The Battle between Reason and Passion
The Rafael painting (on the left) of Greek philosophers Plato (pointing up towards the sky) and his pupil, Aristotle (palm facing down towards the ground) seemingly depicts them debating what should govern Man’s affairs: either Plato’s heavenly passion of the Gods, or Aristotle’s earthly reason of science.
This battle of wise minds serves as an example that begins this post with an apparent conflict between reason and passion, as I ask the question to myself as to which of the two should be used towards benefiting us personally and society as a whole?
Philosophy, and Stoicism in particular, can be accused of being, at most part, emotionally cold and distant because of it’s aim for us to invoke the use of reason to override all human emotions. The elements of passion and reason have been opposing forces ever since the very beginnings of philosophy.
The Stoics seemed to think that passion should be avoided like the plague,
Stoicism holds that passion distorts truth, and that the pursuit of truth is virtuous.
Being a man of scientific observation, Aristotle also thought that reason alone should be embraced,
“The law is reason free from passion.”
Plato stood side by side with Aristotle against passion, although he did have, paradoxically, passion for worshipping the Gods,
“The passionate are like men standing on their heads; they see all things the wrong way”
Not to worry, passion had its advocates too,
“Only passions, great passions, can elevate the soul to great things.”
~ Denis Diderot
“It’s the soul’s duty to be loyal to its own desires. It must abandon itself to its master passion.”
~ Rebecca West
Did a Passionless Socrates influence the non-progressive Philosophy we have today?
In the following interesting yet educational video (which is in 6 parts), blogger, author and podcaster, Stefan Molyneux questions the beneficial qualities of “Philosophy” in general, and that despite it being around for thousand of years, it has not directly influenced people and the world for the better.
Stefan is somewhat disappointed with philosophy’s contribution to society, and feels that it has been at most part, simply ignored by all quarters as a progressive discipline when compared to Information Technology, Science and Economics.
Stefan also feels there is a case for philosophy to learn and adapt to changing times and combine the calming influence of reason with the driving force of passion, something which may give it more success in terms of energising the world towards wiser action in human affairs.
A couple of questions Stefan asks are, “Why has philosophy failed the world?” And, “Has philosophy simply not progressed because of its lack of passion?”
Two men who also agreed with Stefan are,
“If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins.”
~ Benjamin Franklin
“Passion and prejudice govern the world, only under the name of reason.”
~ John Wesley
Stefan begins his quest by going back over 2000 years ago to an ancient Athens, as he points an accusing finger at a man on trial, and who is considered the father of philosophy – he sought truth through the use of reason to all he would question. That man was Plato’s Socrates…
Before you go, here are a few questions for you all:
1. Does philosophy serve any real purpose to society in the 21st century?
2. Is philosophy practically useless in guiding us all towards meaningful action, and eventually towards progress?
3. Was Socrates irresponsible for providing us with the seemingly passionless philosophy that we now have today?
4. What do you think should govern our lives for the better: reason, passion, or both? And why?
I would be very much interested in seeing what answers you all provide. Thanks.