FoL 29.12. Germaine de Staël

Germaine de Staël considered passions to be an impulsive force driving human beings independently of their volitions, thereby often posing an obstacle to the achievement of human happiness. While some virtuous individuals may be able to subordinate their passions to reason, such mastery is not possible in political society, where many individual members will inevitably be overcome by their strong emotions. Some of the most problematic “political” passions include vainglory, ambition and partisanship. Sentimental love can also distort individual judgment and divert the individual from performing his or her social duty. To temper the passions and subordinate them to reason, Germaine de Staël advises the practice of religion and charity. Philosophy is also central in this regard, since it draws the lover of wisdom into the activity of rational, logical reflection. While passion may prove problematic in the moral and political spheres, it has a certain value in the artistic sphere. The stormy expressions of emotion in the new “romantic” literature produced in Germany are witness to this value.

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