Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Arnhart, Larry, 1949-

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

Department of Political Science


Aristotle. Rhetoric. English--Criticism and interpretation; Political science--Philosophy; Emotions--Political aspects


In this dissertation, I argue that emotions play a significant role in Aristotle's political philosophy. Although emotions can motivate excessive and inappropriate action, Aristotle understands all political decision making and action, even virtuous and just action, to require a congruent or symphonious interaction between emotions and reason. As such, emotions are neither categorically negative nor positive, but a necessary partner, together with reason, in political judgment and action. Taking in account this janus-like role of emotions, I examine the politically salient emotions Aristotle introduces in Book II of the Art of Rhetoric. Aristotle's discussion reveals a systematic analysis of emotions, as kinds of judgments concerning both the subject and those in his natural political environment. Significantly, each political emotion performs a function in various aspects of political speech and action, including political stability, justice, ethical action, and political partnership. I also relate Aristotle's theory to the modern understanding of emotions by comparing his theory to four modern approaches: feeling theory, evolutionary-psychological theory, cognitive theories, and construct theories. Aristotle's theory is found to incorporate aspects from each of these theories. An understanding of emotion based on Aristotle's theory emphasizes emotions as innate, physiological and psychological processes that assess environmental and cultural circumstances and are somewhat plastic in response to individual circumstances. Adopting Aristotle's sociopolitical context, I introduce a model based on Aristotle's understanding of emotions. This model suggests a comprehensive list of interactive salient political emotions, from those emotions most concerned with the subject to those that motivate action for the benefit of others. Ultimately, the significance of this dissertation is my argument that emotions are relevant to Aristotle's political philosophy, which is a philosophy that challenges the assumption that emotions are necessarily hostile to reason and, in contrast, proposes that political excellence is a symphonious partnership of reason and emotion.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [337]-351)


viii, 351 pages




Northern Illinois University

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