Thursday, March 2, 2017

Constancy 2

Some final thoughts about constancy and, for now, Elinor Dashwood.

I've been thinking about Elinor in comparison to the stoics. The stoics also believed that emotions entailed judgments. They believed we should resist emotions. When I feel passionate in response to something I see, I should resist that passion and be rational instead. They thought of emotions as passions, things that drove us, that we were being passive when we allowed our emotions to run.

And that is certainly true in some cases. If I let my anger run free, I will soon reach a point where I am a raging out of control. And Elinor, in the quote I began with, was worried about a similar process with another emotion.
She knew that what Marianne and her mother conjectured one moment, they believed the next—that with them, to wish was to hope, and to hope was to expect.
The process whereby we allow our anger to feed itself and become more and more convinced we are are entitled to lash out at others is like that.

The stoic solution, however, is very different from Elinor's. She would reign in her feelings. She is willing to let them drive her. She is Platonic in the sense that she thinks the passions are a force to drive our lives like a horse drives a chariot. They would act as if they didn't have any. They believe that by doing this, they act more rationally. Eilnor doesn't think that way. She thinks having feelings is very important; she believes that they are what drives us in helpful ways.

To do so they have to be the right sort of feelings. We have to have a fundamental disposition. If I spend a lifetime letting myself lose my temper, my fundamental disposition will be harmful. If I spend it channeling and controlling my emotions, I'm more likely to have a good fundamental disposition.

That opens up a whole lot of questions that I don't necessarily want to answer now so I'll stop here for now.

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