Northern Illinois University Press

Political Emotions

Aristotle and the Symphony of Reason and Emotion

Marlene K. Sokolon

"Sokolon has thought hard about Aristotle's discussion of the emotions, and she treats his views with respect; this is a great virtue of this book."—Polis

“Clear and extremely well researched.”—Choice

“[Sokolon] claims that political justice only comes to light when the partnership between reason and emotion is a symphonious one, in the tradition of Aristotle.”—Norma Thompson, Whitney Humanities Center, Yale University

A rioting crowd in a burning city, a lynch mob circling a battered body, a campaigning senator exaggerating the threat of an enemy’s bombs—evidence of the power of anger, hate, and fear has lead many political philosophers to call for rationality as the exclusive basis for a stable, just society. Yet Aristotle himself granted emotions a role as significant as that of reason in political life. In this timely book, Marlene K. Sokolon revisits Aristotle’s understanding of emotions and finds that his ideas not only resonate with current psychological theories but, more importantly, offer a resource for political life in the twenty-first century.

Identifying fourteen political emotions, ranging from pity through envy, benevolence through shame, Aristotle discovered that, inherently, they are neither negative nor positive. Significantly, different emotions have different functions. Anger and love pertain to the well-being of the individual and his/her family and friends. Indignation and benevolence, in contrast, are more concerned with the security of other, unrelated persons. Aristotle asserted that these political emotions, united in a harmonious “symphony” with reason, could lead to stability, justice, moral action, and community.

But exactly what are emotions? According to Aristotle, they are both innate physiological processes and psychological assessments of one’s political and social environment. This concept, Sokolon shows, stands up surprisingly well in light of current evolutionary, cognitive, and social construct theories. Combining modern science and ancient thought, she concludes by suggesting a framework for understanding the interaction of emotion and cognitive rationality in sociopolitical decision making and behavior.

(2006) 227 pp.
ISBN: 978-0-87580-361-6
cloth $38.00

Marlene K. Sokolon is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Concordia University in Montreal.

Table of Contents

Part I  Approaches to the Study of Emotion
1 - Aristotle's Approach to Emotion
2 - Mordern Approaches to the Study of Emotions
Part II  Political Emotions concerning the Subject, Family (Oikos), and Friendship (Philia)
3 - Anger and Gentleness
4 - Love and Hate
5 - Fear and Confidence
Part III  Political Emotions concerning the Community (Koinônia), City (Polis), and Political Justice
6 - Shame and Shamelessness
7 - Benevolence and Selfishness
8 - Pity, Indignation, Envy, and Emulation
9 - Implications of Aristotle's Approach for Political Analysis
Works Cited

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ISBN: 978-0-87580-361-6
cloth $38.00