Philosophy

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From Passions to Emotions and Sentiments

Amélie Oksenberg Rortya1

a1 Institute for Advanced Study and Rutgers University

During the period from Descartes to Rousseau, the mind changed. Its domain was redefined; its activities were redescribed; and its various powers were redistributed. Once a part of cosmic Nous, its various functions delimited by its embodied condition, the individual mind now becomes a field of forces with desires impinging on one another, their forces resolved according to their strengths and directions. Of course since there is no such thing as The Mind Itself, it was not the mind that changed. Conceptions of the mind changed. Yet even to say this is misleading, because it suggests that somewhere out there in nowhere there is Nous, Psyche, Soul or Mind, the true but opaque object of all these conceptions. But of course there is no Mind in the realm of things in themselves, waiting for us to see it truly, like a China of the noumenal world, amused that our various conceptions reveal as much about ourselves as about it.