|Abstract||Seventeenth-century philosophers searched not only for truth, but for wisdom, for a sure guide in all the acts of life. This guide was supposed to be based on metaphysical and physical principles; it was to offer an account of virtue, and in particular of the use of the passions. In more ambitious works, the treatment of the passions is preceded by a more or less extensive physiology, which, being the study of the body, its organs, their powers, including most pertinently sensation and its effects on the animal spirits, was part of natural philosophy. The passions, at least as they depend on the body, or the inferior parts of the soul, fall, therefore, within its purview. But their use does not. One is therefore led to wonder what relation the physiology of the passions bears to the moral philosophy of their use. Though it would be anachronistic to ask how Descartes or Spinoza dealt with “the fact-value distinction”, it is not anachronistic to ask how the natural philosophy of the Passions or the Ethics is brought to bear on their accounts of virtue. Consider the tree of knowledge in the Preface to the French edition of Descartes’ Principles. The root of the tree is metaphysics, the trunk physics (i.e., natural philosophy), the three branches are mechanics, medicine, and morale, that is, moral philosophy. The three branches have in common a reference to human needs and desires. Mechanics has as its subject-matter the design of useful machines; medicine preserving the health of the human body, and morale the acquisition and exercise of virtue. The three branches are distinct from the trunk (and from each other), and yet continuous with it, just as physics is continuous with metaphysics. The continuity of moral with natural philosophy is conﬁrmed by the design of the Passions, which was published two years after the..|
|Keywords||emotions early modern passions wisdom|
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