Retrieving Political Emotion: Thumos, Aristotle, and Gender

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Pennsylvania State University Press, 2000 - Philosophy - 203 pages
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Retrieving Political Emotion engages the reader in an excursion through our ancient Greek heritage to recover a concept of emotion useful for enriching political philosophy today. Focusing on thumos (typically translated as "spiritedness," "heart," or "anger"), Barbara Koziak reveals misinterpretations of the concept that have hampered recognition of its possibilities for normative theory. Then, drawing especially on Aristotle's construal of it as a general capacity for emotion and relating this to contemporary multidisciplinary work on emotion, she reformulates thumos to provide a more adequate theory of political emotion, as an antidote to the modern fixation on rational self-interest as the key to explaining political behavior.

The book proceeds by recounting the way thumos is used in Homer's Iliad and Plato's Republic and then showing how, while borrowing from both, Aristotle went substantially beyond them. From the Nicomachean Ethics and Politics we can see the activity of thumos--how a person with good thumos acts and through which institutions. Through the Poetics we observe the characteristic disposition of thumos--what patterns and objects typify a person's emotional capacity in the best regime.

Her reconstructed Aristotelian theory of political emotion allows Koziak in the concluding chapter to show how it can help us better understand political behavior today, as manifested in recent congressional debates on welfare reform, and through constructive engagement with feminist thinking on the "ethics of care" lead political theory to pay more attention to the importance of passions in political life.

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About the author (2000)

Barbara Koziak is Assistant Professor of Government at The American University and a contributor to Feminist Interpretations of Aristotle edited by Cynthia Freeland (Penn State, 1998).

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