Peter King

in The Oxford Handbook of Aquinas

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780195326093
Published online May 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks


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Aquinas's theory of the emotions (passiones animae) is cognitivist, somatic, and taxonomical. Aquinas identified eleven essentially distinct types of emotions, which include six concupiscible emotions of love and hate, desire and aversion, delight and distress, and five irascible emotions of hope and despair, confidence and fear, and anger. The concupiscible emotions are directed at objects insofar as they appear to be good or evil, whereas the irascible emotions are directed at objects insofar as they present something good or evil that might be hard to achieve or to avoid. Aquinas argued that emotions are sensitive rather than intellective because they essentially involve physiological changes, unlike the operations of the intellective faculties of intellect and will. Aquinas mentioned that there are four distinct types of psychological activity that include sensitive cognition also known as perception, the domain of the external and internal senses, sensitive appetite, the domain of the emotions, intellective cognition, the domain of thought and reasoning, and intellective appetite, the domain of free will. Aquinas held that the sensitive appetite ‘inherits’ its intentional character from cognition, which must therefore figure in the account of emotion. Aquinas is a cognitivist about emotion, since cognitive acts are not only causal preconditions of emotion, but contribute their formal causes as well

Keywords: Aquinas's theory of emotions; passiones animae; concupiscible emotions; irascible emotions

Article.  9105 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; History of Western Philosophy ; Moral Philosophy

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