Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Ruling passion: The use of myth and narrative in place of reason in politics; Spinoza's proposed solution to Hobbes' science of the passions
by Voronoff, Timothy J., Ph.D., New School University, 2009, 312; 3371775
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation discusses the role that the passions play in political thinking. I use Hobbes' philosophy to illustrate a science of the passions that entails supplanting one passion for another, mostly in the cases of passions of fear and hope. Spinoza's philosophy is brought forth as a counter solution to Hobbes' science of the passions, namely in terms of the ways that myth and narrative can be used constructively towards political stability through the promotion of semi-rational mechanisms that govern the passions through selfishness and not traditional virtue.

Myths and narratives can sometimes provide a stabilizing affect on the way that the imagination is used, changing and disrupting the vacillation of passions that inform one's ideas and desires. Political organization therefore can be improved by cultivating narratives and myths that lead the multitude towards behaving semi-rationally. Spinoza's philosophy is used to demonstrate how ideology relates to myth and narrative in evoking a vacillation of the passions in the multitude and is shown to offer a practical solution to the problem of nonrational behavior. By focusing on the passions, Spinoza is able to identify the causes for non-rational behavior and provides a solution that guarantees political stability through an expectation of selfish behavior.

This explication and interpretation of Spinoza's political philosophy is offered as a response to Hobbes; focusing on the ways in which the passions play a role in thinking. While in the 17th century the Church was largely responsible for educating individuals about the passions, and like Hobbes, substituted passions of fears with hopes instead of permanently remedying them. Today a pervasive network of media sources mass-communicate by way of activating passions at the expense of reason that could otherwise cultivate political stability not only through myth and narrative but through ideological mechanisms which make the behavior of the multitude semi-rational and more democratic.

Spinoza's insight into the role that the passions play in the formation of ideas about human sociability offers a new understanding into the usefulness of ideology and other social mechanisms and institutions in reshaping the non-rational passions of individuals within the multitude into more stabilizing patterns of behavior.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Yovel, Yirmiyahu
Commitee: Bargu, Banu, Kalyvas, Andreas, Kogan, Nathan
School: New School University
Department: Political Science
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 70/08, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Philosophy, Political science
Keywords: Democracy, Hobbes, Thomas, Myth, Passions, Politics, Rationality, Spinoza, Benedictus de
Publication Number: 3371775
ISBN: 978-1-109-33395-4
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