Consciousness and Affectivity in Descartes
The Cartesian cogito-sum is an evidence founded upon the concomitant consciousness of one’s own existence, perceived in every act of thought. This evidence, diverse from that of the objects of thought, which is based on clarity and distinctness, is the source of the evidence of the passions of the soul, especially the emotions. Overlooking the distinction between these two sorts of evidence, Descartes considers the emotions to be obscure and confused thoughts. To explain the origin of the passions he uses two theories: physiological and cognitive. The impossibility of achieving a synthesis of the two approaches is owing to his conception of a contingent connection between the various elements of emotion. Only a theory which conceives emotion as a unitary phenomenon, capable of being educated from within one’s own affectivity and not merely controlled from without, is able to offer an adequate explanation of the personal character of the human being.