The Passions of the Stoics

I will show you fear in a handful of dust.

— From “The Waste Land”, by T. S. Eliot

The Stoics divided the passions into four parts, consisting of a two by two matrix of “good” or “bad” emotions versus whether they occur during the present or while thinking about the future.

  • Delight (or Pleasure): present and good
  • Distress: present and bad
  • Desire (or Appetite) : future and good
  • Dread (or Fear): future and bad

To Stoics all these passions were actually harmful, in the sense that they are irrational and instead should be thoughtfully managed. Instead one should have Three Good Feelings and but not Three Not-as-Good Feelings:

  • Joy (chara) instead of Pleasure
  • Wish (or Hope) (boulesis) instead of Appetite
  • Care (eulabeia) instead of Fear

What about Distress and its Stoic version (which might even be Calm or Ease)? And what of emotions for past memories? They might be  Relief (past and “bad”) and  Regret (past and “good”).

Further Reading:

Stoic Ethics




4 thoughts on “The Passions of the Stoics”

  1. I would argue that Caution is milder form of Fear – not a ‘versus.’ Caution represents trepidation near as I can tell and I posit the opposite of Fear is Faith.

    1. I think I shouldn’t have used “vs.” in those comparisons, and instead used “instead of”. Note “joy” and “pleasure” aren’t really opposites either. But there is also a fair amount of faith and trust in classical Stoicism, as you may be saying. “Care” might be a better term then caution or discretion (or faith).

      1. And I shouldn’t have said “Distress and its opposite” below the “vs.” lines. I’ve made some changes to the text, please tell me what you think.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.