Why do the philosophers use the term passion to refer to feelings/emotions? Do philosophers see feelings/emotions as some kind of suffering?

In my dictionary I found two different entries: passion and Passion. While the latter refers to the Passion of Jesus Christ, the first refers to a large display of emotion. So passion can actually be used to refer to emotions directly. One more note on the passions.

The passions/emotions can be a pain in the bud when it comes to the early spiritual life. I see over and over and over again: teens or young adults who don’t pray every day, but instead wait till they feel like it or the spirit moves them. This leads to the wide path of lukewarmness. However, upon reading St. Teresa of Avila’s Life, I can see that the passions can be trained to love God after one has practiced prayer and has good self control.

Philosophers fancy themselves intellectual types, so the passions, which are not altogether subject to analysis and logic, need to be tamed.

That is why some philosophers are not religious. They rebel against the reasons of the heart as opposed to the reasons of the head (Blase Pascal).

This, of course, is not rational, for it assumes (without logical proof) that the only avenue to truth is by logic and never by desire. Some philosophers may dismiss religion altogether as an amusement of children and old ladies.

It seems to me that philosophers arrive at different conclusions because fact or proof are rarely involved in their discussions. If something is an observable fact, there is no real need for philosophy is there?

Life is not as simple as you imply…

But even the catechism talks about passions. When we look up the etymology of the term we clearly see how much it is thought to be connected with suffering. Why wouldn’t the catechism just talk about emotions rather than passions?

Who are “the philosophers” in question? I’m wondering specifically because I’m wondering what words these philosophers originally used.

Even before this post, I’d thought about this question in terms of the history of the English word “passion.”

I’ve wondered about the word before. If what I’ve read is accurate, the word originally entered English referring to the Passion, as in the Passion of Christ, and over the centuries the meaning gradually broadened.

Not everything in life is an observable fact, so we need philosophy.

The philosophy of science, for example, prescribes certain rules for scientific thought that can be inferred but not observed.

Likewise with the philosophy of history, ethics, aesthetics, logic, etc.

So why does the catechism use the term passion instead of emotion?

The Catechism explains it very clearly:

1762 The human person is ordered to beatitude by his deliberate acts: the passions or feelings he experiences can dispose him to it and contribute to it.


1763 **The term “passions” belongs to the Christian patrimony. **Feelings or passions are emotions or movements of the sensitive appetite that incline us to act or not to act in regard to something felt or imagined to be good or evil.

1764 The passions are natural components of the human psyche; they form the passageway and ensure the connection between the life of the senses and the life of the mind. Our Lord called man’s heart the source from which the passions spring.40

1765 There are many passions. The most fundamental passion is love, aroused by the attraction of the good. Love causes a desire for the absent good and the hope of obtaining it; this movement finds completion in the pleasure and joy of the good possessed. The apprehension of evil causes hatred, aversion, and fear of the impending evil; this movement ends in sadness at some present evil, or in the anger that resists it.

1766 "To love is to will the good of another."41 All other affections have their source in this first movement of the human heart toward the good. Only the good can be loved.42 Passions "are evil if love is evil and good if it is good."43


1767 In themselves passions are neither good nor evil. They are morally qualified only to the extent that they effectively engage reason and will. Passions are said to be voluntary, "either because they are commanded by the will or because the will does not place obstacles in their way."44 It belongs to the perfection of the moral or human good that the passions be governed by reason.45

1768 Strong feelings are not decisive for the morality or the holiness of persons; they are simply the inexhaustible reservoir of images and affections in which the moral life is expressed. Passions are morally good when they contribute to a good action, evil in the opposite case. The upright will orders the movements of the senses it appropriates to the good and to beatitude; an evil will succumbs to disordered passions and exacerbates them. Emotions and feelings can be taken up into the virtues or perverted by the vices.

1769 In the Christian life, the Holy Spirit himself accomplishes his work by mobilizing the whole being, with all its sorrows, fears and sadness, as is visible in the Lord’s agony and passion. In Christ human feelings are able to reach their consummation in charity and divine beatitude.

1770 Moral perfection consists in man’s being moved to the good not by his will alone, but also by his sensitive appetite, as in the words of the psalm: "My heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God."46


1771 The term “passions” refers to the affections or the feelings. By his emotions man intuits the good and suspects evil.

1772 The principal passions are love and hatred, desire and fear, joy, sadness, and anger.

1773 In the passions, as movements of the sensitive appetite, there is neither moral good nor evil. But insofar as they engage reason and will, there is moral good or evil in them.

1774 Emotions and feelings can be taken up in the virtues or perverted by the vices.

1775 The perfection of the moral good consists in man’s being moved to the good not only by his will but also by his “heart.”

A superb survey!

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