Passions (philosophy)
Passion, or the passions, is a philosophical concept. It is different from popular connotations of passion, which are associated with notions of romance, and which is generally seen as a positive emotion. The philosophical notion, in contrast, is identified with an innate or biologically driven emotional
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,...

 state such as anger
Anger is an automatic response to ill treatment. It is the way a person indicates he or she will not tolerate certain types of behaviour. It is a feedback mechanism in which an unpleasant stimulus is met with an unpleasant response....

, greed, 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"...

, or other deadly sins
Seven deadly sins
The 7 Deadly Sins, also known as the Capital Vices or Cardinal Sins, is a classification of objectionable vices that have been used since early Christian times to educate and instruct followers concerning fallen humanity's tendency to sin...

. In the philosophical sense, the passions can lead to social or spiritual ills, such as punishment from God in Abrahamic faiths, the brutal state of nature
Nature, in the broadest sense, is equivalent to the natural world, physical world, or material world. "Nature" refers to the phenomena of the physical world, and also to life in general...

 presented by Hobbes
Thomas Hobbes
Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury , in some older texts Thomas Hobbs of Malmsbury, was an English philosopher, best known today for his work on political philosophy...

, or the recurrence of karma in dharmic faith. The passions are often used as foils to advocate the pursuit of virtue
Virtue is moral excellence. A virtue is a positive trait or quality subjectively deemed to be morally excellent and thus is valued as a foundation of principle and good moral being....

, the use of 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, ...

, dedication to the principles of a faith or other idealistic principles. Different philosophies approach the passions in a number of ways, from the full indulgence of hedonism
Hedonism is a school of thought which argues that pleasure is the only intrinsic good. In very simple terms, a hedonist strives to maximize net pleasure .-Etymology:The name derives from the Greek word for "delight" ....

 and nihilism
Nihilism is the philosophical doctrine suggesting the negation of one or more putatively meaningful aspects of life. Most commonly, nihilism is presented in the form of existential nihilism which argues that life is without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value...

 to the forms of moderation found in philosophies like Epicureanism
Epicureanism is a system of philosophy based upon the teachings of Epicurus, founded around 307 BC. Epicurus was an atomic materialist, following in the steps of Democritus. His materialism led him to a general attack on superstition and divine intervention. Following Aristippus—about whom...

 and conventional religions, to the strict abnegation or rejection espoused by Stoicism
Stoicism is a school of Hellenistic philosophy founded in Athens by Zeno of Citium in the early . The Stoics taught that destructive emotions resulted from errors in judgment, and that a sage, or person of "moral and intellectual perfection," would not suffer such emotions.Stoics were concerned...

, Cynicism, and many types of religious monasticism
Monasticism is a religious way of life characterized by the practice of renouncing worldly pursuits to fully devote one's self to spiritual work...

, especially in certain forms of Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

, Gnosticism
Gnosticism is a scholarly term for a set of religious beliefs and spiritual practices common to early Christianity, Hellenistic Judaism, Greco-Roman mystery religions, Zoroastrianism , and Neoplatonism.A common characteristic of some of these groups was the teaching that the realisation of Gnosis...

 and Jainism
Jainism is an Indian religion that prescribes a path of non-violence towards all living beings. Its philosophy and practice emphasize the necessity of self-effort to move the soul towards divine consciousness and liberation. Any soul that has conquered its own inner enemies and achieved the state...

. A more recent philosophical understanding of the passions from a modernist perspective has been articulated by social theorist Roberto Unger, who sees the passions as the noninstrumental dealings that we have with each other, and which organize and are organized around the need and danger that is at the heart of our relations with each other. In this way, Unger rejects the traditional view of the passions as something counter to reason and which are associated with certain expressions, rather he sees them at the service of reason and their expression formed within certain contexts.


The subject of the passions has long been a consideration in Western philosophy. According to European philosopher Michel Meyer they have aroused harsh judgments as the representation of a force of excess and lawlessness in humanity that produces troubling, confusing paradoxes. Meyers sees philosophers has having treated the passions as a given expression of human nature, leaving the question of whether the passions "torture people because it blinds them, or, on the contrary, does it permit them to apprehend who and what we really are?"


The seventeenth century Dutch philosopher Spinoza
Baruch Spinoza
Baruch de Spinoza and later Benedict de Spinoza was a Dutch Jewish philosopher. Revealing considerable scientific aptitude, the breadth and importance of Spinoza's work was not fully realized until years after his death...

 contrasted "action" with "passion," as well as the state of being "active" with the state of being "passive." A passion, in his view, happened when external events affect us partially such that we have confused ideas about these events and their causes. A "passive" state is when we experience an emotion which Spinoza regarded as a "passivity of the soul." The body's power is increased or diminished. Emotions are bodily changes plus ideas about these changes which can help or hurt a human. It happens when the bodily changes we experience are caused primarily by external forces or by a mix of external and internal forces. Spinoza argued that it was much better for the individual himself to be the only adequate cause of bodily changes, and to act based on an adequate understanding of causes-and-effects with ideas of these changes logically related to each other and to reality. When this happened the person is "active," and Spinoza described the ideas as adequate. But most of the time, this does not happen, and Spinoza, along with Freud
Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud , born Sigismund Schlomo Freud , was an Austrian neurologist who founded the discipline of psychoanalysis...

, saw emotions as more powerful than reason
In epistemology and in its modern sense, rationalism is "any view appealing to reason as a source of knowledge or justification" . In more technical terms, it is a method or a theory "in which the criterion of the truth is not sensory but intellectual and deductive"...

. Spinoza tried to live the life of reason which he advocated.


Contemporary philosopher Roberto Mangabeira Unger
Roberto Mangabeira Unger
Roberto Mangabeira Unger is a philosopher and politician. He has written widely on social, political, legal, and economic theory, much of which has laid the philosophical and theoretical groundwork for reimagining and remaking the social and political order...

rejects the Western philosophical tradition that views the passions as irrational emotion that must be tamed by reason. Rather, Unger sees the passions as our raw responses to the world that do not have a predetermined expression--they are first internal states which come to assume external expressions. These passions are not in conflict with reason and need to be tamed, but rather are ambivalent towards reason and can also act in the service of reason. He outlines nine passions that organize and are organized by our dealings with others: lust, despair, hatred, vanity, jealousy, envy, faith, hope, and love. While these emotional states may be seen as raw emotion, their expression is always conditioned by the context within which the individual mobilizes or learns to mobilize them.
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