Aristotle on Emotions and Persuasion: A Lecture by Professor Alessandra Fussi


On Monday, February 12, The Department of History and Humanities, the Department of Political Science and International Affairs, and the Rome Political Theory Colloquium organized a lecture by Professor Alessandra Fussi. Professor Fussi  teaches Philology, Literature, and Linguistics at the University of Pisa and she specializes in Moral Philosophy. titled “Aristotle on Rhetoric and Emotions,” the lecture focused on the relevance of Aristotle’s theories of emotions and the capacity of rhetoric in eliciting them. Professor Fussi described rhetoric as the art of persuading people to do something they are initially opposed to. According to Aristotle, three elements are key this process: argumentation, character of the speaker, and inclination of the listener.

Prof. Alessandra Fussi - Aristotle on Rhetoric and Emotions

Prof. Alessandra Fussi – Aristotle on Rhetoric and Emotions

Professor Fussi explained how emotions have the ability to change minds because they contain judgment and belief. Similarly, people change their beliefs when impacted by emotions. For example, anger entails revenge and pity evokes a sentiment of justice. Emotions are conditioned by reason, but only to an extent. Professor Fussi argued that hatred is “almost not an emotion” because emotions have a limited duration, while hatred can “become a habit.” She added that hatred is not a pleasurable feeling nor is it painful: it is a “cold” sentiment. Anger, on the other hand, is a mix between pain and pleasure. Although anger is an unpleasant emotion, getting angry in certain circumstances is virtuous because people who don’t get angry at injustice are immoral individuals.

During the Q&A session, one of the participants asked how Aristotle would react to a “monk’s life,” a lifestyle pursued in solitude and far away from everyday reality. Professor Fussi answered that everybody should evaluate what kind of life they want to live and what kind of emotions they want to feel. The fact that the monk is not in touch with a part of reality does not mean he is completely out of it. That part of reality which the monk neglects might be “inessential” to him. Everybody has the right to choose the reality they live in.