Stefano Maso

Stefano Maso

Title : Emotions in context: “risk” as condition for emotion



I will focus on the concept of risk in Plato, as the condition for the occurrence (or the outbreak) of emotion. In particular I will examine two distinct passions: courage (ἀνδρεία) and love (φιλεῖν/ ἐραστεύειν). In both it seems that we should assume that there is an external condition of risk (κίνδυνος) which interacts with an inner emotional state. Perhaps this one is the pure expression of desire. But certainly from here comes the decision of acting in a certain way: a decision not completely (or not at all) controlled by reason. The context of “risk” is decisive, but in the ancient philosophical tradition it was not evidently perceived. In particular, a clear distinction between risk and danger does not seem to be established.

Plato seems to take the first steps in this direction, towards a careful awareness of the concept of κινδυνεύειν. In the Laches we find a specific analysis of temerity: it is compared to courage. In the Simposium we can find the ways by which, in the erotic game, the risk to achieve success emerges in the foreground. But what is also important, along with the external condition of risk, is the decision to dare (τολμᾶν), i.e. to follow an emotional impulse interiorly perceived. What are the characteristics of this internal condition? How these internal conditions are related to the external environment, namely the civil environment, the historical moment, but also the direct relationship between two different people? How the situation of risk will be a kind of precondition for the emotional experience? These are the three major issues that I would like to address in relation to the philosophy of Plato. I will try to see how, according to Plato, it is possible to avoid remaining in the condition of risk, and to understand how this one is connected with the emergence of ‘logos’. From ’emotions’ (from the condition of emotion, i.e. from the ‘risk’) to ‘logos’: to the reason which, through the instruments of τέχνη, tries to “define” the risk and to circumvent the dangers. Although there is a good bibliography on the problem of emotions and their characteristics in ancient world (see the researches of Graver, Reydams Schils, Nussbaum, Engberg‐Pedersen, Cairns, Brennan, Candiotto), a study which examines in detail the role of the ‘risk condition’ compared to the emotion is not there yet. My works on the risk as a philosophical category [namely: Fondements philosophiques du risque, Paris, L’Harmattan 2006; “Risque”, in Dictionnaire de la mort (éd. Di Folco), Paris, Larousse 2010, 896‐98; The risk in the educational strategy of Seneca, in “Journal of Ancient Philosophy”, 5 (2011), 1‐20; Rischio e techne nella filosofia antica, in P. Barrotta, Il rischio. Aspetti tecnici sociali etici, Roma, Armando, 2012, 183‐ 204; Val la pena rischiare? Qualche osservazione sulla categoria filosofica di ‘rischio’ in Platone, “La ricerca folklorica”, 66 (2012), 85‐96] today has not been completed yet. I would now like to investigate, thanks to the opportunity of this colloquium, its role in the generation, development and resolution of the emotional experience.

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