Early Modern Emotion and the Economy of Scarcity

in The Secret History of Emotion

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print May 2006 | ISBN: 9780226309798
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226309934 | DOI:
Early Modern Emotion and the Economy of Scarcity

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This chapter primarily deals with Aristotle's Rhetoric and Thomas Hobbes to outline a “political economy’’ wherein passions are constituted as differences in power, and conditioned not by their excess, but by their scarcity. Though the conclusions reached by Aristotle or Hobbes may be rejected, their rhetorical analysis of emotion allows the researchers to address important questions neutralized in the Cartesian paradigm. Descartes renders human nature in its quintessential modern form: it is something housed in a body and subject to the self-evidence of a descriptive science. According to Descartes, what we know is best established through introspection, and so is what we feel. Everyone has experience of the passions “within himself,’’ and therefore it is unnecessary to borrow one's observations from elsewhere in order to discover passion's nature.

Keywords: passions; emotion; rhetorical analysis; Cartesian paradigm; Descartes; introspection

Chapter.  10615 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

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