Romanticism from Descartes to Rousseau

  • Simon Haines


Homer represented passion as bodily activity and conceptual recognition experienced as part of a public, outer world. His exemplary passions of wrath and grief are hardly distinguishable, morally or experientially, from pride and shame, or indeed honour and excellence. A life is a self-recognitive conglomeration of such passions collectively limited by death and other forms of necessity. A poetic character is a model of a life, and poetry is thought about character and lives in general. Several centuries later Sophocles and Thucydides represented passion as degenerated into mere appetitive force pressing on a concept. The former still thought from within the oral poet’s practice of modelling mythical lives in speech; the latter invented a literary-historical way of modelling non-mythical events. Both were disapproving witnesses to the arrival of a new, more conflicted model of the self. Piety and honour had become its intense determinant centres, its soul, and this field of discrete warring concepts was stasis. Meanwhile Socrates and Plato were supplying an immensely powerful philosophical rationale for this model, calling its central concept “Love” or “Being” and finding its authenticating roots not within the bounds of life but beyond them. Aristotle’s re-imagination of “being” from within life’s limits and his rehabilitation of the Homeric passions gave the older or realist model a rationale of its own without reducing the influence of its rival, which from Roman times on, and particularly in the examples of Virgil and Cicero, was clearly the more prestigious of the two, despite Ovid’s enduring contrary legacy.


Human Nature General Amour Moral Sentiment Outer World Social Contract Theorist 
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Copyright information

© Simon Haines 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Simon Haines
    • 1
  1. 1.Australian National UniversityAustralia

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