Monday, April 18, 2011


Trying to understand the concept of irascible emotions or affections, I came across this:

And he that follows theſe Advices of Reaſon, and conducts his Iraƒcible Affections by them, has a Mind that is elevated above the Reach of Injury; that ſits above the Clouds in the calm and quiet Æther, and with a brave Indifferency hears the rowling Thunders grumble and burſt under its Feet.

[The Christian Life, John Scott, Rector of St Peter Poor, London; published 1686 (p.68)]

I don’t quite know what he’s saying, but didn’t he say it beautifully?


  1. well, yeah....

    not copied are *these advices of reason*

    Though it does read to me like he's recommending we grow "duck feathers", so that annoyances will just roll off our backs, like water off a mallard's.

  2. I went back and read a page or two (it's in Google Books) before the passage I quoted to see what he was talking about. He was talking about ordering the affections (wouldn't Cindy love that?) -- IOW, not loving or valuing things more than we ought so that we don't "repine" or covet when we don't have them, or have disappointed expectations when we do get them and find out they're not all we thought they would be. He's not just talking about objects, but about other goods, like Honor, or Love.

    He also says that we should practice fortitude and temperance and other virtues, so that when we're going through things that rightly inspire fear or anger, we don't succumb to anxious worry or peevishness.

    Have you read Poetic Knowledge? That's where this rabbit trail comes from. Taylor says that there are two kinds of affections: the Irascible, which are five -- Fear, Anger, Courage, Sadness, and Hope; and the Concupiscible (Pleasure), which are three -- Love, Desire, and Joy.

    Totally alien concepts to me, dividing it up like that and explaining their relation to each other, so I was looking for some outside definition or explanation.

  3. Have not read Poetic Knowledge and didnt sign up for that book club, because I knew I couldnt keep up.

    But I do love the word *irascible* even tho I dont use it often.

    Taylor taught at Hillsdale for a few years way after I was there and didnt stay (I heard) because his wife didnt want to move to Michigan.

    These topics are timely but I find that updating the vocabulary helps. I *understand* ordering the affections without any problem.

    I think I might use the word *prioritize* when explaining myself.

  4. Well, it is beautifully said! The rowling Thunders grumbled and burst here last night.

  5. I was thrown off by irascible and concup-something as well. And the dictionary definitions of both didn't seem to quite fit the context, either.

    Is the difference the emotions arising from irritation/agitation and arising from a drawing/moving-toward?

    Dana -- I hope you still feel free to read posts and join in any conversation you want to. :)

  6. Mystie, I learned "concupiscent" college -- it's in this poem, one of my favorites.

    After comparing his use of irascible with concupiscible I came to the same conclusion that you did. I had to think a bit about why Courage and Hope were included in the irascible affections, but it makes sense. Courage is never required when you're "at rest" but in times of danger or other upsetting situation. And Hope... you really can't live comfortably in a state of hope; it needs to be fulfilled, to reach its end (telos). "Hope deferred makes the heart sick."

  7. Nice.

    I'm still struggling with that division, but the conversation in the comments here helps.

    Did anyone notice that Taylor is teaching CiRCE classes online this summer? I emailed Andrew Kern to get information on the time commitment, but he never emailed me back. :(

  8. I signed up my two oldest girls for the short story class. I had some trouble with the registration page and commented under this post. David Kern answered right away, so maybe you could try that.


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