Quotable: Serene Jones

“The question that drives these essays was formulated in those early days of reading trauma theory, and it has remained with me throughout the ten years it took to finish this book. It is simple in form but complex in content: How do people, whose hearts and minds have been wounded by violence, come to feel and know the redeeming power of God’s graceAt the heart of this question sits a vexing problem: When people are traumatized, a kind of cognitive/psychic overwhelming breakdown can occur. When this happens, it becomes difficult for victims to experience the healing power of God’s grace because their internal capacities (where one knows and feels) have been broken. It is hard to know God when your knowing faculties have been disabled. It is hard to feel divine love when your capacity to feel anything at all has been shut down. Addressing this vexing challenge is the core aim of the book.”

Serene Jones, Trauma and Grace: Theology in a Ruptured Word (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009), ix.

Bavinck on why “feeling” should not be considered a separate faculty

This source is difficult to find because it is an unpublished translation of Herman Bavinck’s Beginselen der Psychologie (1897), translated by Jack Vanden Born as a MA thesis in 1981. But, this is important to me because these arguments seem like they might be roughly against what I am trying to propose. I put it this way because I am not sure I completely understand what the “feeling faculty” is for Bavinck. The book is frustratingly short and hasty where more development might have been wished for. My question is, what is the relationship between this “feeling faculty” and what post-Reformation Reformed Dogmaticians would have called “sense appetite”? It’s not easy to understand all of his criticisms here, much less evaluate them. My initial sense is that Schleiermacher is very much in the background here, and he might have fewer critical things to say about “sense appetite.”

Implications of Feeling

Now it may seem that differences regarding a feeling faculty have no signi- ficance and that we should be indifferent to the question about whether there are two or three faculties of the soul. This is by no means the case.

1. The presumed independence of the feeling faculty forces the knowing and desiring faculties to release a portion of their domain. The integrity of the knowing and desiring faculties are then endangered. The subsequent limitation leaves them as only the higher abilities of understanding and willing. Such a limitation introduces either rationalism or moralism (pelagianism).8 [here Vanden Born omits without explanation: ‘The essence of man in these cases is no longer in the soul but in the spirit.’]  The higher life of man is cut off from its rootedness in lower sensory life. Understanding and will become autonomous; the ethical is ripped from its connections to the physical, the soul from the body, the kingdom of God from the world, grace from nature. Man as spirit is an angel, as body he is an animal, and thus he’ loses his own unique place in creation as man.

2. If feeling is positioned next to understanding and will, it must assert its rights and strongly compete with both. The harmony of psychic-life is re- placed with a struggle for power. Released from the discipline of knowing and desiring faculties, feeling becomes an independent source of knowledge. The balance of life is destroyed.

3. Recent psychologies make feeling entirely passive. Man endures his feelings; he can do nothing to his emotions; and he is powerless, held by and led by them. Thus feelings fall outside the control of human understanding and will and, consequently, outside human responsibility. And then, in the name  of original, immediate feeling, frightful errors can be presented as truth and crude misdeeds prized as heroic acts. Genius is no longer bound by rule or law. Goethe’s Werther and Schlegel’s Lucinde are made examples of virtue. feeling need pay no attention to logic or ethics and it succeeds in working away the boundaries separating truth and untruth, good and evil, beautiful and ugly.

4. Psychology has much significance for the other sciences, especially for philosophy and theology. Ethics, aesthetics, pedagogy, homiletics, catechetics and the main divisions of dogmatics: the doctrine of God, the trinity, man, sin, grace, all presuppose psychology and cannot be built up without psychology. Therefore every error of psychology clangs with repercussions in the other sciences. Perhaps a sufficient demonstration lies in present-day theology and its dependence on Schleiermacher’s teachings on feeling. The dualism of theology and science, of belief and history, of ethical and physical, grace and nature, religion and politics, God’s kingdom and the world can also be imputed to a psychology that raised feeling to an independent source and granted it a domain of its own between the knowing and desiring faculties.

EDIT: 4/29/16, 11:15 AM
This beings to answer my question.

It must never be forgotten that those things analyzed, dissected and described by science, are actually held together in tight relationships. Vegetative, sensitive and intellectual life, while distinguishable in human life, always work together and in to each other. Similarly, we distinguish components of knowing, willing or locomotion in events. And those distinctions tell us there are faculties behind the activities. But it is always the same subject that is active in the events. The faculties are never disunited, their activities always go together.

Thus sensations and feeling are closely related. Every sensation brings along a feeling and, through this, awakens attention causing it to place the perceiving process more strongly in consciousness. As soon as we meet a stranger, for example, a feeling of sympathy or antipathy immediately accompanies the perception. But feeling is passive; it resonates only when something strikes it. Feelings presuppose sensations. Nearly all sensations, representations, etc. awaken a certain feeling of appetite or non-appetite, inclination or dis-inclination. In turn, feelings have a strong influence on the sensations and representations. Moods, inclinations and passions influence our judgment. Psychical causality functions not first of all in apperception, but already in the simplest sensation.

Jesse Prinz on Emotions as Modular [Percepts]

It doesn’t seem like Prinz has much familiarity with the history of emotion before Descartes, but this is really interesting in light of it. [for what he means by “modular”]

“Examples are easy to multiply. They strongly suggest that emotions are modular in the Fodorian sense. Once an emotion is triggered, judgments and other higher cognitive states are relatively ineffective in making it go away. Of course, judgments can exert some influence. Judgments can cause emotions, and judgment can change emotions. When a judgment causes an emotion, it is not directly interacting with the emotional response system. It is only triggering bodily changes that set the response in motion. Judgments may change emotions in the same way. They may trigger a change from one pattern of bodily responses to an- other. In both cases, the effects are indirect. The efficacy of our judgments is further delimited by a second fact. Calibration files can include perceptual triggers that operate at a fairly low level of processing. A person with a fear of flying may have a link between visual representations of airplanes and the amygdala. Be- cause this link operates from within the visual system, judgments about the safety of air travel cannot preempt the fear response. In other words, initiation pathways may contain informationally encapsulated links between perceptual representations of emotion elicitors and the mechanisms that orchestrate bodily response. This makes emotions doubly impervious to direct higher cognitive control.

“As Griffiths (1997) points out, the modularity of emotions offers a good ex- planation of their passivity. We do not seem to be in control of our emotions. They just happen to us. This common observation is etymologically enshrined in the term “passion.” A comparable kind of passivity can be found in paradigm cases of perception. When we look at a ripe tomato, we cannot help but see red. No judgment or desire can block the path from retina to redness, just as no judgment or desire can block the path from body to affect. In both cases, passivity owes to modularity.

“Some authors have argued that emotions are less passive than they may appear. Solomon (1976), for example, argues that emotions can be chosen. A similar theme appears in Aristotle (1985), who stresses emotional training. There is no conflict between the claim that emotions are passive and the claim that they can be controlled. Emotions are voluntary in a double sense. Thinking about some- thing in the right way can certainly influence our emotions, and calibration files can be modified through education and experience. We exert control over emotions by choosing what to think about, and by cultivating calibration files. But emotions are also involuntary in a double sense. First, the thoughts and images contained in an established calibration file may set off emotions automatically. If one happens, by choice or accident, to activate a representation in a calibration file, an emotion will ensue. Second, once an emotion has been initiated, we can- not alter it by direct intervention. Initiation pathways and response pathways both operate without the luxury of control.”

Jesse Prinz, Gut Reactions, 236

Two 17th Century Theologians on the Passions

Petrus van Mastricht, A Treatise on Regeneration (p. 25)

Nor is the spiritual life in regeneration bestowed only upon the superior faculties of the soul, the understanding and will, but also upon the inferior or sensitive faculties: the affections, senses, and even the members of the body. Hence the apostle expressly ascribes sanctification not only to the spirit–by which he seems to understand the spiritual faculties, such as agree to spirits only, as the understanding and will–but also to the soul (psuche, properly the animal soul, form which we are called psuchickoi, natural or sensual, as it is rendered), which denotes the inferior faculties such as are common to brutes.

Samuel Willard, Sermon CXX, Compleat Body of Divinity

1. THAT there are two sorts of Actions performed by the Will, viz. Elicite and Imperate; the former immediately by it self, and the latter by the affections. The Elicite acts of the Will are in choosing or rejecting the Object before it. This act is performed inwardly by it, and belongs to the sovereignty of the Will in man, by vertue whereof he is a free Agent. Hence such a precept is given us, Amos 5.15. Hate the evil, and love the good. And that is given as a sign of a persons being capable of acting as a man, Isai. 7.16. For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and chuse the good. 

The Imperate acts of the will are those by which it puts its Elections in execution, and pursues them to effeect; in which it nextly makes use of the Affections, by which it manageth the whole man. Whether the Affections belong to the Will in man, and are only the various motions of it, or whether they be distinct faculties in him, and are seated in his inferior powers, I dispute not. It is certain that they are the instruments by which the Will performs its Imperate actions, and in the which it is either carried to or from the object.” 454-55 : Quest XXXI, Assembly’s Catechism

Edwards on Passions and Affections

There is an oft-cited explanation that Edwards gives toward the beginning of Religious Affections.

The affections and passions are frequently spoken of as the same; and yet in the more common use of speech, there is in some respect a difference; and affection is a word that in its ordinary signification, seems to be something more extensive than passion, being used for all vigorous lively actings of the will or inclination; but passion for those that are more sudden, and whose effects on the animal spirits are more violent, and the mind more overpowered, and less in its own command. [p. 98]

But, he is clearer and more explicit later in the volume about their connection to the soul’s faculties. Edwards argues against the genuineness of internal motions produced by “external ideas,” that they are no part of a person’s “spiritual experience.” External ideas merely impact man by way of the imagination–“affections…founded on imaginations.” He admits, “These imaginations do oftentimes raise the carnal affections of men to an exceeding great height,” explaining here in a footnote:

And as the motions of our sense, and fancy, and passions, while our souls are in this mortal condition, sunk down deeply into the body, are many times more vigorous, and make stronger impressions upon us, than those of the higher powers of the soul, which are more subtle, and remote from these mixed animal perceptions: that devotion which is there seated, may seem to have more energy and life in it, than that which gently and with a more delicate kind of touch spreads itself upon the understanding, and from thence mildly derives itself through our wills and affections. But however the former may be more boisterous for a time, yet this is of a more consistent, spermatical and thriving nature. For that proceeding indeed from nothing but a sensual and fleshly apprehension of God and true happiness, is but of a flitting and fading nature, and as the sensible powers and faculties grow more languid, or the sun of divine light shines more brightly upon us, these earthly devotions, like our culinary fires, will abate their heat and fervor. But a true celestial warmth will never be extinguished, because it is of an immortal nature; and being once seated vitally in the souls of men, it will regulate and order all the motions of it in a due manner the natural heat, radicated in the hearts of living creatures, hath the dominion and economy of the whole body under it. True religion is no piece of artifice, it is no boiling up of our imaginative powers, nor the glowing heats of passion, though these are too often mistaken for it, when in our jugglings in religion we cast a mist before our own eyes: but it is a new nature, informing the souls of men; it is a Godlike frame of spirit, discovering itself most of all in serene and clear minds, in deep humility, meekness, self-denial, universal love to God and all true goodness, without partiality, and without hypocrisy, whereby we are taught to know God, and knowing him to love him, and conform ourselves as much as may be to all that perfection which shines in him.

Jonathan Edwards, Religious Affections (Part III: The Distinguishing Signs), 218 [Yale, 1959].

The Complicated Psychology of Augustine

Complicated Psychology of Augustine, City of God, XIV.9:
“But so long as we wear the infirmity of this life, we are rather worse men than better if we have none of these emotions at all. For the apostle vituperated and abominated some who, as he said, were “without natural affection. ” [713] The sacred Psalmist also found fault with those of whom he said, “I looked for some to lament with me, and there was none. ” [714] For to be quite free from pain while we are in this place of misery is only purchased, as one of this world’s literati perceived and remarked, [715] at the price of blunted sensibilities both of mind and body.”
“And therefore that which the Greeks call apatheia, and what the Latins would call, if their language would allow them, “impassibilitas,” if it be taken to mean an impassibility of spirit and not of body, or, in other words, a freedom from those emotions which are contrary to reason and disturb the mind, then it is obviously a good and most desirable quality, but it is not one which is attainable in this life. For the words of the apostle are the confession, not of the common herd, but of the eminently pious, just, and holy men:” If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. ” [716] When there shall be no sin in a man, then there shall be this apatheia. At present it is enough if we live without crime; and he who thinks he lives without sin puts aside not sin, but pardon.”
And yes.
“And if that is to be called apathy, where the mind is the subject of no emotion, then who would not consider this insensibility to be worse than all vices? … if by apathy a condition be meant in which no fear terrifies nor any pain annoys, we must in this life renounce such a state if we would live according to God’s will, but may hope to enjoy it in that blessedness which is promised as our eternal condition.”

Quotable: Aristotle, on education

This is one of my favorites. I thought of this quote about every week when I was teaching.

“We ought to have been brought up in a particular way from our very youth, as Plato says, so as both to delight in and to be pained by the things that we ought; for this is the right eduction.” Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics, 1104b11-13

This should be added to the picture.

“Since things that are found in the soul are of three kinds–passions, faculties, states–excellence must be one of these. By passions I mean appetite, anger, fear, confidence, envy, joy, love, hatred, longing, emulation, pity, and in general the feelings that are accompanied by pleasure or pain; by faculties the things in virtue of which we are said to be capable of feeling these, e.g. of becoming angry or being pained or feeling pity; by states the things we of which we stand well or badly with reference to the passions, e.g. with reference to anger we stand badly if we feel it violently or too weakly, and well if we feel it moderately; and similarly with reference to the other passions.

“Now neither the excellences nor the vices are passions, because we are not called good or bad on the ground of our passions, but are so called on the ground of our excellences and our vices, and because we are neither praised nor blamed for our passions (for the man who feels fear or anger is not praised, nor is the man who simply feels anger blamed, but the man who feels it in a certain way), but for our excellences and our vices we are praised or blamed.

“Again, we feel anger and fear without choice, but the excellences are choices or involve choice. Further, in respect of the passions we are said to be moved, but in respect of the excellences and the vices we are said not to be moved but to be disposed in a particular way.” (1105b19-1106a6)

Aristotle goes on to say that virtues or excellences are states, the things by which we stand well or badly with reference to the passions. So, I suppose the question now is what sort of “thing” is a state? These “things” are clearly related to the passions, but how? Are they the regulatory conditions? And if so, what constitutes these conditions for Aristotle? What constitutes these conditions for us? Or are we prepared to dismiss his categories entirely? Finally, how are choices “involved”? All of this is fertile ground for further ethical reflection. But, at least for me, this muddles up the flash card version of Aristotle on emotion.