The Passions according to the Classical Stoa

Latest Update: August 2000

Unless otherwise indicated, the English definitions are those of the translation of Cicero's Tusculan Disputations by J. E. King. The Latin terms are those found in Cicero.

  1. Passion defined
  2. Feelings that are not passions
  3. The principal classes
  4. Varieties of lust
  5. Varities of fear
  6. Varieties of delight
  7. Varieties of distress

Feelings Other Than Passions.

Not all the psychological conditions we now call emotions or feelings will be found in the classes of passion below. You will not find the good feelings of the sage there: wish, caution, and joy. You will not find the preliminary impressions or pre-emotions (propatheia) to which even the wise person is subject. You will not find eros (sometimes translated as "sexual love," but in the wise person it does not include a desire for intercourse). Nor will you find physical pleasure or physical pain. These two phenomena are not passions according to the Stoa; they are indifferent values; the former is in accord with nature and the latter is contrary to nature.

The Passions

The passions or disorders are agitations of the soul contrary to reason and to nature. (Cicero, Tusculan Disputations iv 11; Diogenes Laërtius, Lives of the Philosophers vii 10).

Greek: pathê; Latin: perturbationes.

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The four principal genera of passions are (I) lust, (II) fear, (III) delight, (IV) distress

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I. Lust (desire) -- disorder related to an apparent future good; def. a belief of prospective good and the subject of this thinks it advantageous to possess it at once upon the spot.

Greek: epithumia; Latin: libido.

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Varieties of Lust

Anger lust of punishing the person thought to have inflicted an undeserved injury orgêira
Rage (a type of anger)anger springing up and suddenly showing itself [21] thumosisexcandescentia
Hate (a type of anger) inveterate anger [21]mênisodium
Enmity (a type of anger)anger watching [for] an opportunity for revenge [21] misosinimicitia
Wrath (a type of anger) anger of greater bitterness conceived in innermost heart and soul [21]-discordia
Greed insatiable lust [21] for money, distinctions, etc. [22]spanisindigentia
Longing lust for beholding someone who is not present [21]himerosdesiderium


II. Fear -- a disorder arising from expectation of evil [11]; def. a belief of threatening evil which seems to the subject of it insupportable [14].

Greek: phobos; Latin: metus.

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Varieties of Fear

Sluggishness Sluggishness -- fear of ensuing toil [19]oknospigritia
ShameShame -- fear of disgrace [p. 347n2]aischunêpudor
FrightFright -- paralyzing fear which causes paleness, trembling and chattering of teeth [19]ekplêxisterror
Timidityfear of approaching evil [19]deimatimor
Consternationfear upsetting the mental balance-pavor
Pusillanimity fear following upon the heels of fright [19] agoniaexanimatio
Bewilderment lust for beholding someone who is not present [21]thorubosconturbatio
Faintheartednesslasting fear [19] -formido


III. Delight (pleasure as a pathos) -- disorder arising from presence of [an apparent] good; exuberant transport at having secured some coveted object [12]; def. newly formed belief of present good, and the subject things it right to feel enraptured [14].

Greek: hêdonê; Latin: laetitia.

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Varieties of Delight

Malice delight derived from another's evil, which brings no advantage to oneself [20] epikairekakiamalevolentia
Rapture delight soothing the soul by charm of the sense of hearing (There are similar delights related to the other four sense-faculties) [20]kêlêsisdelectatio
Ostentationdelight shown in outward demeanor and puffing oneself out extravagantly [20-21]-iactatio


IV. Distress (pain as a pathos) -- disorder originating in distress at present evil [11-12]; def. a newly formed belief of present evil, the subject of which thinks it right to feel depression and shrinking of soul.

Greek: lupê. Latin: aegritudo.

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Varieties of Distress

Envy distress incurred by reason of another's prosperity, though it does no harm to the envious person [16-17] phthonosinvidentia
Rivalry distress lest another be in possession of an object and one have to go without it oneself [16, 17-18] zêlosaemulatio
Jealousydistress from the fact that the thing one has coveted is in the possession of the other person as well as one's own [16, 18]zêlotupiaobrectatio
Compassion (pity)distress from the wretchedness of another in undeserved suffering [16, 18]eleosmisericordia
Anxietyoppressive distress [18] achtheosangor
Mourningdistress arising from an untimely death of a beloved object -luctus
Sadness tearful distress [18] -maeror
Troubleburdensome distress [18] odunêaerumna
Grieftorturing distress -dolor (note)
Lamentingdistress accompanied by wailing -lamentatio
Depressiondistress accompanied by brooding -sollicitudo
Vexationlasting distress aniamolestia
Piningdistress accompanied by bodily suffering [18] enochlesisadflictatio
Despondencydistress without any prospect of amelioration [18-19] -desperatio

Note. Dolor as a form of distress should not be confused with dolor in another sense. Dolor can also mean (physical) pain. It is not a form of distress because it is not a passion (pathos), and all forms of distress are passions.