Passions and Attitudes

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In Book I of SCG, once Aquinas has justified attributing intellect and will to reality's ultimate explanatory principle, he does not go on immediately to consider creating, sustaining, and governing, the acts of intellect and will in terms of which his ultimate explanation has to be developed. In the investigations of creation and providence that make up Books II and III, he does, of course, undertake to show in detail how those activities are to be ascribed to God. But first, to fill out Book I's account of God considered in himself, Aquinas adds a few more chapters in which he tries to show, primarily, what reason enables us to say about virtue in God (89-96) and about God's existence considered as life (97-102).

Broadly speaking, it isn't hard to see why a mode of existence characterized essentially by intellective and volitional activity should be understood as life, even though not in the biological sense. For my present purposes, that i broadly spoken observation is enough;

1 Aquinas begins his consideration of the divine attribute of life by making just that observation: 'Now from things that have already been shown we have, necessarily, the result that God is living. For it has been shown that God is intellective and volitional [1.44 and 72], but intellective and volitional activity belongs only to what is living; therefore, God is living' (97.811-12).

I won't have more to say now about attributing life to God. The consideration of what can be inferred about God's moral character is more challenging. It is also more obviously essential to natural theology's account of God's nature to take up moral character at this point in SCG, after the arguments for divine intellect and will, and before the thorough investigation of those acts of God's intellect and will that bring about and affect other beings.

We know by now that Aquinas's attributions of divine virtues will have to be developed as extrapolations from his understanding of their human counterparts, like all the other attributions justified end p.226


© Copyright Oxford University Press, 2006. All Rights Reserved by his relational method. Still, the first move he makes on his way toward considering virtue in God may seem to result from his paying too much attention to the human model. For although Aquinas's account of human virtues is, naturally, founded on his account of the passions which reason

controls by means of those virtues,

2 See e.g. the account of the virtues in ST Iallae.49-70, founded on and immediately preceded by the account of the passions in 22-48.

even sympathetic readers are likely to think that he needn't have approached divine virtue by way of a full chapter (1.89) devoted to discussing in detail the possibility of passions in God, especially when the explicit outcome of the chapter is entirely negative, as we're sure it would have to be.

The general grounds on which he dismisses the possibility of divine passions are so obvious that he could have left it as an exercise for the reader to come up with them. There can be no passions of any sort in God because, for instance, passions are associated with the sensory part of the human soul (89.736), and they involve bodily changes (89.737). Of course, any one such consideration settles the matter. None the less, as if the five general grounds he offers might not have been enough, he goes on to examine various specific passions, because, he observes, 'some passions are denied of God not only on the basis of the genus of passions but also on the basis of their species' (89.742). Grief (dolor), for instance, must be denied of God not just generally, because it is a passion, but also specifically, because grief is specified as involving something bad's having happened to the one who has that passion (ibid.).

This is overkill; but overkill isn't all that his detailed treatment of the passions here achieves. Even though every explicit conclusion is negative and unsurprising, two other features of the chapter make important contributions to the positive portrayal of God, especially in connection with the person-specifying attitudes and relationships I discussed briefly at the beginning of Chapter Seven.

The first of those two features is only hinted at in 1.89, but the hint is spelled out in the very next chapter, as we'll see. In setting the stage for specifically denying various passions to God, Aquinas claims that the defining character (ratio) of any passion gets specified on the basis of (0) its object—some thing, event, or state of affairs the passion's subject considers to be in some respect either end p.227


© Copyright Oxford University Press, 2006. All Rights Reserved good or bad—and (R) (the subject's perception of) the relationship between the passion's subject and its object. So, for instance, the defining character of grief gets spelled out more precisely in terms of (O) some thing, event, or state of affairs the subject takes to be in some respect bad and (R) the

subject's present possession of, awareness of, or involvement in (O).

3 I'm distinguishing the components of this basis as (0) the object and (R) the perceived relationship because that seems to be what Aquinas intends, although his way of putting it in this chapter isn't quite so clear. In 89.742 he says that 'every passion gets its species from its object', and identifies the object of sadness (tristia) or of grief as 'something bad that is already closely associated' (malum ¡am inhaerens) with the subject, where 'something bad' picks out what I'm distinguishing as (0), and 'already closely associated' with the subject picks out (R). Then in the next section (743) he introduces (R) expressly, first describing it as an aspect of (0), stipulating that 'the defining character of a passion's object (ratio obiecti alicuius passionis) is drawn not only from what is good and what is bad, but also from someone's being related in some way toward the one or the other of them'. But he goes on almost at once to describe (R) as 'the very way in which one is related to the object'. So it's tempting to think that obiecti should be deleted from the phrase quoted just above, changing the claim to one that is simply about the defining character of a passion.

It isn't hard to anticipate how, on this sort of basis, Aquinas rejects specifically the possibility of divine sadness, desire, fear, remorse, envy, and


4 As he does in 89.742-7, specifically rejecting one of those passions in each of those sections.

But the most interesting development in his consideration of specific passions occurs in connection with his rejecting the possibility of divine hope (spes) (743). He specifies hope in terms of (O) some thing, event, or state of affairs which the subject takes to be in some respect good, and (R) the subject's not having already attained that good but conceiving of its

attainment as desirable.

5 The specification is a bit terse: Spes autem, quamvis habeat obiectum bonum, non tamen bonum iam obtentum, sed obtinendum.

For Aquinas's purposes in this chapter the crucial aspect of hope is (R), 'which, of course, cannot be suited to God' because the subject's state as stipulated in (R) couldn't be the state of a perfect being. But it's only on the basis of (R) that hope can't specifically be attributed to God. There's nothing in (O), the description of hope's object, that's incompatible with God's nature as argued for so far. It's also only on the basis of (R) that hope differs from joy (gaudium), as Aquinas remarks (743); for in specifically dismissing the possibility of divine sadness or grief he contrasts them with joy, about which he says that its 'object is something good that is present and possessed' (742). In other words, joy is specified in terms of (O) some thing, event, or state of affairs the subject takes end p.228


© Copyright Oxford University Press, 2006. All Rights Reserved to be in some respect good and (R) that good's being present to and possessed by the subject. So in the defining characteristic of the passion of joy there's nothing at all that provides a basis for specifically rejecting its attribution to God. Of all the passions considered in the chapter, only joy is rejected (tacitly) on general grounds alone. And that's the first of the two important features of this chapter I was alluding to.

The second of those features is an explicit claim rather than a hint, but the details of the claim aren't immediately clear. It occurs in the opening sentences of Aquinas's rejection of divine passions on general grounds, where we would expect him to be talking simply about passions (passiones), but where in fact he seems to be relying on some unexplained classifications: 'Now on the basis of things that have already been laid down one can know that in God there are no passions associated with affectus (passiones affectuum). For there is no passion in connection with an intellective affectio, but only in connection with a sensory one . . . Now there can be no affectio of that latter sort in God. . . . Therefore, . . . there is no affectiva passion in God' (89.735-6). What interests me most here is the claim that 'there is no passion in connection with an intellective affectio' and the implication that there may, therefore, be no barrier to attributing an intellective affectio to God.

But what are we to make of affectio and the words related to it in this passage, and, for that matter, in the remainder of the sections on the

general rejection of passions?

6 Only his presentation of the fifth and last general ground (in 740) involves no use of affectio or related terms. No such terminology occurs at all in the specific rejections (742-8).

To simplify the issue, I think we can safely assume that the adjective affectiva is associated equally well with the two nouns affectio and affectus, and that there is no significant difference here between those nouns (the latter of which occurs only once in the chapter). So we can focus exclusively on affectio. In ST Aquinas considers all these terms and more that are relevant to the topic, concluding that 'the passions of the soul are the same as affectiones. But affectiones obviously pertain to the appetitive and not to the cognitive (apprehensivam) part of the soul. Therefore, the passions, too,

occur in the appetitive rather than the cognitive part' (IaIIae.22.2, sc).

7 Here's the beginning of the passage: 'But opposed to this [the thesis that passion occurs in the cognitive rather than the appetitive part of the soul] is what Augustine says in De civitate Dei IX [4], that "the movements of the soul that the Greeks call pathe some of our writers, such as Cicero, call perturbationes, while others call them affectiones or affectus, and still others call them—more precisely (and closer to the Greek)—passiones". On this basis it is clear that . . . ' (What follows immediately is the passage I just quoted in the body of the text.)

The SCG passage we're end p.229


© Copyright Oxford University Press, 2006. All Rights Reserved looking at can be illuminated by this ST conclusion if we read the conclusion as claiming only generic sameness between passions and affectiones, and we can read it that way without obliterating its point. In that case there are affectiones belonging to the sensory appetite, and they are the passions; but there are also affectiones belonging to the intellective appetite—that is,

affectiones belonging to the will—and they could not be passions.

8 When he states this claim in the SCG passage, Aquinas describes it as having been 'proved in Physics VII'. The Marietti editors identify the reference further as 3, 247a3-248a9; 247 [sic, presumably 248]a23-248b28, which, as they point out, Aquinas discusses in his commentary at L6.921-7. On the basis of a first inspection it seems to me that the topics discussed in those places, whether by Aristotle or by Aquinas, are relevant to this claim too broadly to illuminate it. Things Aquinas says more simply elsewhere are at least as helpful—e.g. 'passion properly so-called is found where there is bodily change. Of course, bodily change is found in acts of the sensory appetite—and not just spiritual [bodily change], as there is in connection with sensory apprehension, but even natural. However, no bodily change is required in connection with an act of the intellective appetite, because that sort of appetite is not a power of any organ' (ST IaIIae.22.3c). Even if we set aside Aquinas's Aristotelian doctrine of the organlessness of the rational soul, everyone could agree that the kinds of bodily change associated with emotion—blushing, heavy breathing, tears, and the like—are quite different from any changes in brain states that may be associated with volition.

But what are affectiones? Earlier in SCG, in discussing God's knowledge of human thoughts and volitions, Aquinas draws a relevant distinction: 'thought (cogitatio) belongs to the soul in virtue of the soul's taking in some sort of form, while an affectio is a kind of inclination (inclinatio) of the soul toward something; for we call even the very inclination of a natural thing natural appetite' (68.572). 9

9 Given Aquinas's theory of natural appetite (discussed briefly in Ch. Seven), I suppose that by 'even the very inclination of a natural thing (et ipsam inclinationem rei naturalis)' here he could be taken as bringing the notion of inclination down to the most primitive, literally interpreted kind of case—e.g. understanding that a stick's inclining against a wall exhibits the stick's natural appetite for a lower location. Cf. ST Iallae.26.1c: '[T]he very naturalness of a heavy body for the centre of the earth (ad locum medium) is a consequence of weight (gravitatem) and can be called natural love'; also 26.2c: 'And weight itself, which is the source of [a body's] movement toward the location that is natural [for it] on account of [its] weight, can, in a certain sense, be called natural love.'

Inclinations, then, occur in appetite at every level—natural, sensory, and intellective—and those associated with souls are called affectiones, either sensory or intellective. Still, 'inclination', end p.230

Kretzmann, Norman , (deceased) formerly Susan Linn Sage Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, Cornell University, New York

The Metaphysics of Theism

Print ISBN 9780199246533, 2001 pp. [231]-[235]

more especially 'inclination toward something', is too narrow for affectio where it must apply to fear as well as to hope, to grief as well as to joy. So I propose interpreting affectiones here as attitudes. Positive and negative attitudes are, of course, prominent features of our inner life, and we can readily recognize some of them as features of our lower appetite and others as characterizing our higher appetite—liking liquorice and hating hypocrisy.

The translation of the SCG passage in question can then be completed in this way: 'in God there are no passions associated with attitudes. For there is no passion in connection with an intellective attitude, but only in connection with a sensory one . . . Now there can be no attitude of that latter sort in God. . . . Therefore, . . . there is no attitudinal passion in God.' So, if we find in ourselves intellective attitudes corresponding to some or all of our passions, we have not been shown any general grounds that would prevent us from attributing such attitudes to God. And if there aren't any special grounds of that sort either, as there aren't in the case of joy, then we seem to have a prima-facie case for taking seriously the possibility that there is, for example, joy in God. And if the having of intellective attitudes is simply a corollary of the having of intellect and will, then Aquinas's relational method mandates attributing joy to God.

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