The self-image of the seventeenth century is that of an era in which reason finally overcame superstition and ignorance. But the institution of reason was seen to require the removal of various obstacles to reason, and among these the passions figures predominantly. This led to an extensive study of affective and cognitive states and what resulted was a transformation of the understanding of the reason as inportant as anything brought about by the achievements of the seventeenth century scientific revolution. There was a flood of literature on the passions in the early modern era, and this book begins to reconstruct the thinking of seventeenth-century philosophers, theologians, artists and physicians, on the nature of passions. The author explains that although there were inevitable overlaps, the interests of each group were distinctive. We see that what exercised philosophers most was the relation between cognitive and affective states and how the one could interact with, change, and possibly even replace the other. What concerned theologians was the way in which the loss of control over the passions that began with Adam can be countered.
What exercised physicians was the psycho-physiological basis for the passions, their role in maintaining the general state of mental and physical health of a person, and the extent to which they might be diagnostic signs. What exercised artists was whether there was a repertoire of fundamental passions in an instantly recognisable archetypical way. We come to understand that it was in terms of the contrast between reason and passions that fundamental questions about the nature of wisdom, goodness and beauty were pursued in the seventeenth century. We also see that it informed practical questions about self-understanding, about the behaviour marking out the philosopher, the statesman and the theologian, and questions about the understanding of psychopathologcal states. Each of the essays in this collection, written by the most respected academics in their fields, provide both insightful and valuable understanding on the different views of the passions in the Seventeenth Century. Those with an interest in the philosophy of the ear, the history of medicine, and women's studies will find this collection a fascinating read.
Christopher Allen, University of Sydney, Australia; Stephen Gaukroger, University of Sydney, Australia; Peter Harrison, Bond University, Queensland, Australia; Susan James,