Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Are Human Beings Ultimately Rational or Affective?

The erudite and brilliant Eva Brann lays out the ancient arguments for the primarcy of reason and the modern for the primacy of passion or mood. She says that any answer must be less psychological than ontological and metaphysical. Her own view isn’t clear, although her last word is from the anxious Heidegger. My own view: The question is somehow wrongly put as a statement of fundamental alternatives.

Discussions - 5 Comments

I agree with her conclusion. "Each hierarchical placement, topigraphical setting, human valuation of the passions depends not only on a psychology but on an ontology. Hence to accept one or another view of the ultimacy of the passionate part of human nature is to accept--explicitly or emplicitly--a view of the world and of being itself. To realize that is the first outcome of an inquiry such as this."

I am confused because I never understood Heiddeger, but isn't this what Aristotle, Machiavelli, and David Hume understood in different words and to slightly different ends?

Challenging piece--I'll need to read it again when I have a bit more time. She does seem to lean in the Heideggerian direction, although one could accept the ontological primcay of anxiety without accepting the Heideggerian version. Part of the difficulty with her entire approach might be that she adopts a psychic topography that requires an asignment of primacy of one to the other,ie, that she doesn't entertain the possibility of a less compartmentalized but maybe more phenomenologically tenable conception of the two.

Comment 3 by Richard Reeb [E-Mail]

If I understand you correctly, Peter, your view is that the the "fundamental alternatives" are in actually a package deal. Brann's discussion of the meaning of philosophy is no passing remark but central to the issue: depending upon the state of a particular human being's soul, he loves something or other, and it cannot be otherwise. Indifference is not an option, it is death; and putting the two aspects of being at odds engenders needless anxiety. The concave and convex may be logically distinguishable but actually inseparable. So it is with the rational and passionate. We love to think.

Link to this Comment | 10/11/2007 1:22 PM

Richard, Sure, we love to think, and we think about what and especially who we love. The human person (like God himself) is distinguished by the inseparability of logos and eros.

De Lubac is with you on this one, Doc.

http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/?p=599

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