Soft Underbelly of Reason: The Passions in the Seventeenth by Stephen Gaukroger

By Stephen Gaukroger

All of the essays during this assortment, written through the main revered teachers of their fields, offers either an insightful and beneficial figuring out at the diverse perspectives of the passions within the 17th Century.

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Extra info for Soft Underbelly of Reason: The Passions in the Seventeenth Century (Routledge Studies in Seventeenth-Century Philosophy, 1)

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There is something exhilarating, too, about Hobbes’s claim that all actions spring from desires. It trades on an intuitive similarity between desires and volitions, and has the advantage of offering a unified account of both rational and irrational actions. Nevertheless, this view was too much for Hobbes’s contemporaries, who regarded the abolition of the will as an unwarranted attack on human freedom. By getting rid of volitions he had, in their view, not only strayed from the tenets of Christianity, but also deprived himself of the means to give an adequate account of the experiences that we describe as acting at will, bringing our wills to bear on our passions, and so on.

The voluntary motions of our bodies are, according to Hobbes, caused by motions which we experience as thoughts,17 but these thoughts must be of a particular kind, representing objects and states of affairs as advantageous or harmful. As he puts it, the thoughts which precede action are ‘commonly called endeavour’. 19 However, most of our thinking is regulated by some desire or design. ’ 20 Most of our thinking therefore originates in some desire and is then instrumental—it is thought about how to realize the desire in question.

11 Second, Aristotelianism lacked a satisfactory account of the way in which powers interact. How, for example, do the memories lodged in one part of the soul change the judgements and volitions occurring in another? 12 These problems could be resolved, so it was argued, by a conception of the mind which did not posit distinct parts or powers, but this requirement could in turn be satisfied in various diverse ways. Descartes and Locke both claim to meet it when they classify memories, volitions, sensory perceptions and so on as thoughts which are conscious and mutually transparent to one another.

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