Passion (emotion)
Passion is a term applied to a very strong feeling about a person or thing. Passion is an intense emotion
Emotion is a complex psychophysiological experience of an individual's state of mind as interacting with biochemical and environmental influences. In humans, emotion fundamentally involves "physiological arousal, expressive behaviors, and conscious experience." Emotion is associated with mood,...

 compelling feeling, enthusiasm, or desire
Desire (emotion)
Desire is a sense of longing for a person or object or hoping for an outcome. Desire is the fire that sets action aflame. The same sense is expressed by emotions such as "craving" or "hankering". When a person desires something or someone, their sense of longing is excited by the enjoyment or the...

 for something.

The term is also often applied to a lively or eager interest in or admiration for a proposal, cause, or activity or love
Love is an emotion of strong affection and personal attachment. In philosophical context, love is a virtue representing all of human kindness, compassion, and affection. Love is central to many religions, as in the Christian phrase, "God is love" or Agape in the Canonical gospels...

 - to a feeling of unusual excitement, enthusiasm
Enthusiasm originally meant inspiration or possession by a divine afflatus or by the presence of a god. Johnson's Dictionary, the first comprehensive dictionary of the English language, defines enthusiasm as "a vain belief of private revelation; a vain confidence of divine favour or...

 or compelling emotion, a positive affinity or love, towards a subject, idea, person, or object. It is particularly used in the context of romance or sexual desire though it generally implies a deeper or more encompassing emotion than that implied by the term lust
Lust is an emotional force that is directly associated with the thinking or fantasizing about one's desire, usually in a sexual way.-Etymology:The word lust is phonetically similar to the ancient Roman lustrum, which literally meant "purification"...


Reason and passion

'A sense of self-mastery...has been praised as a virtue since Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

's day'; but nonetheless it is a fact of everyday life that 'passions overwhelm reason
Reason is a term that refers to the capacity human beings have to make sense of things, to establish and verify facts, and to change or justify practices, institutions, and beliefs. It is closely associated with such characteristically human activities as philosophy, science, language, ...

 time and again. This given of human nature arises from the basic architecture of mental life...the basic neural circuitry of emotion'. Looking at a typical mental conflict, Plato considered that ' the forbidding principle is derived from reason, and that which bids and attracts proceeds from passion...the irrational or appetitive'; and he saw the role of education as using 'the united influence of music and gymnastic [to] bring them into accord, nerving and sustaining the reason with noble words and lessons, and moderating and soothing and civilizing the wildness of passion by harmony and rhythm.

In his wake, Stoics like Epitectus emphasised that 'the most important and especially pressing field of study is that which has to do with the stronger emotions...sorrows, lamentations, envies...passions which make it impossible for us even to listen to reason'. The Stoic tradition still lay behind Hamlet
The Tragical History of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, or more simply Hamlet, is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1599 and 1601...

's plea to 'Give me that man That is not passion's slave, and I will wear him In my heart's core', or Erasmus's lament that 'Jupiter has bestowed far more passion than reason - you could calculate the ratio as 24 to one'. It was only with the Romantic movement
Romanticism was an artistic, literary and intellectual movement that originated in the second half of the 18th century in Europe, and gained strength in reaction to the Industrial Revolution...

 that a valorisation of passion over reason took hold in the Western tradition: 'the more Passion there is, the better the Poetry'.

The recent concerns of Emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence is a skill or ability in the case of the trait EI model, a self-perceived ability to identify, assess, and control the emotions of oneself, of others, and of groups. Various models and definitions have been proposed of which the ability and trait EI models are the most...

 have been to find a synthesis of the two forces - something that 'turns the old understanding of the tension between reason and feeling on its head: it is not that we want to do away with emotion and put reason in its place, as Erasmus had it, but instead find the intelligent balance of the two'.

"Descartes' Error"

Antonio Damasio
Antonio Damasio
Antonio Damasio is David Dornsife Professor of Neuroscience at the University of Southern California, where he heads USC's Brain and Creativity Institute and Adjunct Professor at the Salk Institute. Prior to taking up his posts at USC, in 2005, Damasio was M.W...

 studied what ensued when something 'severed ties between the lower centres of the emotional brain...and the thinking abilities of the neocortex
The neocortex , also called the neopallium and isocortex , is a part of the brain of mammals. It is the outer layer of the cerebral hemispheres, and made up of six layers, labelled I to VI...

'. He found that while 'emotions and feelings can cause havoc in the processes of reasoning...the absence of emotion and feeling is no less damaging'; was led to 'the counter-intuitive position that feelings are typically indispensable for rational decisions'. The passions, he concluded, 'have a say on how the rest of the brain and cognition go about their business. Their influence is immense...[providing] a frame of reference' - as opposed to 'Descartes' error...the Cartesian idea of a disembodied mind'.

Passion in marriage

A tension or dialectic between marriage and passion can be traced back in Western society at least as far as the Middle Ages, and the emergence of the cult of courtly love
Courtly love
Courtly love was a medieval European conception of nobly and chivalrously expressing love and admiration. Generally, courtly love was secret and between members of the nobility. It was also generally not practiced between husband and wife....

. Denis de Rougemont
Denis de Rougemont
Denis de Rougemont was a Swiss writer, who wrote in French.He studied at the University of Neuchâtel, and then moved to Paris in 1930. There he wrote for and edited various publications, associating with the personalist groupings and the non-conformists of the 1930s...

 has argued that 'since its origins in the twelfth century, passionate love was constituted in opposition to marriage'. While 'Puritanism prepared the ground for a marital love ideology by prescribing love in marriage', only from the eighteenth century has 'romantic love ideology resolved the Puritan antagonism between passion and reason' in a marital context.

Intellectual passions

George Bernard Shaw
George Bernard Shaw
George Bernard Shaw was an Irish playwright and a co-founder of the London School of Economics. Although his first profitable writing was music and literary criticism, in which capacity he wrote many highly articulate pieces of journalism, his main talent was for drama, and he wrote more than 60...

 'insists that there are passions far more exciting than the physical ones..."intellectual passion, mathematical passion, passion for discovery and exploration: the mightiest of all passions"'. His contemporary, Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud , born Sigismund Schlomo Freud , was an Austrian neurologist who founded the discipline of psychoanalysis...

, argued for a continuity (not a contrast) between the two, physical and intellectual; commended the way 'Leonardo
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci was an Italian Renaissance polymath: painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist and writer whose genius, perhaps more than that of any other figure, epitomized the Renaissance...

 had energetically sublimated his sexual passions into the passion for independent scientific research'.

Fictional examples

In Margaret Drabble's The Realms of Gold, the hero flies hundreds of miles to reunite with the heroine, only to miss her by 24 hours - leaving the onlookers 'wondering what grand passion could have brought him so far...a quixotic look about him, a look of harassed desperation'. When the couple do finally reunite, however, the heroine is less than impressed. '"If you ask me, it was a very childish gesture. You're not twenty-one now, you know". "No, I know. It was my last fling"'.

In Alberto Moravia
Alberto Moravia
Alberto Moravia, born Alberto Pincherle was an Italian novelist and journalist. His novels explored matters of modern sexuality, social alienation, and existentialism....

's 1934, the revolutionary double-agent, faced with the girl he is betraying, 'was seized by violent desire...he never took his eyes off my bosom...I believe those two dark spots at the end of my breasts were enough to make him forget tsarism, revolution, political faith, ideology, and betrayal'.

See also

Further reading

René Descartes, Passions of the Soul in J. Cottingham et al. eds., The Philosophical Writings of Descartes Vol I (Cambridge 1985)

External links

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