EMOTIONS reconciled with reason will help people judge whether something is good or evil, a professor from the Catholic University of America said in a talk last June 19 at the Thomas Aquinas Research Complex (TARC).

The lecture, titled “St. Thomas Aquinas on Emotions,” focused on Aquinas’ distinct principles on how to understand and define emotion in a deeper sense.

Fr. Nicholas Lombardo, O.P. said human emotion serves as a response to perception and triggers people to do good.

“Emotion is placed in God’s plan to help us achieve the ends that God prepared for us. Emotion is created by God, therefore, good,” Lombardo quoted St. Thomas as saying.

Lombardo, who teaches Historical and Systematic Theology, referred to Aquinas’ book, Treatise on the Passion, the longest written account on emotions consisting of lifetime reflections by different thinkers. The book was based on Summa Theologica, Aquinas’ greatest work, intended as a manual for beginners in theology and a compendium of all theological teachings of the Church.

According to Aquinas, Aristotle’s political philosophy showed how emotion orders reason. The democratic government was used as a metaphor wherein the head of state symbolizes the emotion while the citizens symbolize the reason, Lombardo said.

A leader may want to implement a plan but regardless of his powers, he will avoid what people dislike out of respect for them, he said.

“Emotion is designed to guide reasons, yet reason guides passion which [emotion] has to respect,” Lombardo said.

Fr. Rodel Aligan, O.P., dean of the Faculty of Sacred Theology, said the purpose of Lombardo’s talk was to have a powerful study of Aquinas.

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Kinds of emotion

Two categories of emotion and desire were discussed in the lecture. One is bodily emotion which is identified by physical features, common to both humans and animals. The other is intellectual, which is purely immaterial, spiritual, and based on soul.

Lombardo said the two kinds of emotions may have different definitions, but are closely related with one another and blend together.

Lombardo enumerated 11 kinds of passion under two categories: “concupiscible” passion or an emotion which centers on material things, and “irascible” passion which helps people achieve simple passions. The former includes love, hate, desire, aversion, pleasure, and sadness, while the latter is composed of anger, fear, hope, and despair.

“Aquinas’ principles on emotion was regarded by many as the greatest influence in the contemporary period and sets the agenda for deeper discussions of passions,” Lombardo said.

“We must remember that there is no dominant theory on emotion than it was in the 13th century. The [different principles about emotion] are welcoming rather than rejecting. Human philosophy and psychology is trying to reconcile all,” Lombardo said.

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