NL X: “Passion”

Index to this series

Passion is literally the correlate of action, as suffering is the correlate of doing. In the ordinary, vulgar sense, passion is our response to what we suffer. This is how we shall understand it.

Sagrada Familia, west front, November, 2008

Sagrada Familia, Passion Façade, November, 2008

As appetite has two forms (8. 11), namely hunger and love (8. 12), so passion has two forms, namely fear and anger (10. 2).

The passion called anger is a first-order object of consciousness (10. 14); to question it would be to commit the Fallacy of Misplaced Argument (4. 73).

However, from anger we abstract both the angry self and the not-self that makes us angry. In identifying the not-self, we may be in error (10. 16).

Thus do I read ¶¶10. 1–18, and 10. 2, in Chapter X of Collingwood’s New Leviathan. I analyze the rest of the chapter by the following themes:

Additions since original publication are underlined.

Fear

Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, Part I (Chicago: Regnery)

By the account of Hobbes in the original Leviathan (pp. 23–5),

This Endeavour, when it is toward something which causes it, is called Appetite, or Desire; the later, being the generall name; and the other, often-times restrayned to signifie the Desire of Food, namely Hunger and Thirst. And when the Endeavour is fromward something, it is generally called Aversion

These simple Passions called Appetite, Desire, Love, Aversion, Hate, Joy, and Griefe, have their names for divers considerations diversified…

For Appetite with an opinion of attaining, is called Hope.

The same, without such opinion, Despaire.

Aversion, with opinion of Hurt from the object, Feare.

The same, with hope of avoyding that Hurt by resistence, Courage.

Sudden Courage, Anger

Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan

This account is in error for giving a reason (namely an opinion) for being afraid. Fear is irrational, and an “opinion of hurt” is only a rationalization. The rational response to danger is “to keep calm and avoid it, not to fall into that strange paralysis of mind which is called fear” (10. 22).

Fear is not absolutely irrational. It may not be propositional, but it is conceptual:

10. 26. Fear contains an intellectual element, an element not of propositional thinking (as Hobbes and Spinoza thought: ‘this may hurt me’) but of conceptual thinking: the idea of not-self. There is also the idea of myself, and the idea of a contrast between them.

Let us recall by the way that Collingwood attributed to Hobbes, as “one of his greatest achievements” (6. 42), the discovery “that language is not a device” for communicating knowledge, “but an activity prior to knowledge itself, without which knowledge could never come into existence” (6. 41).

Origin of Fear in Love

As language is prior to knowledge, so love is prior to fear. As a type of appetite, love arises out of the recognition of a not-self: in this case, a not-self to which one wants to be attached (8. 16).

10. 3. Love turns into fear when a man starts thinking of the not-self no longer as existing for the satisfaction of his own appetites but as having an independent character of its own: as being, so to speak, alive.

10. 31. This is the old tale of the sorceror’s apprentice who conjures up a spirit and then finds that the spirit refuses his inexpert control: a frightening story because it tells in a myth the origin of fear.

If one thinks (as I do) that one felt fear in one’s life earlier than one felt love, then perhaps one is confusing love with lust. Lust is not the love-type of appetite, but the hunger-type (8. 33). “There are many kinds of love containing little or no lust, for example a man’s love for other men, children, non-human animals, flowers, places, rivers or mountains or the sea” (8. 34).

As beauty is not the cause of being loved, but the effect (8. 43), so the object of fear is made terrible (or fearsome) by the fear. “it is not the object’s being alive that frightens you but your thinking it alive, whether it is or not” (10. 33).

This is a theme. History concerns not the world we live in, but what we think of the world. On this, see “Freedom,” based in part on Collingwood’s Principles of History. The freedom studied by history is not the freedom to do what we want, or to do what we choose; it is the rational activity of facing the facts of our own situation. Want or appetite is the topic of New Leviathan Chapters VII and VIII; choice, Chapter XIII.

By the Law of Primitive Survivals (9. 6), “All fear contains in itself a trace of the love out of which it has developed” (10. 34). This would seem to make sense. Boys would not fear girls if they were not desirable.

Maugham, Vessel of Wrath, opening page

The story of Somerset Maugham from 1931 called “The Vessel of Wrath” has as a theme a white missionary’s contempt for, and fear of, another white person’s licentiousness; this fear is only a cover for the missionary’s own desires. Miss Jones finds herself marooned on a beach for a night with Ginger Ted and some natives. She wonders how she can prevent him from having his way with her. Maybe she can’t. Maybe she should just let it happen. She would not tell her brother back at the mission: it would kill him. Now the lustful man is getting up from the campfire, where he has been drinking arak with the natives. Here he comes! No, he is only doing some other business, whose nature is left to the reader to infer. Since Ginger Ted does manage to restrain his base impulses, as Miss Jones thinks, she ultimately gets him to marry her.

Maugham, Nouvelles completes

As for Collingwood, on the subject of love and fear, he ridicules popular psychology for creating a notion of hatred. What is a combination of love and fear, pop psychology calls a combination of love and hatred (10. 35). Various other things are called hatred too: anger; loathing; the impulse to torment the object of our love, by way of showing our power over it (10. 36). However, “There is nothing of which ‘hatred’ is the right name” (10. 37): the right names are such as were just given.

Anger

Between fear and anger, there is no theoretical difference, but a practical difference.

10. 43. In anger you have no consciousness of being angry; that comes only with reflection upon anger; what you are aware of is simply a contrast between yourself and something (you know not what) other than yourself. This is the intellectual element in anger. It is identical with the intellectual element in fear.

10. 44. The difference is purely practical. You conceive yourself as ‘contradicted’ or ‘contrasted with’ by the not-self (10. 27). The simplest thing is to lie down under this menace. That is fear. The alternative is to rebel against it. That is anger.

There is no choice between the alternatives of fear and anger. “The first thing a man feels inclined to do, when he encounters opposition, is to give way to it. And this is what everybody begins by doing” (10. 45). I can imagine denials of such a categorical assertion; but these would represent shame, “the renunciation of the cowardly self” (10. 48).

In the face of opposition, one wants to cower; but to give in completely would mean annihilation and thus an end to cowering. “A too thorough cowering frustrates the very impulse to cower” (10. 45). Thus anger arises, so that the combat with the not-self can be continued.

Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

Would Charlotte Brontë agree with this account? In Jane Eyre (1847), the orphan of the title rebels against abuse by her late uncle’s wife, telling her,

“I am glad you are no relation of mine: I will never call you aunt again as long as I live. I will never come to see you when I am grown up; and if any one asks me how I liked you, and how you treated me, I will say the very thought of you makes me sick, and that you treated me with miserable cruelty.”

“How dare you affirm that, Jane Eyre?”

“How dare I, Mrs. Reed? How dare I? Because it is the truth. You think I have no feelings, and that I can do without one bit of love or kindness; but I cannot live so: and you have no pity. I shall remember how you thrust me back—roughly and violently thrust me back into the red-room, and locked me up there—to my dying day; though I was in agony; though I cried out, while suffocating with distress, ‘Have mercy! Have mercy, Aunt Reed!’ And that punishment you made me suffer because your wicked boy struck me—knocked me down for nothing. I will tell anybody who asks me questions, this exact tale. People think you are a good woman, but you are bad; hard-hearted. You are deceitful!”

Ere I had finished this reply, my soul began to expand, to exult, with the strangest sense of freedom, of triumph, I ever felt. It seemed as if an invisible bond had burst, and that I had struggled out into unhoped-for liberty. Not without cause was this sentiment: Mrs. Reed looked frightened; her work had slipped from her knee; she was lifting up her hands, rocking to and fro, and even twisting her face as if she would cry.

It will be worthwhile to consider Jane’s rebellion in the context of New Leviathan Chapter XIII, “Choice,” which I have already quoted extensively, albeit out of turn, in “Freedom of Will.”

Anger as a bridge

Anger is essential to the development of our capacity to think. Collingwood finds illustrations of his argument in two old books.

10. 51. The importance of anger as a bridge from the lower levels of consciousness where thought is at first merly apprehensive, capable of taking what is ‘given’ to it, and then merely conceptual, capable of framing abstractions from what is ‘given’, to the higher levels of consciousness where thought is first ‘propositional’, capable of discriminating good from evil and truth from error, and then ‘rational’, capable of understanding both itself and other things, has been long ago expounded in many different forms.

10. 52. I will mention two: one in Plato, one in the Bible; attested, as it happens, by documents nearly contemporary.

In Plato, anger, or the “irascible,” is the part of the soul that lies between the appetitive and the rational parts.

Bible (Jehovah on cover)

According to the first chapter of one of the books of the Hebrew Bible,

1 There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil…

8 And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?

9 Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought?

God allows Satan to take from Job his children and his health. In the second and third chapters, Job’s fear gives way to anger.

11 Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that was come upon him, they came every one from his own place; Eliphaz the Temanite, and Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite: for they had made an appointment together to come to mourn with him and to comfort him.

12 And when they lifted up their eyes afar off, and knew him not, they lifted up their voice, and wept; and they rent every one his mantle, and sprinkled dust upon their heads toward heaven.

13 So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spake a word unto him: for they saw that his grief was very great.

1 After this opened Job his mouth, and cursed his day.

By Chapter 13, Job is rebuking his would-be comforters:

2 What ye know, the same do I know also: I am not inferior unto you.

3 Surely I would speak to the Almighty, and I desire to reason with God.

4 But ye are forgers of lies, ye are all physicians of no value.

5 O that ye would altogether hold your peace! and it should be your wisdom.

“In Christianity,” says Collingwood, “this conversion of the Old Testament fear-religion into an anger-religion is a fait accompli” (10.6). We have already seen that Christianity is “a religion of unsatisfied love” (8. 38),

where the not-self on which the lover fixes his affections is not accessibly lodged in the world, an ‘immanent’ god whose many addresses the worshipper knows, with whom he can take tea, and whom he can hope to find about his path and about his bed; but utterly and fatally ‘transcendent’, ἐπέκεινα τῆς οὐσίας, so that he cries into the dark and gets no echo because there is nothing there.

The Greek is from the “Republic” (Book V, 509B):

“The sun, I presume you will say, not only furnishes to visibles the power of visibility but it also provides for their generation and growth and nurture though it is not itself generation.” “Of course not.” “In like manner, then, you are to say that the objects of knowledge not only receive from the presence of the good their being known, but their very existence and essence is derived to them from it, though the good itself is not essence but still transcends essence in dignity and surpassing power (ἐπέκεινα τῆς οὐσίας πρεσβείᾳ καὶ δυνάμει ὑπερέχοντος).”

According to Shorey’s note, “ἐπέκεινα [“on yonder side, beyond”] became technical and a symbol for the transcendental in Neoplatonism and all similar philosophies.”

Writing during another war, a quarter century earlier, Collingwood said in “The Devil” (1916) that, for the believer, God is “about our path and about our bed.” The phrase may derive ultimately from Psalm 139, at least at it appears in the Book of Common Prayer:

O Lord, thou hast searched me out and known me : thou knowest my down-sitting and mine up-rising, thou understandest my thoughts long before.

2 Thou art about my path, and about my bed : and spiest out all my ways.

3 For lo, there is not a word in my tongue : but thou, O Lord, knowest it altogether.

The version in the King James Bible is somewhat different:

1 O lord, thou hast searched me, and known me.

2 Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off.

3 Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways.

4 For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether.

I quote “The Devil” at length, as being an early instance of Collingwood’s resistance to the positivistic idea of natural science as our one true path to knowledge. Bold emphasis is mine.

Everything, we believe, must have a cause; and in assigning it to its cause we have, so far as we can ever hope to do so, explained it. A thing whose cause we have not discovered is, we say, unexplained, and one which has no cause is inexplicable; but we refuse to believe that anything is in the long run inexplicable. Evil then—so we argue—must have a cause; and the cause of evil in me can only be some other evil outside myself. And therefore we postulate a Devil as the First Cause of all evil, just as we postulate a God as the First Cause of all good.

But the parallel here suggested is entirely misleading. God and the Devil are not twin hypotheses which stand or fall together. God, as present to the religious mind, is not a hypothesis at all; He is not a far-fetched explanation of phenomena. He is about our path and about our bed; we do not search the world for traces of His passing by, or render His existence more probable by scientific inductions. Philosophy may demand a proof of His existence, as it may demand a proof of the existence of this paper, of the philosopher’s friends or of the philosopher himself; but the kind of certainty which the religious mind has of God is of the same kind as that which we have of ourselves and of other people, and not in any way similar to the gradually strengthening belief in a hypothesis. The two kinds of belief must not be confused. I do not consider the existence of another mind like my own as a highly probable explanation of the voice I hear in conversation with a friend; to describe my belief in such terms would be entirely to misrepresent its real nature. The Devil may be a hypothesis, but God is not; and if we find reason for rejecting the above argument for the reality of the Devil we have not thereby thrown any doubt on the reality of God.

Chora Museum guidebook and pamphlet

Now let us return to New Leviathan and its rather violent depiction of Christianity, a passionate depiction reflecting, perhaps, the violent times.

10. 61. It is more than a commonplace of Christianity, it is the essence of Christianity, that the God who made Adam and gave him a woman; and forbade them to eat of a certain tree; and exposed them to temptation by another of his creatures, the serpent; was responsible for Adam’s sin and was the agent who brought sin into the world and all our woe.

10. 62. It is the essense of Christianity that (as savages beat the gods who fail to answer their prayers) so Christians should vent their wrath and, as the poem of Job has it, with God’s own approval, upon God’s own wounded head.

10. 63. When we show in our churches the likeness of our God scourged with rods and crowned with thorns and suffering the death of a criminal, and in the central rite of our worship commemorate, as some of us say, or as others say actually repeat that doing to death, we prove to the world that we actually hold God responsible for whatever evil there may be in the world; and think we cannot serve him better than by wreaking on him our inevitable wrath.

Collingwood alludes to the Middle Way of Anglicanism, which allows the believer to take the sacramental bread and wine either as the literal body and blood of Christ, or as symbolic of these.

Museu Frederic Marès, November, 2008 (my primitive camera in those days was not good indoors)

Museu Frederic Marès, November, 2008 (my primitive camera in those days was not good indoors)

It is a remarkable fact that Christians venerate scenes of torture. But such veneration may not be universal. In Barcelona there was a museum full of crucifixes, each taking more delight than the last in the suffering wrought on the body of the Christ. But here in Istanbul, in the Chora Museum, which preserves all of the images of a Byzantine church, while there are apocryphal scenes from the life of Mary the mother of Jesus, and there are scenes of the miracles of her son, including the Harrowing of Hell, there is no depiction of the Crucifixion.

Chora Museum, exonarthex, from the south, March 15, 2015

Chora Museum, exonarthex, from the south, March 15, 2015

I spent nine years at school in the shadow of the Washington Cathedral, but the west end was still under construction in those days. Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia in Barcelona may prominently display the Passion to visitors entering from the west; the Washington Cathedral shows only Creation scenes.

Washington Cathedral, west front, Thursday, June 19, 2014

Washington Cathedral, west front, Thursday, June 19, 2014

2 Comments

  1. Elizabeth Barnet
    Posted February 9, 2017 at 8:13 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks, I appreciate your posts. And I am going to purchase New Leviathan to begin to catch up with your thinking. Be well, David.

    • Posted February 10, 2017 at 4:00 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Thanks Liz. Since we are still on holiday before the spring semester, I can spend some time with these articles. Collingwood’s Principles of Art has been in print as a paperback for decades and is the first of his books that I read.

2 Trackbacks

  1. By NL XII: “Happiness” « Polytropy on February 11, 2017 at 7:14 am

    […] NL X: “Passion” […]

  2. By NL XXI: Society as Joint Will « Polytropy on September 9, 2017 at 5:50 am

    […] introduced the notion of responsibility in Chapter X, “Passion,” by saying that, according to Christianity, God who was responsible for the sin of Adam and […]

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