Concepts of passions and their treatment in Late Antiquity


University of Calgary, Alberta Children's Hospital, 1820 Richmond Rd S.W., Calgary AB, T2T5C7, Canada
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Late antiquity refers to the last Greek-Roman and early Byzantine centuries. This is a period of transition from the pagan to the Christian age. Stoic philosophers focused extensively on passions. From Chrysippus (3rd c. BC) to Galen the physician (2nd c. AD), passions were considered as character flaws which had to be dealt with in man's quest for self-improvement and in order to reach the psychosocial ideal of been "good and noble". Galen's views in particular, as recorded in his treatise On the Passions of the Soul and their Treatment, provide a comprehensive account of emotional and personality characteristics (e.g. anger, wrath, fear, grieving, envy, violent lust) which impede man's effort from reaching the highly valued ideal of "good and noble". Treatment required a systematic approach reminiscent of modern times' cognitive therapy.

Fathers of the Church such as St. John Chrysostom, St. Basil of Cesearea and others considered passions as obstacles in reaching purity of soul as mandated by the new faith. Passions were personality faults which devil exploited and inflamed in order to stray people out of the path shown by God. Love of one-self was a fundamental weakness from which others derived. Other passions were gluttony, love of money, vanity and lust for which responsible was the "demon of fornication". The faithful were urged to battle passions and adhere to the laws of God. Infringement carried penalties in the thereafter world.


Panel 2A   (The Historiography of the Neurosciences in the Twentieth Century)
Tuesday, 14 September 1999

The Neurosciences and Psychiatry: Crossing the Boundaries

Joint Congress of the European Association for the History of Psychiatry (EAHP), the European Club for the History of Neurology (ECHN), and the International Society for the History of the Neurosciences (ISHN)

Zurich and Lausanne, Switzerland, 13-18 September 1999