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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Involuntary Emotions? (from Stoicism and Emotion)

     We find in Seneca the notion that there might be involuntary pre-emotional reactions that are somewhat extended in time, yet still not considered true emotions or passions by Seneca. How does this square with the teachings of Stoicism as a whole? Is Seneca on his own here? I find it somewhat difficult to reconcile. This is the description from Margaret Graver's Stoicism and Emotion:

"Pursuing this theme, Seneca gives considerable scope and elaboration to `natural' affect. In the Consolation to Marcia, for instance, he admits that missing a family member is natural not only in bereavement but even in separation and says that it is "necessary" that there be "a biting and a contraction of even the firmest minds." Animals utter loud cries for a day or two over their missing young and search about, but only human beings grieve consciously, willfully, and at length. This suggests that in humans, too, noisy weeping and other such reactions might continue for a period of days and still be excused as mere preliminaries to emotion. Even more remarkable is a discussion of the wise person's tears in Moral Epistle 99. The wise person weeps both involuntarily, as at a funeral with sobs shaking his whole body, and voluntarily, when remembering the loved one's kind deeds and cheerful companionship. The involuntary tears are forced out by a certain `requirement of nature' (naturalis necessitas) and are an indication of `humanness' (humanitas). The other, voluntary tears can only be eupathic; they have some admixture of joy and are not uncontrollable. This is the only text known to me in which a eupathic response gives rise to weeping."

Margaret R. Graver. Stoicism and Emotion (p. 101). Kindle Edition.

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