In the Plato-Aristotle theory, the rational part, known as the reason, or
mind, or intellect, is supposed to rule the nonrational parts (also known as
the passions). In Plato's version, the nonrational parts consist of the
spirited part (with which we get angry or feel fear or confidence) and the
appetitive part (with which we desire food, drink and generally physical
pleasure, and possessions). In the virtuous person, according to this
theory, the nonrational parts will be trained or habituated to follow the
guidance of reason.
I accept that this is an unsatisfactory description of the situation but I
doubt whether the soul as we know it, as we know ourselves, is the unity
Chrysippus seems to think it is.
Chrysippus rejected this bi- or tripartite psychology: the soul is
essentially a unity, he said, the cognitive or judgment-making part is
thoroughly interwoven with the affective or feeling part, so that they are
effectively one and the same. Passions are excessive feelings corresponding
to false judgments. Actually, even that is too tame, and Aristotle might
have agreed with it. Chrysippus' view is that passions *are* false
judgments. For example, lust after money just *is* the (false) judgment
that money is literally a good thing (that one might pursue at the expense
of doing the morally right thing), as distinct from a merely "preferred"
thing that one might prefer to have when the selection is merely between
having it and not having it.
A number of words are used here - affective/feeling/passion/judgment/lust/rational/irrational
- to denote aspects of human psychology about which common language is
ambiguous. We may be in danger of lumping promiscuously together things
that in themselves are different and calling the resulting fuzz a unified soul.
I think it would be helpful to put Jung's definition of the four functions
of the mind into the discussion.
His starting point is the requirements for 'a whole
judgment': First we must be aware that something is there. The senses do this.
(I see a round reddy green object hanging from something green and brown.)
There is therefore a sensation function. We then need to know what that something
is. The thinking function tells us this. (It is an apple hanging from a tree)
Then we need to evaluate it. (I like apples especially when they are sweet and juicy.)
This is the work of the feeling (or judging) function. Finally there is intuition which Jung
regards as a kind of inner sensation granting the inner acceptance of the wholeness
of the content. (Perhaps producing the thought: The apple is good to eat.)
Two of these functions (feeling and thinking) are rational, that is to say,
subject to the will. Two (sensation and intuition) are irrational which does not mean
contra-rational but independent of the will.
In Jung's work Psychological Types chapter XI is given over to definitions. Here are
some quotations from this chapter:
Function: ...a particular form of psychic activity that remains the same in
principle under varying conditions... a manifestation of libido...[which likewise
remains constant in principle, in much the same way as a physical force
can be considered a specific form or manifestation of energy].
Feeling is primarily a process that takes place between the ego ... and a
given content, a process ... that imparts to the content a definite value
in the sense of acceptance or rejection..... [Feelings may appear in the form
of a mood.]... Feeling is a kind of judgment,
differing from intellectual judgment, in that its aim is not to establish
conceptual relations but to set up a subjective criterion of acceptance
or rejection....Feeling, like thinking, is a rational .. function, since values
in general are assigned according to the laws of reason, just as concepts
in general are formed according to these laws. [It is, however] impossible
for an intellectual definition to reproduce the specific character of feeling at
all adequately....The very notion of classification is intellectual and therefore
incompatible with the nature of feeling.
Affect or emotion. I distinguish ... feeling ... from affect, in spite of the
fact that the dividing line is fluid, since every feeling, after attaining a
certain strength, releases physical innervations, thus becoming an
affect...[but] feeling can be a voluntarily disposable function, whereas affect
is usually not.
Thinking is the psychological function which, following its own laws, brings
the contents of ideation into conceptual connection with one another. ... Active
thinking is an act of the will..., passive thinking is a mere occurrence. ... The
term thinking should, in my view, be restricted to the linking up of ideas by
means of a concept, in other words, to an act of judgment, no matter whether
this act is intentional or not.
Sensation is the psychological function that mediates perception of a physical stimulus.
... [It] must be strictly distinguished from [the function]
feeling, since the latter is an entirely different
process... Sensation is related not only to external stimuli but to inner ones, i.e.,
to changes in the internal organic processes....It is on the one hand,
an element of ideation since it conveys to the mind
the perceptual image of the external object;
and on the other hand, it is an element of feeling, since through
the perception of bodily changes it gives feeling [feeling hungry for example or
cold; not to be confused with the function 'feeling'] the character of an affect.
Intuition In intuition a content presents itself whole and complete,
without our being able to explain or discover how this
content came into existence. Intuition is a kind of instinctive apprehension, no matter
of what contents. As with sensation, its contents have the character of being "given",
in contrast to the "derived" or "produced" character of thinking and feeling ... contents.
Intuitive knowledge possesses an intrinsic certainty and conviction...
The certainty of intuition rests equally on a definite state of psychic "alertness"
of whose origin the subject is unconscious.
Compare all this with the first chapter of Epictetus's Discourses where
Epictetus says: "Of all the faculties you will=20
not find one which is capable of contemplating itself, and=20
consequently, [not] capable of approving or=20
disapproving." Grammar judges speech and writing,=20
music judges melody. But neither will tell you whether=20
or not you should engage in the activity concerned.
"What faculty will tell you? That which contemplates=20
both itself and all other things...[This is] The rational=20
faculty; for this is the only faculty that we have received=20
which examines itself, what it is, and what power it has:=20
for what else is there which tells us that golden things are=20
beautiful, for they do not say so themselves. What else=20
judges of music, grammar, and other faculties, proves=20
their uses and points out the occasions for using them? =20
I think Epictetus has bundled at least three things=20
together under this title "the rational faculty". According=20
to him it tells us=20
(1) that golden things are beautiful (that is it subsumes=20
the aesthetic faculty which belongs in Jung's Feeling);=20
(2) what we should and should not do (that is it subsumes the moral =
faculty. Again it belongs with Jung's Feeling function); and,=20
(3) crucially, it contemplates both itself and all other things (that is =
it subsumes that state of awareness in which we can observe both =
ourselves and our activity or mood.) =20
(4) Nevertheless, by merely using the term rational faculty he=20
leads us to think that he is talking about what Jung calls thinking.
But it is important to distinguish thought and consciousness. If I=20
gaze at a sunset I can, in an act of pure consciousness,=20
observe it and myself simultaneously without having to=20
put that observation into words or classify the experience with a concept.
Furthermore, that consciousness is not the same as the aesthetic judgment:=20
"My God, that's beautiful!"
It is clear that while everybody has the faculty=20
of self-contemplation most people do not use it.
We soon learn that for Epictetus this catchall virtue he=20
calls now "the rational faculty" and now "the right use of=20
appearances" is supreme over all. But only that=20
consciousness from which nothing in principle is hidden=20
can be supreme over all. =20
We learn too that only this faculty is subject to our will.
Nothing else is. Again I feel it necessary to draw distinctions that =
Epictetus does not. =20
If I sit down to type this email for example and say to=20
myself "I will remain conscious of myself throughout the=20
whole process", I will soon find that when I am=20
concentrating my hardest and phrasing my words most=20
carefully I am apt to be so wrapped up in the activity that I forget=20
myself. Suppose then that my daughter=20
interrupts my thought processes at irregular intervals=20
during these moments of high concentration: if I have
forgotten myself I will be angry at these interruptions: =20
"Why can't the child see that I am concentrating?" By=20
forgetting myself I also forget to do my daughter the=20
honour of calling her by name.
In retrospect I can see=20
this and regret it. I can make good resolutions not to=20
forget myself in the future. But actually out of myself I=20
cannot generate consciousness unless in some sense=20
consciousness lights upon me and I bid it welcome.
Back to the Discourses: Zeus, the father of gods and=20
men tells Epictetus: "I would have made both=20
your little body and your little property free and not=20
exposed to hindrance: but ...this body is not yours but it=20
is clay finely tempered. And since I was not able to do=20
for you what I have mentioned, I have given you a small=20
portion of us, this faculty of pursuing an object and=20
avoiding it, and the faculty of using the appearances of=20
things; and if you will take care of this faculty and=20
consider it your only possession, you will never be=20
hindered, never meet with impediments; you will not=20
lament, you will not blame, you will not flatter any=20
This "small portion of us" is surely what Christians call the Holy Spirit the=20
sin against whom is unforgivable. (Because the sin=20
refuses to acknowledge itself as such.) It is also the=20
God that was implanted in Adam and Eve. Again we may see it as the light=20
which enlightens every person who comes into the world=20
according to the Prologue to St John. But somehow this
"small portion of us" has a habit of coming and going.
According to Epictetus this faculty is the "one thing" to=20
which we should unfailingly attach ourselves. But "we=20
prefer to look after many things, and to be bound to=20
many things, to the body and to property, and to brother=20
and to friend, and to child and to slave." This is surely the=20
famous state of attachment or identification. =20
When we fail to contemplate ourselves while engaged in=20
any activity we become identified with that activity. =20
There is no space between us and it. We are at its mercy. =20
Epictetus gives the example of the man waiting for a
favourable wind to travel. He sits down and torments
himself, continually looking out to see which way the
wind is blowing. A more modern example would be
a driver in a traffic jam. He cannot see that there is=20
nothing to be done: he cannot push the cars in front
out of the way. As he swears and curses them he becomes the traffic =
It is a matter of observation that where there is no self-contemplation there is plenty
of self-pity, self-justification, recrimination,
plenty of self-indulgence, outbursts of temper. As St Paul puts it: "The deeds=20
of the flesh are evident...: immorality ...outbursts of anger, envying, =
drunkenness..." and so on. While
the fruits of the Spirit are love, meekness, gentleness
and so on. =20
Epictetus sees these good things as resulting
from knowing what is mine and what is not mine. "I=20
must die." It belongs to me to die. It is clearly my fate=20
that I should die at this moment. "Must I then die=20
lamenting?" If you are clear about fate, what St Paul
would call the will of God, you know that what truly
belongs to you, you cannot lose it. =20
So I would propose that the term "self-contemplating faculty" be used to
denote that state of mind in which we are aware simultaneously of ourselves, of our
activity and of our inner and outer environment and that we should see in this
faculty the seed of unity from which the ordering and unification of a chaotic situatuation
may emerge. Once it is in place, all the other faculties can take up their places
in respect of it in an ordered hierarchy. For the human soul is only potentially a unity.
As it stands it is a hodgepodge.