THE TEACHING OF NATURE AND THE NATURE OF MAN IN DESCARTES' PASSIONS DE L'AME.
DESCARTES IS USUALLY CREDITED WITH THE INAUGURATION of modern philosophy. This inauguration consists in a mathematical-mechanical understanding of physics and a concern with human self-consciousness. The Passions of the Soul treats, however, fleetingly, that being which can be regarded as both an object of the mathematical physicist and of the speculative philosopher--"de toute la nature de l'homme."(1) The peculiarity, if not uniqueness, of this subject, who is discontinuous with the rest of nature,(2) implies that Descartes' words in the preface--"mon dessein n'a pas est d'expliquer les Passions en Orateur, ny mesme en Philosophe moral, mais seulement en Physicien"(3)--cannot be wholly accurate, if only because man is not simply a physical being in the Cartesian sense. Cartesian physics does away with the final cause an explanation in physics: yet the final cause, the end, is fundamental to any discussion of desire, which is essentially futural, that is, goal directed or purposive.(4) And it is only by virtue of desire that any action results from the passions of the soul.(5) It is thus not simply efficient causation that regulates the activity of man taken as a whole: Descartes speaks of "le machine de nostre corps" but not of "la machine qui est rhomme."(6)
To a certain degree, according to the Passions, our bodies are moved by sensible objects or by internal peculiarities of bodily composition "en mesme facon que le mouvement d'une montre est produit par la seule force de son ressort et la figure de ses roues."(7) But before discussing Descartes' qualification to this assertion--"tous les mouvmens que nous faisons sans que nostre volonte y contribue"(8)--it will be worthwhile to examine the above image itself more closely.
The comparison of the motions of the human body with those of a clock in article 16 had been made earlier, in article 6, after the distinction between soul and body had been made,(9) the respective functions of each mentioned,(10) and the "error of believing that the soul gives motion and heat to the body"(11) set right. Article 6 purports to deal with the difference between a living and a dead body. Death is always caused by the corruption of some principal part or parts of the body. The difference between the living body of a man and the dead body of a man is the same as that between a clock when wound up, having within itself "le principe corporel des mouvemens pour lequels elle est instituee," and the same clock when broken, where "le principe corporel de son mouvement cesse d'agir."(12) We note, first, that Descartes distinguishes here between living and dead bodies, but not between living and nonliving bodies, a distinction already implicitly denied in article 4.(13) Secondly, it must be noted that the difference between a living and a dead body has nothing to do with its "obedience to laws of nature" or, as Descartes observes in the Sixth Meditation, with a "corruption of its nature." A dropsical body observes the same laws of nature as a healthy body, just as a poorly made clock observes the same laws as a well-made one. In the case of the clock, however, when well-made it "satisfait entierement au desir de l'ouvrier,"(14) which a poorly made or broken clock does not.(15) Hence in the Passions the living body is like the well-made clock, making the motions for which it is "instituted," while the dead body is like the broken clock in which the principle of these motions has ceased to function.
This article of The Passions of the Soul takes this thought no further: in discussing it, however, we shall, and the treatment in the Meditations takes it further as well, if only one step. To say that a sick body's nature is corrupted is to be involved in a consideration or denomination extrinsic to body itself, which "ne signifie rien qui se retrouve dans la chose dont elle se dit."(16) A broken clock does not fulfill its function or purpose, which we know because we either have made it or it has been made for us, for human beings. To call a body sick or corrupt is to imply that this body has a purpose which it fulfills when healthy and which it does not fulfill when sick: it further implies that we know what this purpose is. Yet we have, according to Meditation 4,(17) no knowledge of the "causes qu'on a coutume de tirer de la fin,"(18) nor do we have any use for such causes in matters of physics, or in natural matters.(19) The purpose or function of body as body remains and must remain utterly opaque to us. We have here an intimation of the inadequacy of the image of the body-machine, at least as regards the cherished Cartesian science of medicine, which must distinguish between the healthy and the sick, and yet seems scientifically unable to do so.
As noted, the Passions purports, in the title of its first part, to discuss the whole nature of man. We need to know the end or purpose of man in order to know the difference between the healthy and sick. If we knew the purpose of the ouvrier of man--God or Nature(20)--we should then know what was healthy and what was sick. In this case, neither the matter of which the being is made, nor the sequence of motions through which the body-machine goes is relevant, but rather the purpose of the creator of the machine.
Just as Descartes speaks in article 6 of the "institution" of the corporeal principles in the clock, so in article 36 he speaks in a similar way of the "institution of nature" This article is devoted to an explanation "de la facon que les Passions sont excitees en l'ame."(21) Descartes notes that at the approach of an animal we may, given certain circumstances, become afraid, "the spirits reflected from the images thus formed on the gland" affecting the brain in such a way that our limbs are disposed to flight so that the passion of fear is strengthened in the soul. But what relation is there between these physical events, the passion of fear, and the motion of the body?(22) Flight is a purposive activity, aimed at preserving the organism from harm, while the sequence of cause and effects is purely mechanical and nonpurposive. It is at this point that Descartes notes that "from the simple fact that these spirits enter these pores, they excite a particular motion in this gland which is instituted by nature so that the soul feels this passion" (institue de la nature pour faire sentir a l'ame cette passion). Thus, just as certain motions are instituted by the artisan in the machine so that it accomplishes specified tasks, so certain motions and connections between motions are instituted by nature so that the soul may feel some passion. But to what end does the soul feel these passions? Article 40 explains that "the principal effect of all the passions in men is that they incite and dispose their souls to will [or "want," vouloir] the things for which the passions prepare their bodies: so that the sensation of fear incites the soul to will (vouloir) flight." We have, then, a clear purposiveness manifested in the institution of nature, which connects certain physical occurrences in the body with a passion in the soul, which in turn is incited to will a certain state for which the body is prepared, and which, as in Meditation 6 is later(23) identified as that motion "which is the most proper and most generally useful for the preservation of the human body when it is fully healthy."(24)
To what degree Descartes is permitted by the principles of his own philosophy to talk about the reason or end for which certain motions have been instituted in men is not our present concern: that he must discuss this is clear.(25) The actions that arise out of the passions of the soul are naturally sanctioned. But we are not at the mercy of nature, and just as knowledge of bodies outside of us has as its goal "nous rendre comme maitres et possesseurs de la nature,"(26) so knowledge of the human body can make us masters of our own nature.(27) Man's "nature" and the "natural connections" that subsist between the action of the gland, spirits, and brain can be changed by a proper application of man's will(28) which, though it may be inclined to certain actions by the passions, is never determined by these passions.(29) Natural appetites are purely bodily; all the so-called appetites of the soul are acts of will.(30) And the will, as free and as willing specific acts for specific ends,(31) can freely determine ends, not only for machines and animals(32) but for the machine of our body. Thus "according to the institution of nature," words at first represent only their sounds to the soul. Nevertheless, by habit they come to represent what they signify.(33) Nor is the will limited merely to "creating" meaning where earlier there was none: in addition, it can change the connections between spirits and passion. Just as man can tram a dog, whose natural inclination is to chase a partridge and flee from a gunshot, to act in the opposite manner and thus violate his nature for our sake, so men can train themselves and "aquerir un empire tres-absolu sur toutes leurs passions."(34) It is hardly necessary to emphasize that the same objections to the image of the clock apply to that of the animal. Both clock and trained animal perform certain activities that we have devised for them, in order to aid us in certain of our own activities. The end of a clock is to tell us what time it is, and a well-made clock performs this function. The end of a hunting dog is to retrieve game after it has been shot: a well-trained dog will perform this function. These actions are instituted by man in beings that he controls. The passions are instituted by nature, and "their natural use is to contribute to actions which can serve to preserve the body, or to render it in some way more perfect."(35) Yet the will can and must at times oppose the passions "with firm and determined judgments touching the knowledge of good and evil, according to which the soul has resolved to conduct the actions of its life." Such judgments are the proper weapons of the soul against the passions.(36) The emphasis here, as later,(37) is on the firmness of this resolution rather than on the certainty of our knowledge of good and evil. Although judgments may be false, a soul is more or less strong to the degree that it follows any judgment resolutely in resisting the passions. All the same, Descartes adds, in the article entitled "Que la force de l'ame ne suffit pas sans la conaissance de la verite,"(38) resolutions proceeding from knowledge of the truth are never subject to regret, while those that come from false opinions are always regretted when the error is discovered.(39)
Part 1 of The Passions of the Soul thus moves us from the image of the clock as the image of the body-machine, up to and through questions of the purpose of certain actions of that machine, based upon the institution of nature, the ouvrier of man, whose purposes seem to be visible in the connection between certain sets of human phenomena. Descartes' intention in this part, however, is evidently to keep the discussion on as mechanistic a plane as is possible. Nature is mentioned in only six of its fifty articles(40) and the institution of nature in two.(41) The dominant images of the clock and the trained animal--neither of which is self-determining, both of which mindlessly obey sets of motion instituted by human beings or nature--leave unanswered, if not unasked, the questions of the purpose or end of human functioning. Insofar as this purpose is instituted by nature it seems necessarily opaque to human understanding and subject to revision by human volition; insofar as it is based upon this volition it seems baseless. Human nature as nature is inhuman; as human it is unnatural. Will is discussed in terms of its ends in 1.18, but the natural (or supernatural) end of man is not given. And although "finn and determined judgments touching on the knowledge of good and evil"(42) are said to be the "proper weapons" of our soul against the passions, against the "natural connection" of certain physical excitations with certain passions,(43) how it is that we know what is good and evil, the source of this knowledge, is not discussed. Part 2 will confront similar perplexities, no longer on the level of the body-machine, but on the level of the composite, and in its final sections we will face similar problems.
Part 1 of the Passions deals almost exclusively with the internal workings of the body-machine. Even when "objects" are mentioned(44) the focus is on the "absorption" of certain qualities of these objects by the body, and the way in which these absorbed qualities--our representations--cause and are affected by the passions. Yet our experience of the passions is such that, for the most part, they seem to be brought about by and directed toward objects outside of me. Further, these objects themselves seem either good or bad. Thus far we have no way, within the limits of discourse of the first part of the Passions, to speak of such phenomena, about objects as such, and about judgments of their goodness or badness.
Article 51, the first of the second part, recounts this natural experience of objects and announces its intention of examining the effects of these objects, "the most common and principal causes" of the passions. Examination of the effects of objects will be tantamount to examination of the passions. But in 2.52, Descartes notes that an examination of the effects of those objects is not equivalent to an examination of the objects themselves. Passions are only excited by objects "because of the diverse ways in which they can harm or profit, or in general be important" to us. Thus, the use of the passions--explicitly stated for the first time--is that they "dispose the soul to will (vouloir) things that nature dictates (dicte) to us to be useful and to persist in this will." What nature dictates to us here, the Passions' version of the "teaching" of nature, is a teaching about objects, but is not a teaching about objectivity: it is a teaching about the object as useful or harmful.
This is the only allusion in the Passions to the teaching of nature, which is a concept central to Meditation 1, introduced in that work in Mediation 3.(45) It is possible to distinguish three senses of the teaching of nature (or variants) in the Meditations. In Meditation 2, I am taught by nature (enseigne par la nature) that objects outside of me are similar to my ideas of them. This natural teaching is contrasted with the natural light and judged to be doubtful. In Meditation 6, again in a context that investigates the relation of ideas and their putative causes, namely "objects outside of me," I am taught by nature that the "I known not what motion of the stomach" that I call hunger gives rise to a desire to eat (that is, a desire for an edible object), as it seems that nature has taught me everything else that I judge concerning the objects of my senses.(46) These two differing but allied teachings of nature concern, first, the general relation or similarity between external objects and my ideas of these objects, and second, the peculiar relation of these objects to what appears to be useful or harmful to me. Descartes notes in a later passage(47) that the second, practical teaching of nature, namely, that we should flee from that which causes us pain and pursue that which pleases us, with nature here understood as the totality of the composite of mind and body, is to be accepted as certain. Nevertheless, the first, theoretical teaching is to be rejected. Judgments as to pleasure or pain are the business of the composite; judgments as to what truly is are a matter for the mind alone. This distinction of the Meditations reproduces exactly that which is already noted, in Passions 2.51-2, between objects as causes of passion and objects taken for what they are in themselves.
However, a third teaching of nature is mentioned in the Sixth Meditation as well. If we ask why sadness of the mind follows from the sensation of pain, we can only answer that "nature teaches us" about this connection between an indifferent physical and an undesirable mental state.(48) Though the connection between this and the practical teaching of nature mentioned above is clear, this usage differs in significant ways and is more closely related to the meaning of the institution of nature in the Passions, speaking as it does of purely internal relations within the subject.(49)
I should like to distinguish, then, between the "institution of nature" in The Passions of the Soul, as signifying the peculiar way in which the human animal is constituted, so that certain mechanical motions give rise to certain nondeducible passions, usually with some (presumed) purposiveness on the part of the institutor, and the "dictates of nature," which, parallel to the teaching of nature in the Meditations, concern the usefulness of objects for the human animal.(50) The renaming of this teaching as a "dictate" or "command," and its relative absence from the Passions as a whole gives us an insight into the work's general project: passions are not defined with regard to their objects, but with regard to the subject. For example, in 2.56, Descartes says that when a thing is represented as good with relation to us, that is, as useful to us, we love it. The passion is aroused by our representation of the object as useful or useless, not by the object itself, nor even by a representation of the object itself. In Madame Rodis-Lewis's edition, she quotes as a note to this article, a passage from St. Francois de Sales's Traite de l'amour de Dieu: "si le bien est consider en soy selon sa naturelle bonte, il excite l'amour."(51)
Descartes' implicit divergence from a tradition that defined passions by objects is rendered more explicit in the further discussion of love and hate.(52) In article 81, Descartes repudiates the distinction between benevolent and concupiscent love, a distinction that makes sense only if the relation of the subject to the object is the defining characteristic of the passion. According to this article, whatever the nature of the object may be, as soon as we are willingly joined with it--that is, love it--we are benevolent toward it, as we are benevolent toward ourselves. And in 2.82, this is made even more explicit: it is unnecessary to distinguish as many species of love as there are objects of love because, though the love of the miser for his money might greatly differ from that of the father for his children, "en ce qu'elles participent de l'Amour, elles sont semblables."(53) Thus, for most of part 2, concern with the object as such is banished. Such concerns, however, are basic to part 3 and, indeed, are introduced in 2.138 and following, and will be discussed below in section 5.
Part 2, then, begins with an assertion about objects and passions and the particular way in which objects are represented to us by the passions, and then promises an enumeration of the passions. First to be mentioned is admiration. Admiration is the first passion in more than a methodical sense--admiration "gives" us an object, and along with its species is indifferent to good and bad.(54) Thus, admiration does not present the object with regard to our own "profit or harm," but arises out of something in the object itself, and is something like a condition for the possibility of passion arising out of any encounter with an object. For, if "l'objet qui se presente n'a rien en soi qui nous surprenne, nous n'en sommes aucunement emeus, et nous le considerons sans passion."(55) Throughout The Passions of the Soul, the status of admiration as passion is problematic, and its relation to the body is unclear. Thus, in 2.70-8, which is devoted to admiration and its "vicious" excess, etonnement (wonder),(56) Descartes notes that admiration is caused by a "sudden surprise of the soul" at objects which seem rare and extraordinary.(57) Unlike the other passions, it is not accompanied by any changes in the heart or blood, since its object is not, like that of the other passions, "the good or the bad," but rather "knowledge of the thing admired," and it is on the heart and blood that all the goods of the body depend--the only goods, according to 2.137, that the passions incite the soul to desire. Etonnement, which is an excess of admiration, is always bad--this passion maintains the body in a fixed state and limits knowledge to one's first impression.(58) And since, according to article 74, the only usefulness of the passions lies in the strengthening of thoughts in the soul that are good for the soul to preserve, or eliminating those that should not be preserved, wonder is bad because it never distinguishes between the merely novel and the useful,(59) and because it prevents the mind from advancing any further in its investigation of that at which it wonders. We might say that the very distinguishing qualities of admiration--its simple involvement with the object en soi, its relative freedom from bodily determinations, and its freedom from consideration of the usefulness of the object--are the sources of its greatest dangers when exaggerated.
We often admire too greatly what merits only a little or no admiration,(60) and those most prone to wonder cannot distinguish between things of no importance and things whose investigation is useful.(61) Admiration, or simple theoria, must be corrected by further reflection and consideration. There is indeed a similarity to the Aristotelian remarks regarding [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] in Metaphysics 1.2. There it is said, perhaps echoing Plato,(62) that men now and at first began to "philosophize through wondering," ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) first wondering at things close at hand, then at greater things such as the heavens. Thus, being at a loss and wondering ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), they philosophized to escape their ignorance.(63) Here, as in a slightly later passage in the same chapter,(64) wonder is the beginning of philosophy, while, in seeking to know the causes it is necessary to end up in the opposite and better state ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]; 983a18-19).
The case seems similar for Descartes. In 2.76 he states that "there is no other remedy to prevent us from admiring excessively than to acquire the knowledge of many things." Yet if we look further we see a dissimilarity that goes to the heart of each thinker's conception of man and philosophy. In both of the passages from Metaphysics 1.2, the beginning of philosophy in wonder is evidence for the independence of philosophy from external necessity, for the purely theoretical character of first philosophy. "Thus it is clear that we seek after this [phronesis] for no other use but, as we say a man is free who is for the sake of himself and not others, so this science alone is free. For it alone is for the sake of itself."(65) This observation, indeed, leads to the question of whether or not this science, as a divine science, is even a possible possession of humans. And preceding the second section discussed above is the statement that "all sciences [epistemai] are more necessary than this one, but none better."(66) For Descartes, on the other hand, pure theoria is the greatest danger of admiration, which ought to be, but sometimes is not, guided by the most useful.(67) Admiration, checked before it can become excessive and turn into wonder, and then the idle curiosity of an unrestricted theoria, is a beginning of praxis. Only as excessive are we led to theoria. We must be cautious of being diverted from our necessities and from the use of the fruit of "knowledge of many things," while in Aristotle full knowledge, theoria, is only possible after practical considerations are rendered unimportant.(68)
From admiration, which is related to the object en soi but only the object as novel or rare, certainly not as good or worthy, Descartes passes to the other five passions, all of which do have to do with the object as (represented as) good or bad (with relation to us). We cannot stop to discuss in detail Descartes' analysis of love and hate, joy and sadness, and desire. But before discussing the last articles of part 2, which deal with the problem of the object of the bodily passions (that is, the above five), it is worthwhile to stop at articles 89 and 90, where we see the conflict between the "institution" and the "teaching" of nature.
Articles 89 and 90 treat the desire that issues from horreur (horror) and agreement (delight) respectively. These two passions were first mentioned in 2.85, where a distinction was made between the good/bad, which is said to be what inner sense or reason judges as useful or contrary to our nature, and the beautiful/ugly, which is said to be that which is represented by the outer senses as useful or harmful. These latter are both more violent than the former--"ce qui vient a l'ame represente par les sens la touch plus fort que ce que luy est represente par sa raison"--and of all the passions it is these that "trompent le plus"(69)--presumably because of the general deceptiveness of our senses.(70) Agreement is the species of love for beautiful things, while another (unnamed) species of love is directed toward good things; similarly, horreur or aversion is hatred of ugly things, while another (unnamed) species of hate is concerned with bad things. In 2.89 we are informed that "horreur is instituted by nature in order to represent a sudden and unexpected death to the soul." Any slight disturbance, such as the rustling of leaves or the touch of a worm can give rise to horreur and thence to a desire to flee, and to an emotion as great as if one's life were in danger. Similarly in 2.90, agreement is said to be "instituted by nature in order to represent the enjoyment of that which delights (la jouissance de ce qui agree) as the greatest of all the goods that belongs to man." This makes one desire this enjoyment greatly. And due to the difference of the sexes and "certain impressions" that have been put into the brains of both human beings and animals without reason, at a certain age we consider ourselves defective if we do not acquire a mate of the opposite sex. This acquisition is "confusement representee par la Nature, comme le plus grand de tous les biens imaginables." Nature further makes us imagine that only one mate is needed, and once one has remarked something more agreeable in some individual than in the others, "toute l'inclination que la Nature luy donne a rechercher le bien, qu'elle luy represente comme le plus grand qu'on puisses posseder," is felt for this one other.(71)
These sections are important for several reasons. They are interesting as Cartesian accounts of the two great facts of animal existence: love and death. As apparently blind activities, common both to man and beast, they have need of a natural explanation. As pre-eminently purposive--preserving the individual and preserving the species--they seem to demand the kind of final cause that is impossible within Cartesian physics, and thus the word "nature" is almost trumpeted in these sections.(72) This is not, in fact, so very different from what was noted in part 1. What is particularly interesting in these sections is the disjunction between the apparent cause or object of the passion and the desire that the passion sets in motion.
In 2.52 we saw that nature teaches us that some things are useful, and that the passions dispose the soul to will such things. Yet in 2.89, the fear of death is apparently aroused by the rustling of leaves or the touch of a worm, and because of the relative commonness of such fears they cannot be attributed to the "private associations" or etranges aversions mentioned and explained in 2.136, nor does Descartes attempt to explain them in such a fashion. Certainly we are not "taught by nature" that the touch of a worm or the rustling of leaves is so harmful. Similarly in 2.90, the cause or object of the passion seems inadequate to give rise to the passion itself or to satisfy it. Why should union with a member of the opposite sex be represented as the greatest good? And even more difficult to understand is the "restricted object" of so overwhelming a desire.
The clue to an answer to such questions lies in the phrase "confusement representee," and in the observation in 2.85 concerning the great deceptiveness of these two passions. The acquisition of a mate is confusedly represented by Nature as the greatest good: it is certainly possible, if not probable, that it is not truly the greatest good.(73) In the same way, the rustling of leaves may give rise to a fear and flight that is a fear of and flight from death. The objects that give rise to these passions are occasions for the passions themselves. Once we recognize that there is no connection between sexual union and a blessed life, we can free ourselves from the irrational institution of nature. But what must be additionally noted here is that this liberation is a liberation from the institution of nature which links certain physical occurrences and certain passions, neither being essentially related to their object, and this liberation is based upon the dictates of nature, which teach us about of the useful and destructive aspect of things.
As we can see from these sections and as becomes apparent through the rest of part 2, while part 1 dealt with man primarily as a machine, part 2 deals with him primarily as an animal: fearing death, desiring a mate, and so forth. Further, as the last section of part 1 introduced us to the animal image that would implicitly dominate part 2, so the final sections of part 2 introduce us to the problems that will dominate part 3: man as distinctive, self-consciously exercising his will and reason. I have already discussed 2.137, which deals explicitly with the "use of the five passions" (that is, excluding admiration). According to the institution of nature (the last time this phrase will be used in the Passions), the passions are all related to the body, and are given to the soul only insofar as the soul is joined to the body. Their natural use is to "incite and contribute to actions which can serve to preserve the body or to make it in some way more perfect." Love, hate, and desire follow from "ce qu'on croit en etre la cause," that is, the cause of sadness and joy.(74)
As was noted in the discussion above of 2.89 and 90, we are often mistaken in what we believe to be the cause: nature as "institutor" or "instituted," as "teacher" or "taught," is sometimes deceptive, or at best unclear.(75) Thus, though this use is most natural, and is common to all animals, it is not always good for the body because what seems to cause or even does cause joy may be harmful to the body, and vice versa.(76) Further, as was evident in 2.89 and 90, passions almost always represent the goods and evils as more important than they are, so that "we are inclined to pursue the first and flee the second with more ardor than necessary. Thus we must make use of experience and reason in order to distinguish the good from the bad and know their just value."(77) The problem of the actual value, of the "true good for man," is raised here. The good is still the "natural good," but the means that we use to go about attaining this good are "unnatural": the whole process and problem resembles, in fact, that of the trained dog of 1.50. Only in this case man trains himself, and the end or goal is given by his experience of his own body.
The further discussion broadens the problem of the object of the passions. In part 2, articles 139-42 treat the passions as related simply to the soul, that is, as not issuing in action. Article 139 speaks of love, and of a love that comes from knowledge. "When this knowledge is true, that is, when the things it brings us to love are truly good, and those that it brings us to hate are truly bad, love is incomparably better than hate and cannot be too great." This is connected with a newly introduced scholastic notion of the reality contained in all beings, with which to be joined is always a perfection, and from which to be separated is always a privation.(78) Of more concern here is the notion, equally foreign to the Passions, of the "veritablement bonne" and "veritablement mauvaise." Up to this point good and bad have been used to signify usefulness and harmfulness with regard to the body. The body, in the situation of 2.139, can certainly have nothing to do with the "truly good" as opposed to the "good." With regard to what is something truly good or truly bad? According to 2.140, this is a good or evil that does not issue from the body, but "celle qui vient d'une connaissance plus claire," which "ne rapport qu'a l'ame."(79) But is it possible to know the goodness of things clearly? The absence of divine purpose present or even intelligible in the world would seem to eliminate the possibility that anything is "truly good" with respect to what it itself truly is. At the very least, it would seem impossible that, divorced from the direction of the body and the exigencies of action, I could know what this truly good is.(80)
In any event, the problem of the "truly good" and "truly bad" will be dropped for a time in the Passions, and a new problem will take its place in part 3, the problem of what is "truly worthy." At this point, the problem of the good is raised with renewed urgency. But though the subject matter of the sections discussed above is of clear relevance to the argument of the Passions, the scholasticism of their doctrine and language makes them hard to harmonize with the rest of the treatise. The Cartesian dedication to truth is more characteristically manifested in a different fashion in 2.142. Here it is said that love of joy poorly founded in the truth is preferable to a sadness or hatred founded just as poorly, if regarded simply as related to the soul. "Et mesme souvent une fausse Joye, vaut mieux qu'une Tristesse dont la cause est vraye."(81) Articles 143-8 remove us from the sphere where a false joy is preferable to a true sorrow and return us to the sphere of desire, that is, passions accompanied by action. In a strange inversion of the classical viewpoint for which the practical is the realm of doxa and thus, often, dissemblance, according to the Passions in the practical sphere "it is certain that all those whose cause is false can be harmful and that, on the other hand, all those whose cause is just can be serviceable."(82) And here, when founded equally poorly--that is, in falsity--joy is more harmful than sorrow, inasmuch as the latter at least leads to prudence. A contrast of these two adjacent sections(83) leaves little room for questions about the reason for the Cartesian concern with clear and distinct truths.(84)
Since, according to 2.144, passions only lead to action through desire, it is desire that must be regulated, and desire must be founded on a true knowledge in order to be good. What, though, must we know? We must be able to distinguish what is dependent on us from what is not.(85) As for what depends on us alone, it is enough that we "know that it is good." We cannot, then desire it with too much ardor. And lest we ask how we know that something is good, what precisely this means, and what ensues if we don't know "the good," in 2.148 Descartes comforts us by telling us that the one who "follows virtue" is not necessarily only the man who does the good, but rather includes the man who "has lived in such a way that his conscience cannot reproach him with ever having omitted to do the things that he has judged to be the best." Such a person receives the greatest satisfaction, an inner satisfaction that can never be upset, even by the most violent passions.(86)
The last eleven articles of part 2, then, raise and quickly abandon the issue of the truth of our judgments of good and bad. So far as the Cartesian corpus is concerned, we have no way of knowing that an object is good or bad in itself, and no reason for believing that God or Nature has the good of man or even the good in itself as an end of its actions.(87) Our only access to the good seems to be what nature teaches or tells us about what is useful and harmful for the body. And this has no necessary connection with the objects themselves. Certainly, as mentioned, the institution of nature is sometimes deceptive. But it is corrected, through understanding and will, on the basis of the teaching of nature itself.(88) False joys can be more valuable than true sorrows. In a letter already alluded to,(89) Descartes at first seems to tell Elizabeth that it is better to be less gay and have more knowledge if we must deceive ourselves to be gay. Yet he adds, "when we can make several observations that are equally true, one of which leads us to be happy, the others, on the contrary, preventing us from so being, it seems to me that prudence demands that we keep principally to those that gave us satisfaction." Here, as in the Passions, Descartes praises truth only to bury it, as Elizabeth seems to note in her reply.(90) We can always overcome the emotions incited by what is outside by "internal emotions incited in the soul by the soul itself," a method not of finding the truth, but of avoiding it.(91)
Part 3 of The Passions of the Soul attempts to move beyond the body-machine or part i with its sets of mechanical motions, and the mind-body composite of part 2, with its good that is useful for us and its evil that is harmful to us. Man as "naturally instituted" machine and man as "naturally instructed" beast is replaced by man the self-consciously self-possessed guardian of a free and infinite will.(92)
Of the six primitive passions, admiration is almost completely ignored in part 2 after article 78. It would seem that this is because of its lack of connections with the blood and heart(93) and its consequent indifference to good and evil which thus, in turn, seem irrevocably connected with the "good and bad of the body." The attempts in part 2 to discuss the good in itself collapse into methodical discussions of how we may live most comfortably in this life in conformity with the demands of our body, more successfully than, but essentially no different from, the beasts in our fears and appetites. But as men differ from machines in reacting to things as good or bad--that is, useful to the body or harmful to the body--so do they differ from beasts in esteeming or valuing certain things more than other things, which valuation is sometimes disconnected from, sometimes even counter to their own interests taken in a purely natural sense.(94) Part 2 confronts us with the image of man, given natural ends by the institution of nature, using what is learned from nature for the use of these natural ends. Theoria must be for the sake of praxis--thus the condemnation of wonder. Article 149, the first article of part 3, the whole of which purports to examine "Particular Passions,"(95) deals with "supernatural evaluation," esteem and contempt which, insofar as they are passions, are caused by opinions of the same sort, and are inclinations that the soul has for representing to itself the value or valuelessness of the thing, the inclination being caused by a particular motion of the spirits conducted to the brain. What is notable about this article is the absence of any bodily or natural ground for esteem or contempt--indeed, the absence of any ground at all. As "principles of evaluation," they seem to ground without themselves being grounded.
Article 150 carries this thought further. These two passions, we are told there, are species of admiration. For when we are not struck with admiration at (n'admirons point) the "grandeur ny la petitesse" of an object, we make no more nor less than "la raison dicte que nous en devons faire,"(96) and we esteem or have contempt for it without passion.
This article tells us something about the kind of opinion it is that gives rise to estimation and contempt as passions. It is only an "admiring" opinion, and one that admires either the largeness or smallness that gives rise to these two. And since admiration is the only passion that has a relation to the object en soi, there is a certain justification in saying that we admire the largeness and smallness of an object,(97) as Descartes does in this article. But there are two more remarkable facts about esteem and contempt--their relation to reason and their relation to good and bad.
In the context of our discussion of 2.52 we spoke of the teaching of nature, and in discussing it we noted that it concerns itself with the use and harm that objects can work on the human body, teaching the composite about the good and evil of objects in this regard. Passions were there said to dispose the soul to will things nature has told us to be useful. We then saw how admiration was indifferent to good and bad, that is, to what is useful to us.(98) Thus the great danger of excessive admiration--its endless desire for knowledge and the consequent loss of self in contemplation. It was further noted that throughout both Meditation 6 and the Passions the good effected by the passions--upon which depend all the good and bad of this life(99)--was identified with the good of the body as revealed to the mind-body composite.(100) Along with this we noted the implication that this good is the only good. Quite remarkably, then, what has been gained in the first two sections of part 3 of the Passions is a principle of evaluation that is emancipated from good and evil, a principle of estimation that is related to "grandeur" and "petitesse" which are, according to the Cartesian physics, present both in the world (as extension) and, in a more complicated way, in man (the infinitude of the human will).(101) What more appropriate principle of value for the philosopher who asserts indefiniteness (if not infinitude) or the universe, extension as the essence of body, and an infinite will in both God and man?
Esteem and contempt are thus emancipated from good and evil in both the traditional and Cartesian sense. It is perhaps more striking that they also differ from reason. Admiration is exempt from the dictates of reason, though it would be an exaggeration to speak of an opposition of admiration and reason. Yet in 2.53 the absence of "something the object presents in itself which surprises us" leads to a "consideration without passion," and in 3.150 he adds: "if we don't admire the largeness or smallness of the object we make no more nor less of it than reason demands that we ought to, so that we esteem it or are contemptuous of it without passion." Thus, when admiration is not present, reason or a dispassionate consideration can take over. So, for example, in 3.167 where jealousy is discussed, it is said to come "not so much from the force of the reasons that make one judge that one may lose [that of which one is jealous] as from the great esteem in which one holds it."
The opinion that incites admiration is neither "from reason" nor "from nature."(102) So far as Descartes tells us anything about it, it is an autonomous principle, and is particularly the principle by which we evaluate ourselves.(103) There is only one thing that can give us good reason to esteem ourselves, and this is "the use of our free will and the empire that we possess over our acts of will."(104) "True generosity, which makes a man esteem himself at the highest point that he can legitimately esteem himself," consists in knowing that this free disposition of acts of will is the only thing that truly belongs to him and that he can be praised or blamed only insofar as he uses it well or badly. In addition, generosity consists in feeling in oneself "a firm and constant resolution to use it well, that is, never to lack the will to undertake and execute all things that [the possessor of generosity] judges to be the best." Generosity, then, has two major aspects: self-consciousness as consciousness of one's free will, which free will makes us "in some way similar to God,"(105) and the readiness to use this will well. The first aspect of generosity corresponds to a "knowing admiration" of one's own "internal infinity," indeed divinity, and is an evaluation that is divorced from the good. However, the second aspect raises anew the problem of the good, and in an even more acute way than this problem was raised in the second part, since the will is free and admiration is exempt from considerations of good and evil. To say, as Descartes does in his letter of 30 November 1647 to Christine of Sweden, that the "sovereign good" of the individual "consists only in a firm will to do good"(106) is either to utter an insipid tautology or commit an outrageous petitio principii, unless we have some independent conception of what it means for us to do good, or unless "doing good" is "acting in conformity with the dictates of nature," which are known to all, that is, pursuing the body's pleasure and avoiding its pain. And indeed, Descartes adds after the passage just quoted, "and [in addition, the sovereign good consists] in the contentment that [this will] produces." The highest good for the individual, then, consists in a self-esteeming self-gratification.
The dualism of mechanism and purposiveness, the basic Cartesian dualism, is raised to a higher power here and in the rest of part 3 the Passions. On the level of the first two parts, we may speak of a dualism of mechanism and nature: in terms of the history of philosophy it is the split between the old and the new physics; viewed in terms of human capacities, it is the difference between science and human experience.(107) Yet part 3 introduces a split within human experience itself, the experience of esteem and contempt as divorced from the experience of good and evil. This difference is founded upon the divorce of mind and body, and is related to the absolute freedom of the will in willing. Part of this freedom is the disconnection of this will from ends, making it possible to view this will as a "will to power," a will to the augmentation of the will. The dualism of mechanism and purposiveness becomes, in part 3, the dualism of "greatness and goodness." The mechanical motions of the body-machine of part 1, imaged in the clock whose ends are totally outside itself, are replaced in part 2 by the purposive actions of the natural composite as imaged in the animal whose goals are "dictated" to it or demanded of it (dicte) without being self-conscious or self-legislated. Part 3 images man as "resembling God" in his "unnatural power" of evaluation, his boundless will, which can be freed from the "natural dictates" of good and evil as well as from the "dictates of reason."
The dualism within generosite will serve to illustrate this. Generosite consists both of a self-consciousness of oneself as a consciousness of one's estimable free will and a firm resolution to use this will well. Descartes identifies the (falsely) proud man as the man who esteems himself for any reason other than his free will. Yet Descartes never discusses, nor does he characterize, the man who, like Milton's Satan, knows fully that his will is the only thing that truly belongs to him--that is, whose self-consciousness is one of his free will--but who resolves not to submit this will to the bar of good and evil. This refusal to submit the will to the dictates of the good is equivalent, as we have seen, to a refusal to submit it to the dictates of nature or, in the words of the Passions, the dictates of nature about use and harm for the body. Nor is the connection between free will and good, free will and nature ever discussed.(108)
It is thus with no small irony that we, the inheritors of this Cartesian science, must read the title of his final article in The Passions of the Soul. That it is from the passions alone "that all the good and evil of this life depends" has become an empty tautology. Without the five passions there would be no more good or evil in our world than in that of a stone. After three hundred years, however, we have discovered the deeper question implicit in the full Cartesian analysis. What if in scaling the heights of esteem, in plumbing the depths of contempt, in exploring the endlessness of the will, the greatness if not the goodness of man's unnatural nature lies in going beyond good and evil? To return to the language that began this paper: we are children of Descartes not only, or even primarily, as mathematical physicists or epistemologists. Aware of the goodness of the natural and of the unnaturalness of awareness, we are Descartes' homeless progeny, demigods who, unwilling to accept the divine benediction, are yet unable to imagine a world worthy of our own.
(1) That is, "of the whole nature of man." Subtitle of the first part of Les Passions de l'ame (hereafter, "PA"): p. 65 of the edition of Genevieve Rodis-Lewis. References in the text, unless otherwise noted, are to this edition. Quotations will generally be referred to in the text by the number of the part (1-3), followed by the number of the article (1-212). References to the Meditations in the text are from the edition of the same editor, (Paris: Vrin, 1970), though numbering will refer to page numbers from Oeuvres de Descartes (hereafter, "AT," cited with volume and page number), ed. Charles Adam and Paul Tannery, 12 vols. (Paris: Vrin, 1964-76).
(2) See Discours de la Methode, 4th ed., ed. Etienne Gilson (Paris: Vrin, 1967), 58.
(3) In other words, "my project has not been to explain the passions as an orator, nor even as a moral philosopher, but only as a physicist"; AT, 63.
(4) PA, 2.57 and 86.
(5) PA, 2.143.
(6) That is, "the machine of our body"; see PA, 1.7, 13, 16, and 34. But not "the machine that is man."
(7) PA, 1.16: "in the same manner in which the notion of a clock is produced by the mere force of its spring and the form of its wheels."
(8) That is, "all the motions that we make without any contribution of our will."
(9) PA, 1.3.
(10) PA, 1.4.
(11) PA, 1.5.
(12) "the corporeal principle of the motions for which it is instituted," "the corporeal principle of its motions stops acting."
(13) It is instructive to compare the second half of article 4 of the Passions, in which Descartes denies the difference between animate and inanimate bodies, with De anima 2.4.416a9-18. Descartes asserts, after mentioning that "we have reason to believe that all those thoughts that are in us [we should note in passing that it is certainly unwarranted to move, as Descartes does not but others might have him, from a "raison de croire" to a "difference substantielle" which is never asserted in the Passions] belong to the soul, while inasmuch as there are "inanimate bodies that can move in as many or more diverse ways as ours, and which have more heat," for example a flame, which certainly has more heat and motion than our body, all heat and motion in us which are independent of thought belong only to the body. What is decisive for Descartes is the simple fact of motion and heat in a flame, along with the quantity of heat and motion in it. A living body might be distinguished from an inanimate one, however, as to the goal or end of its motion (whether conscious or willed or not), or as to the form or completion of its motion. Such considerations, though, are alien to the Cartesian science of body as a purely quantitative science of efficiently caused motion. Aristotle, in the passage mentioned above, notes that it seems to some men that it is the nature of fire itself that is the cause of nutrition and growth because it, alone of all bodies, nourishes and increases itself. For this reason, fire appears to these men as that which is active in plants and animals. Aristotle denies that fire is anything but a contributing cause ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). Soul is the simple ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) cause, because the growth of fire is unlimited ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) as long as there is something to burn, while there is, for all synhistamenon, a peras and logos of size and growth. These are psychic, from the soul and not from fire, from the logos and not the hyle. What distinguishes the growth or motion of a living body from that of a nonliving body is the form or end or reason which is manifested in this motion: the formlessness or the limitlessness of the motion of inanimate bodies is the emblem of their soullessness. For Descartes, of course, this formlessness is what serves as conclusive evidence for the denial of a terminus to the motions of all bodies. The concept of form or limit in nature is replaced by the concept of inertia. For "fire and life" in Descartes, see further, Discours de la Methode, 46.
(14) "entirely satisfies its maker's desire."
(15) AT, 9:67.
(16) AT, 9:68: "does not signify anything that is to be found in the body of which this is said."
(17) AT, 9:44.
(18) "causes that are customarily derived from the end."
(19) The scope of this statement seems broadened by the addition in the French translation, supervised by Descartes, of "ou naturelles" after "choses Physiques" (compare Latin "in rebus Physicis"). Thus the domain in which final causes are irrelevant is not simply the academic domain of the discipline of physics but, the natural ("en cette vie") simply, as opposed to the supernatural (matters of faith). The further addition of the adjective "impenetrables" in describing the "ends of God" in this passage also serves to underscore the total rejection of final causation in Cartesian physics. See also Principia Philosophiae 3.2 and 3 and PA, 3.198.
(20) For this proto-Spinozistic conjunction, see Meditation 6 (AT, 9:64) and Passions 3.198.
(21) "Of the manner in which the passions are excited in the soul."
(22) Compare AT, 9:60.
(23) See PA, 2.137.
(24) AT, 9:69.
(25) The cautious formulation of Meditation 6 should be more fully noted at this point: "on ne peut rien en cela souhaiter ni imaginer de mieux, sinon que ce movement fasse ressentir a l'esprit ... celui qui est la plus propre et le plus ordinairement utile a la conservation du corps humaine, lorsqu'il est en pleine sante"; AT, 9:69 and following. It is perhaps due to the more metaphysical nature of this work as opposed to the more frankly popular nature of the Passions that Descartes speaks more definitively in PA, 2.137 of a quasi-objective natural agency: "selon l'institution de la Nature, elles [the five primitive passions] se rapportent toutes au corps ... en sorte que leur usage naturel est d'inciter l'ame a consentir and contribuer aux actions qui peuvent servir a conserver le corps, ou a le rendre en quelque facon plus parfait."
(26) Discours, 62: "make us the masters and possessors of nature."
(27) See Discours, 61 and following. Note in this passage the intimate connection of physics and medicine, and compare the first prefatory letter to the Passions, especially pp. 47 and 49 in the Rodis-Lewis edition. On "self-mastery" compare Passions 3.152: our free will makes us "maitres de nous mesroes." In addition, compare the letter to Elizabeth, May-June 1645, in Correspondance, ed. C. Adam and G. Milhaud (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1956) on Descartes' conquest of his "nature" by replacing imagination with understanding, and by the inclination "a regarder les choses qui se presentent du biais qui me pouvait rendre le plus agreeables"; Correspondance, 6:239.
(28) PA, 1.50.
(29) PA, 1.41.
(30) PA, 1.47.
(31) PA, 1.18.
(32) PA, 1.6 and 50.
(33) Compare Descartes' letter to Chanut, 1 Feb 1647, in Correspondance, ed. C. Adam and G. Milhaud (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1960), 7:256, where the analogy between language as physical and psychical (letter and meanings) and passion as physical and psychical (motion of heart and thoughts) is also used.
(34) PA, 1.50: "acquire a very absolute dominion over all their passions."
(35) PA, 2.137.
(36) PA, 1.48.
(37) See, for example, PA, 2.148 and 3.153 on the "firm and constant resolution to use the will well ... which is to perfectly follow virtue"; PA, 3:153. See also the striking discussion of irresolution in 3.170 and its remedy, which is to "accustom oneself to form certain and determined judgments touching things which present themselves to one, and to believe that one acquits one-self of one's duty when one does what one judges to be the best, although one has, perhaps, judged very badly." The same "remedy" is prescribed for remorse and repentance (3.177 and 191) which also issue from a lack of "resolve." In all these cases, as often in the Passions, a deficiency of knowledge is compensated for by a strengthening of will. This should also be compared with Discours, 24 and following. Gilson's note to this passage (see Discours, 242-4) seems overly credulous of the claim that Descartes ultimately substitutes a "certitude rationelle" for a "simple assurance morale," or that virtue for Descartes is a resolve to execute the counsel of reason, all the while quoting Descartes' claim that "c'est la fermete de cette resolution que je crois devoir etre prise pour la vertu" (cited on 243) rather than the "truth" or "goodness" of what are taken as the "counsels of reason."
(38) PA, 1.49: "That the soul's force is insufficient without knowledge of the truth."
(39) Descartes does not ask what happens if the error is not discovered. For a similar difficulty, see his letter to Elizabeth, 6 October 1645, in Correspondance, 7.312 and following.
(40) PA, 1.24, 30, 44, 47, 48, and 50.
(41) PA, 1.36 and 50.
(42) PA, 1.48. This is the only time that "good and evil" are mentioned in part 1 of the Passions.
(43) PA, 1.50.
(44) PA, 1.12, 13, 19, and 26.
(45) See Richard Kennington, "The `Teaching of Nature' in Descartes' Soul Doctrine," Review of Metaphysics 26 (1972): 86-117.
(46) AT, 9:60.
(47) AT, 9:65 and following.
(48) AT, 9:60.
(49) Compare from PA: the spirits "excitent un mouvement particulier en cette glande, lequel est institue de la nature pour faire sentir a l'ame cette passion" (1.36); words "excitent des mouvemens en la glande, lesquels selon l'institution de la nature ne representent a l'ame que leur son" (1.50); horror, which is only a motion of the soul, "est institutee de la Nature pour representer a l'ame une mort subite et inopinee" (2.89); delight (agreement) is "institue de la Nature pour representer la jouissance de ce qui agree" (2.90); the fact that the body withstands evils "fait une impression dans le cerveau, laquelle estant institute de la Nature pour teoigner cette bonne disposition et cette force" (2.94); on the use of the five passions, "selon l'institution de la Nature, elles se rapportent toutes au corps ... leur usage naturel est d'inciter l'ame a consentir et contribuer a conservir le corps" (2.138). It is notable that in none of these examples is an object outside the composite discussed, so that, for example, what is represented to the soul in agreement is not the object as pleasant, but the pleasantness (jouissance) itself.
(50) It is possible to harmonize these conflicting senses of the teaching of nature, and the way this phrase and the phrase "institution of nature" are used in the Passions, by saying that in Meditation 6 Descartes means that we are "taught by nature" of the "institution of nature," that is, of the connection between sensation and passion.
(51) That is, "if the good is viewed in itself according to its natural goodness, it excites love." See St. Francois de Sales, Book 1, chapter 3, Oeuvres t. iv, vol I, p. 30, cited in PA, p. 110. See also Descartes' letter to Christine of Sweden (10 Nov 1647) on the highest good, and his comment there that "la grandeur d'un bien, a notre regard, ne doit pas seulement etre mesuree par la valeur de la chose en quoi il consiste, mais principlalement aussi par la facon dont il se rapport a nous"; Correspondance, 7.364.
(52) PA, 2.79-85.
(53) "inasmuch as they partake of love they are similar."
(54) PA, 2.56.
(55) PA, 2.53: "the object that presents itself has nothing in itself that surprises us, we are not moved at all and we view it without passion."
(56) I have translated etonnement as "wonder" (as opposed to the translation of Haldane-Ross, Philosophical Works of Descartes [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1968], of "astonishment") and have left admiration untranslated (translated by Haldane-Ross as "wonder") believing that the Cartesian analysis is a covert critique of the Aristotelian discussion of [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] and thus of the speculative tradition as a whole: etonnement is the usual French translation of [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. See, for example, La Metaphysique d' Aristote, trans. J. Tricot (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1948), 1:8-10: "Ce fut, en effet l'etonnement qui poussa, comme aujourd'hui, les premiers penseurs aux speculations philosophiques" (982b13-15); "Apercevoir une difficulte et s'etonner" (982b16-17); "Le commencement de toutes les sciences, avons nous dit, c'est l'etonnement" (983a12).
(57) PA, 1.70.
(58) PA, 2.73 and 78.
(59) PA, 2.78.
(60) PA, 2.76.
(61) PA, 2.78.
(62) Theaetetus 155d2-5.
(63) Metaphysics 1.2.982a12-20.
(64) Metaphysics 1.2.983a12-23.
(65) Metaphysics 1.2.9822b24-8.
(66) Metaphysics 1.2.983a10-11.
(67) PA, 2.78.
(68) Metaphysics 1.2.982b22-4. Thus, the conflict between Aristotle and Descartes on this point is not about the function and direction of wonder--for both it can lead to simple theoria--but the end of philosophy itself. See Kennington, "The `Teaching of Nature' in Descartes' Soul Doctrtine." See in addition Gerhard Kruger, "Die Herkunft des philosophischen Selbstbewu[Beta]tseins," Logos 22, no. 3 (1933): 225-72, especially sections 1 and 2, pp. 225-34. For other references in Descartes to "wonder" as obfuscation or mystification, see Regulae 4: "ignara et mirabunda multitudine"; again in Regulae 4: early philosophers preferred not to show us how they arrived at their conclusions, but simply gave them to us, "ut illos miramur" (AT, 10:376 and following); also Regulae 9: men think more difficult things are more beautiful, and think nothing of the evident and simple, while "sublimes quasdem et alti petitas Philosophorum rationes admiratur" (AT, 401). Wonder, or here "admiration" in a nontechnical sense, is an enemy of true philosophy, that is, clear and evident thinking. In fact, from a certain perspective the Cartesian method is a method for the overcoming and elimination of wonder. Wonder threatens self-consciousness in the sense of a self-possessing self-assertion. See Kruger, 251, and A. Kojeve, Introduction a la lecture de Hegel (Paris: Gallimard, 1947), 11 and following, on contemplation (in Hegel) as loss of self in the object, and sentiment of self as opposed to truly human self-consciousness.
(69) "what comes into the soul represented by the senses touches it more strongly that what is represented to it by its reason"; "deceive the most."
(70) We can only note in passing the role given here to reason: to judge what is good and bad. Reason returns importantly in part 3, but we are never informed how it makes its judgments about good and bad. Perhaps by a comparitio of earlier experiences with similar objects. We certainly have no grounds for thinking that reason has any intuition of any sort of good in itself regarding any object.
(71) "confusedly represented by nature as the greatest of all imaginable goods"; "the whole inclination that nature gives him to search for the good, that it represents as the greatest that one can possess."
(72) The word had appeared in only five articles from PA, 2.51 to 2.89 (2.52, 75, 77, 81, and 85); the occurrences in 89-90 are the first in this part, since the discussion of the "dictates of nature" in 2.52, to speak of nature as such. See 2.75: "inclination naturelle"; 2.77: those led to admiration "de leur naturel"; 2.81: some object "de quelle nature qu'il soit"; 2.85: "convenable ou contraire a notre nature."
(73) Compare AT, 9:62
(74) PA, 2.137: "what are believed to be their cause."
(75) AT, 9:66: "j'ai accoutume de pervertir et confondre l'ordre de la nature."
(76) PA, 2.138.
(77) PA, 2.138.
(78) PA, 2.140.
(79) "one which comes from a clearer knowledge," which "is related ... only to the soul."
(80) See the passage cited in note 74: "good" and "bad" in Meditation 5 are only spoken of in relation to the composite; as "harmful" and "useful" in relation to the bodily component: yet "j'e m'en sers neanmoins comme si elles etaient des regles tres certaines, par lesquelles je puisse connaitre immediatement l'essence, et la nature des corps qui sont hors de moi."
(81) "And often even a false joy is preferable to a sorrow whose cause is true." See the letter cited above, note 19.
(82) PA, 2.143.
(83) PA, 2.142 and 2.143-48.
(84) Compare Kennington, 101: "Cartesian doubt is a means to indubitable foundations of the edifice of science, and not to a theoretical metaphysics of substance.... Doubt is therefore a means to the ultimate science of `the tree of philosophy,' `the perfect moral science' or the `fruits' thereof, practice itself. Doubt partakes of the practical character of natural reason.... Prudence, or practical judgment, governs because the truth or falsity of sensation is determined for the sake of the practical end."
(85) Compare Nietzsche: "Mir scheint dagegen die wichtigste Frage aller Philosophie zu sein, wie weit die Dinge eine unabanderliche Artung und Gestalt haben: um dann, wenn diese Frage beantwortet ist, mit dier rucksichtlosesten Tapferkeit zur Verbesserung der als veranderlich erkannten Seite der Welt loszugehen"; Unzeitgemasse Betrachtungen: Richard Wagner in Bayreuth, in Werke in 3 Banden, ed. Schlechta (Munich: Hanser, 1966), 1:379. See also Kruger, 257.
(86) Elizabeth observes in her letter of 13 Sept 1645, that "in order to measure contentment according to the perfection that causes it, it would be necessary to see the value of each perfection clearly"; Correspondance, 6:298. This was written in response to a statement in Descartes' letter of 1 Sept 1645. See Correspondance, 6:296. Descartes (15 Sept 1645) notes, answering this though apparently not in direct response to is (see editor's note 1, in Correspondance, 6:300) that a knowledge of the truth and a habit of remembering and acquiescing to this knowledge are both required for good judgment in this life. But, "pour ce qu'il n'y a que Dieu qui sache parfaitement toutes choses, il est besoin que nous nous contentions de savoir celles qui sont le plus notre usage"; Correspondance, 6:300.
(87) See Etienne Gilson, La liberte chez Descartes et la theologie (Paris: Vrin, 1913), 76-127.
(88) Much as deceptive sensations are corrected by "better" sensations. See AT, 9:61.
(89) Letter of 6 October 1645, Correspondance, 7.312 and following.
(90) Correspondance, 6:312 and following. For Elizabeth's reply, see letter of 28 Oct 1645, in Correspondance, 6:322 and following.
(91) See PA, 2.147. We will only note in passing the conflict between the opening statement of 2.148: "des emotions interieures nous touches de plus pres, et ont beaucoup plus de pouvoir sur nous que les Passions dont elles different," and 2.85: "ce qui vient a l'ame represente par les sens, la touche plus fort que ce qui luy est represente par sa raision." Though the "internal emotions" are not identical with reason they seem closer to it than the outer senses.
(92) Kruger observes that Descartes "in der Betrachtung der Passionen mehr und mehr von der mechanischen zu einer moralischen ubergeht"; Kruger, 252.
(93) PA, 2.71.
(94) See the example of bravery for the sake of "glow after death" in 3.173.
(95) The apparent "lack of fit" or uninformativeness of the titles and subject matter of each part is hinted at or at least paralleled by the work's title as a whole, which is noted by Descartes at the end of the end of the second Preface. See PA, p. 63. Descartes' letter to Mersenne, 28 January 1641, indicates a consciously ambiguous purpose for the chapter headings he added to the Meditations.
(96) "largeness nor smallness," "reason demands that we make of it."
(97) The justification for attributing admiration access to the object en soi in 2.53 is of course not forthcoming, and given certain peculiarities of our organism, this passion has no necessary connection with anything in the object. See 1.72: "les objets des sens qui sont nouveaux, touchent le cerveau en certaines parties auxquelles il n'a point coustume d'etre touche, et que ces parties estant plus tendre, ou moins fermes, que celles qu'une agitation frequente a endurcies, cela augmente l'effect des mouvemens qu'ils excitent."
(98) PA, 2.56.
(99) PA, 3.212.
(100) PA, 2.137.
(101) Compare Kruger, 260 and following, especially: "Wahre Erkenntnis zeigt in der GroBe, die bei Descartes dem alten Begriff der Vollkommenheit seinen Sinn gibt, den Wert (valeur) der Dinge. So kommt es, daB das groBte Gut, die Freiheit selbst, der vorzuglichste Gegenstand der Verwunderung ist."
(102) Compare the language of 2.52: "les choses que la nature dicte nous estres utiles," with 3.150: "nous n'en faisons ny plus ny moins d'estat que la raison nous dicte que nous en devons faire." It is worth noting that each article has the same place in its respective part of the Passions.
(103) PA, 3.151. Compare 2.54.
(104) PA, 3.152.
(105) PA, 3.152.
(106) Correspondance, 7.362-3.
(107) Kennington, 116.
(108) Corresponding to the above "functional" description of generosite is the elemental or physical description of 3.160: generosite is a compound of admiration, joy, and love. As such, it unites the physical and nonphysical in as obscure a manner as does the pineal gland.
ROBERT RETHY Xavier University
Correspondence to: Department of Philosophy, 3800 Victory Parkway, Cincinatti, OH 45207.
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|Publication:||The Review of Metaphysics|
|Date:||Mar 1, 2000|
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