being an affective response typical of non-Stoics. Epictetus says that family affection (τὸ φιλόστοργον) and fondness (στερκτικόν) are natural human feelings which are compatible with what is reasonable, and so he does not consider them to be ‘passions’ (πάθη). The Stoic is not supposed to be devoid of these natural, positive feelings which Epictetus evidently would include among the classic ‘good feelings’ (ευ̉πάθειαι) of orthodox Stoicism, but should be devoid only of the over-intense emotions or passions which destroy his imperturbability (α̉ταραξία; εύροια) and α̉πάθεια. Michael Frede makes this same point by observing that the Stoics reject the Aristotelian view of the πάθη because ‘they also think it is grossly misleading to think of the affections of the soul as πάθη in the sense of passive affections. They rather are pathē in the sense of illnesses, diseases. Indeed, they are the diseases of the mind which we have to cure’. Thus, we could describe the Stoic as passionless but not unfeeling.
So far so good. We already see that, as asserted in this thread, love is one of those emotions that can be one of the eupathos and that a Stoic aims to be free of pathos for sure, but not without affection.
It is also clear from the above passage that grief is not considered a part of the pure love of the Sage even though it is thought to be inseparable from any love most of us would ascribe to.
Earlier though Stephens asserts that Epictetus and the other Roman Stoics take a different view on love than the earlier Stoa. But this turns out to be a more conservative view. Both the Greek and Roman Stoa then include a form of love as one of the eupathos. I am a bit confused now about the early Greek Stoa’s view on erotic love which apparently Epictetus rejects.
Epictetus believes that if one remembers the fragility of the things one loves, one can then restrain one's natural affection and stop the feeling of love from intensifying into an uncontrollable πάθος. The rational considerations of the temporariness of the liaison, the inevitable separations from the loved one, and her eventual death function to prevent the Stoic from being overpowered by his emotions and foolishly desiring his loved one ‘out of season’.
This seems to follow Chrysippus in labeling impulse either excessive or not. Yet this depiction of emotion on an analog continuum fails to clearly show sufficient and excessive as dependent on true or false value judgments. Without that we are left wondering how to know when an emotion is ‘excessive’ or ‘out of season’. Surely we can start with emotion that obviously is disturbing to our inner peace. However a lot of affect will straddle the border line and it seems more clear to me to state right up front the demarcation between sufficient and excessive affect. Without that we will start to include what are conventionally ‘good’ emotions as eupatheiai and this drifts more towards Aristotle’s view on emotion.
The goal of Stoic philosophy here, as always, is to learn how to control—i.e. rationally regulate—one's emotions . . .
This is either an incorrect view of Stoicism or it could have been worded better. I don’t believe the Stoic ‘regulates’ emotion but rather works on reducing the number of false value judgments he has. Whenever a false value judgment is not assented to our Stoic simply does not have that excessive impulse; there isn’t a regulation there is an elimination. I await elucidation on the author’s presentation or my misunderstanding of Stoicism.
Stephens on compassion:
In making himself invulnerable to emotional pain does the Stoic not also make himself incapable of genuine, heartfelt human compassion for others? Here we must be clear on our understanding of ‘compassion’. In so far as this is an inner feeling of pity that the commiserator has for the sufferer, the Stoic does indeed experience it. He feels sorry for the person suffering, not because he believes the sufferer to be burdened by real evils, but because the sufferer is enslaved by his own mistaken judgement that his current woes derive from external things and not from his own judgement about those things.
. . .
So once again we can say that the Stoic acts with compassion by trying to remove the misery of the sufferer. Yet in making this attempt he will not allow himself to be ensnared by the sufferer's πάθος.
I think this is correct. Love and compassion free of false judgments of value are both eupatheiai. This is an essential point about Stoicism much discussed here and still much misunderstood. This article is a good read for those interested in the Stoic position on the subject though I am somewhat confused by Stephens not including assenting to true or false impressions or true or false value judgments.