The origin of…Passion

“There is only one passion, the passion for happiness.” Denis Diderot

Post 8 Passion

The movie “Gone with the wind” always makes me think of passion. The way Scarlett and Rhett kiss each other (“You should be kissed, and often. And by someone who knows how.”); that kiss screams passion. Not only is there passion in that movie, there is also a lot of suffering. And that is where the word passion comes from, from Latin passio, meaning suffering. That is why the last period of Jesus´s life is called the Passion (his visit to Jerusalem and his crucifixion).
Also the word passive comes from this root. When reading different philosophers on passion, we can see how the words passion and passive are related.

In philosophy the word passion has a different meaning than the everyday meaning that we are used to. It doesn´t have the meaning of enthusiasm or affinity, but it is an innate emotional state, just like lust, greed and anger.
Spinoza, a Dutch philosopher in the 17th century stated that action and passion are contrasts, as well as the states of being active and passive. According to his ideas emotions are bodily changes and ideas about these changes that can either aid or constrain a person. The state of being passive happens when people experience an emotion caused by external events and they have confused, and therefore inadequate, ideas about these events and their causes. The state of being active on the other hand happens when a person himself is the cause of an emotion (or modification of the body as Spinoza calls it) and acts based on an adequate understanding of the causes of these modifications. The emotion is then an activity as opposed to a “passion, or state wherein the mind is passive.” (Ethics, Book III).

Aristotle saw reason as the opposite of emotions. Persons experience feelings that are contrary to reason, but some people act in accordance with reason while others act under the influence of a passion. Based on this philosophy is the Stoic philosophy that states that people should seek self-discipline. Emotions should be transformed in such a way that a person can develop clear judgment. So, one must be free of the passions and be free of suffering.
The Brazilian philosopher Unger does not agree to this contrast. He sees the passions of human beings as raw responses to the world. They are first internal states that adopt external expressions. They are not in conflict with reason and don´t need to be tamed, but can act together with reason. He determines nine passions: lust, despair, hatred, vanity, jealousy, envy, faith, hope, and love.

Want to read more? Check the following websites:

1. a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something
2. a strong feeling (such as anger) that causes you to act in a dangerous way
3. a strong sexual or romantic feeling for someone (source: Merriam Webster)

The English word passion, the Dutch passie, the Spanish pasión and the Italian passione all come from Latin passio, meaning suffering/enduring, from the Protoindoeuropean root *pe(i)-, to hurt.

Passion in other languages:
Dutch: passie
Spanish: la pasión
Italian: la passione


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