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Durham University

Department of Classics and Ancient History

Current Research Students

Ms. Fani Goutsiou

Contact Ms. Fani Goutsiou

Doctoral Research Project: The Causal Relation between Tragedy and Passions in the Context of Stoic Moral Psychology

My PhD thesis aims at the examination of the tragic passions in the context of the Stoic philosophy, and more specifically Chrysippan moral psychology. Tragic passions are complex reactions, double movements characterised by the simultaneous experience of pleasant and negative emotions, which are evoked by tragedy. Is a person rational when watching a tragic performance and consumed with passions? Do the tragic passions need to be weakened in the eyes of a Stoic, and if so, wouldn’t such an action minimise the effect of the tragic art, the telos of which is to provoke fear and pity, according to Aristotle?

In my research I intend to examine the causal relations between tragedy and the passions, and analyze the Stoic argumentation on the structure of passions in the soul and the actions caused by them. Two views, in particular, will be examined in parallel, the Chrysippan and the Posidonian, whose defenders disagree on the origin of passions. Chrysippus held that pathe are identical or derive from false judgments, whereas Posidonius argued that the passions were irrational and unnatural. According to Chrysippus, poetry can prove to be beneficial to the soul, since its narrative form and context can reform the judgement, and thus the passions. Contrariwise, the Posidonian view does not leave room for ‘rationalization’ of the passions, since these are not suitable to be subjected to rational means. Pathe are tamed by the musical element in poetry instead. In addition, emphasis will be given to the case of Euripides’ Medea, which shows particular interest, since the hero’s extreme passions led her to horrible actions despite her rational recognition of her actions being evil.