Retrieving Political Emotion: Thumos, Aristotle, and Gender

Pennsylvania State University Press (2000)


_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_, 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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