Aquinas: Summa, Question 22. The subject of the soul’s passions

It is delightful to read Thomas’ answer to the question whether there is any passion in the soul. He manages to say yes, but only after heavy differentiation of the terms. I am quoting the text from the Catholic New Advent website; the links in the text will lead you back to that site.

Article 1. Whether any passion is in the soul?

Objection 1. It would seem that there is no passion in the soul. Because passivity belongs to matter. But the soul is not composed of matter and form, as stated in the I, 75, 5. Therefore there is no passion in the soul.

Objection 2. Further, passion is movement, as is stated in Phys. iii, 3. But the soul is not moved, as is proved in De Anima i, 3. Therefore passion is not in the soul.

Objection 3. Further, passion is the road to corruption; since “every passion, when increased, alters the substance,” as is stated in Topic. vi, 6. But the soul is incorruptible. Therefore no passion is in the soul.

On the contrary, The Apostle says (Romans 7:5): “When we were in the flesh, the passions of sins which were by the law, did the work in our members.” Now sins are, properly speaking, in the soul. Therefore passions also, which are described as being “of sins,” are in the soul.

I answer that, The word “passive” is used in three ways. First, in a general way, according as whatever receives something is passive, although nothing is taken from it: thus we may say that the air is passive when it is lit up. But this is to be perfected rather than to be passive. Secondly, the word “passive” is employed in its proper sense, when something is received, while something else is taken away: and this happens in two ways. For sometimes that which is lost is unsuitable to the thing: thus when an animal’s body is healed, and loses sickness. At other times the contrary occurs: thus to ail is to be passive; because the ailment is received and health is lost. And here we have passion in its most proper acceptation. For a thing is said to be passive from its being drawn to the agent: and when a thing recedes from what is suitable to it, then especially does it appear to be drawn to something else. Moreover in De Generat. i, 3 it is stated that when a more excellent thing is generated from a less excellent, we have generation simply, and corruption in a particular respect: whereas the reverse is the case, when from a more excellent thing, a less excellent is generated. In these three ways it happens that passions are in the soul. For in the sense of mere reception, we speak of “feeling and understanding as being a kind of passion” (De Anima i, 5). But passion, accompanied by the loss of something, is only in respect of a bodily transmutation; wherefore passion properly so called cannot be in the soul, save accidentally, in so far, to wit, as the “composite” is passive. But here again we find a difference; because when this transmutation is for the worse, it has more of the nature of a passion, than when it is for the better: hence sorrow is more properly a passion than joy.

Reply to Objection 1. It belongs to matter to be passive in such a way as to lose something and to be transmuted: hence this happens only in those things that are composed of matter and form. But passivity, as implying mere reception, need not be in matter, but can be in anything that is in potentiality. Now, though the soul is not composed of matter and form, yet it has something of potentiality, in respect of which it is competent to receive or to be passive, according as the act of understanding is a kind ofpassion, as stated in De Anima iii, 4.

Reply to Objection 2. Although it does not belong to the soul in itself to be passive and to be moved, yet it belongs accidentally as stated in De Anima i, 3.

Reply to Objection 3. This argument is true of passion accompanied by transmutation to something worse. And passion, in this sense, is not found in the soul, except accidentally: but the composite, which is corruptible, admits of it by reason of its own nature.

Article 2. Whether passion is in the appetitive rather than in the apprehensive part?

Objection 1. It would seem that passion is in the apprehensive part of the soul rather than in the appetitive. Because that which is first in any genus, seems to rank first among all things that are in that genus, and to be their cause, as is stated in Metaph. ii, 1. Nowpassion is found to be in the apprehensive, before being in the appetitive part: for the appetitive part is not affected unless there be a previous passion in the apprehensive part. Therefore passion is in the apprehensive part more than in the appetitive.

Objection 2. Further, what is more active is less passive; for action is contrary to passion. Now the appetitive part is more active than the apprehensive part. Therefore it seems that passion is more in the apprehensive part.

Objection 3. Further, just as the sensitive appetite is the power of a corporeal organ, so is the power of sensitive apprehension. Butpassion in the soul occurs, properly speaking, in respect of a bodily transmutation. Therefore passion is not more in the sensitiveappetitive than in the sensitive apprehensive part.

On the contrary, Augustine says (De Civ. Dei ix, 4) that “the movement of the soul, which the Greeks called pathe, are styled by some of our writers, Cicero [Those things which the Greeks call pathe, we prefer to call disturbances rather than diseases (Tusc. iv. 5)] for instance, disturbances; by some, affections or emotions; while others rendering the Greek more accurately, call thempassions.” From this it is evident that the passions of the soul are the same as affections. But affections manifestly belong to theappetitive, and not to the apprehensive part. Therefore the passions are in the appetitive rather than in the apprehensive part.

I answer that, As we have already stated (1) the word “passion” implies that the patient is drawn to that which belongs to the agent. Now the soul is drawn to a thing by the appetitive power rather than by the apprehensive power: because the soul has, through its appetitive power, an order to things as they are in themselves: hence the Philosopher says (Metaph. vi, 4) that “good andevil,” i.e. the objects of the appetitive power, “are in things themselves.” On the other hand the apprehensive power is not drawn to a thing, as it is in itself; but knows it by reason of an “intention” of the thing, which “intention” it has in itself, or receives in its own way. Hence we find it stated (Metaph. vi, 4) that “the true and the false,” which pertain to knowledge, “are not in things, but in themind.” Consequently it is evident that the nature of passion is consistent with the appetitive, rather than with the apprehensive part.

Reply to Objection 1. In things relating to perfection the case is the opposite, in comparison to things that pertain to defect. Because in things relating to perfection, intensity is in proportion to the approach to one first principle; to which the nearer a thing approaches, the more intense it is. Thus the intensity of a thing possessed of light depends on its approach to something endowed with light in a supreme degree, to which the nearer a thing approaches the more light it possesses. But in things that relate to defect, intensity depends, not on approach to something supreme, but in receding from that which is perfect; because therein consists the very notion of privation and defect. Wherefore the less a thing recedes from that which stands first, the less intense it is: and the result is that at first we always find some small defect, which afterwards increases as it goes on. Now passion pertains to defect, because it belongs to a thing according as it is in potentiality. Wherefore in those things that approach to the Supreme Perfection, i.e. to God, there is but little potentiality and passion: while in other things, consequently, there is more. Hence also, in the supreme, i.e. the apprehensive, power of the soul, passion is found less than in the other powers.

Reply to Objection 2. The appetitive power is said to be more active, because it is, more than the apprehensive power, the principle of the exterior action: and this for the same reason that it is more passive, namely, its being related to things as existing in themselves: since it is through the external action that we come into contact with things.

Reply to Objection 3. As stated in the I, 78, 3 the organs of the soul can be changed in two ways. First, by a spiritual change, in respect of which the organ receives an “intention” of the object. And this is essential to the act of the sensitive apprehension: thus is the eye changed by the object visible, not by being colored, but by receiving an intention of color. But the organs are receptive of another and natural change, which affects their natural disposition; for instance, when they become hot or cold, or undergo some similar change. And whereas this kind of change is accidental to the act of the sensitive apprehension; for instance, if the eye be wearied through gazing intently at something or be overcome by the intensity of the object: on the other hand, it is essential to theact of the sensitive appetite; wherefore the material element in the definitions of the movements of the appetitive part, is the naturalchange of the organ; for instance, “anger is” said to be “a kindling of the blood about the heart.” Hence it is evident that the notion ofpassion is more consistent with the act of the sensitive appetite, than with that of the sensitive apprehension, although both areactions of a corporeal organ.

Article 3. Whether passion is in the sensitive appetite rather than in the intellectual appetite, which is called the will?

Objection 1. It would seem that passion is not more in the sensitive than in the intellectual appetite. For Dionysius declares (Div. Nom. ii) Hierotheus “to be taught by a kind of yet more Godlike instruction; not only by learning Divine things, but also by suffering [patiens] them.” But the sensitive appetite cannot “suffer” Divine things, since its object is the sensible good. Therefore passion is in the intellectual appetite, just as it is also in the sensitive appetite.

Objection 2. Further, the more powerful the active force, the more intense the passion. But the object of the intellectual appetite, which is the universal good, is a more powerful active force than the object of the sensitive appetite, which is a particular good. Therefore passion is more consistent with the intellectual than with the sensitive appetite.

Objection 3. Further, joy and love are said to be passions. But these are to be found in the intellectual and not only in the sensitiveappetite: else they would not be ascribed by the Scriptures to God and the angels. Therefore the passions are not more in the sensitive than in the intellectual appetite.

On the contrary, Damascene says (De Fide Orth. ii, 22), while describing the animal passions: “Passion is a movement of the sensitive appetite when we imagine good or evil: in other words, passion is a movement of the irrational soul, when we think of goodor evil.”

I answer that, As stated above (Article 1) passion is properly to be found where there is corporeal transmutation. This corporeal transmutation is found in the act of the sensitive appetite, and is not only spiritual, as in the sensitive apprehension, but also natural. Now there is no need for corporeal transmutation in the act of the intellectual appetite: because this appetite is not exercised by means of a corporeal organ. It is therefore evident that passion is more properly in the act of the sensitive appetite, than in that of the intellectual appetite; and this is again evident from the definitions of Damascene quoted above.

Reply to Objection 1. By “suffering” Divine things is meant being well affected towards them, and united to them by love: and this takes place without any alteration in the body.

Reply to Objection 2. Intensity of passion depends not only on the power of the agent, but also on the passibility of the patient: because things that are disposed to passion, suffer much even from petty agents. Therefore although the object of the intellectual appetite has greater activity than the object of the sensitive appetite, yet the sensitive appetite is more passive.

Reply to Objection 3. When love and joy and the like are ascribed to God or the angels, or to man in respect of his intellectualappetite, they signify simple acts of the will having like effects, but without passion. Hence Augustine says (De Civ. Dei ix, 5): “Theholy angels feel no anger while they punish . . . no fellow-feeling with misery while they relieve the unhappy: and yet ordinary humanspeech is wont to ascribe to them also these passions by name, because, although they have none of our weakness, their acts bear acertain resemblance to ours.”