17th and 18th Century Theories of Emotions
First published Thu May 25, 2006
Early modern philosophy in Europe and Great Britain is awash with discussions of the emotions: they figure not only in philosophical psychology and related fields, but are crucial to theories of epistemic method, metaphysics, ethics, political theory and practical reasoning in general. Moreover, interest in the emotions links philosophy with work in other, sometimes unexpected areas, such as medicine, art, literature, and practical guides on everything from child-rearing to the treatment of subordinates. Because of the breadth of the topic, this article can offer only an overview, but perhaps it will be enough to give some idea how philosophically rich and challenging the conception of the emotions was in this period. Most attention will be devoted to the familiar figures of early modern philosophy and how they conceived of the emotions as valuable, even indispensable aspects of embodied human life, which were largely constitutive of the self and identity that matter to us practically.
A word of caution is in order: there is a plethora of source material, and this entry is offered as a survey for organizing that material. Alas, much worthy material must be excluded. The good news is that since this entry appears in an on-line resource, it can be modified as readers spot mistakes and share new information and interests. The current incarnation is designed for readers browsing for specific information, as well as those hardy souls who may wish to read it straight through. The main document offers a thematic overview of early modern discussions of the emotions. Separate links lead to documents devoted to the pre-history of the topic, as well as to some of the most important individual figures in early modern philosophy.
1.1 Difficulties of Approach
1.2 Philosophical Background
1.3 Ancient, Medieval and Renaissance Theories of the Emotions [Supplementary document]