AFFECTION (Latin affectus) — a term used (in a special philosophical sense) to describe certain manifestations of man's emotional life or to designate acts of the will.
In the first and more narrow sense, an affection is an intense and short lasting feeling that arises violently under the influence of the perception (or imagination) of an object that evokes complacence or repulsion. This is accompanied by changes in the functioning of the nervous system at the vegetative level and by clear motor and physiological symptoms. According to this conception, there is only a difference of degree between an affection and other feelings. An affection is a strong and intensified feeling (Kant, Pastuszka).
In a broader sense, any feeling is an affection. The term "affection" is often used as a synonym for the Greek παθ&omicronς (páthe], or the Latin passio. Certain Christian thinkers followed Cicero and called them "perturbationes", others called them "affectiones" or "affectus", and others were like the Greek and used the term "passiones" (De civ. D., IX; PL 41, 258).
We find a developed analysis of affections in the doctrine of the Stoics. Zeno and Chrysippus chiefly studied the essence of affection, while Seneca, Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius analyzed the sources of affections and showed ways to guard against them. In Stoic doctrine, an affection is a strong and violent movement of the soul. It destroys internal harmony and as such it is an unnatural state in disharmony with reason. According to the Stoics, affections arise as an immediate effect of accepting an erroneous judgment based on false imaginings. The wise man keeps false imaginings at a distance and is freed of violent movements. The Stoics distinguished four major affections: sadness, fear, joy and desire. Their criterium was whether the mental images are pleasant or unpleasant, concerned with the present moment or in the future. The concept of affection has broad extension. The Stoics did not make a sharp distinction between affections and feelings in general and so they transferred the characteristic features of affections to feelings in general and called all feelings "illnesses" of the soul.
When St. Thomas describes the particular acts of human emotional life, he often uses the term "passiones". He defines passio as an act of the sensory appetitive faculty. This act is associated with the subject's physiological and motor reactions and arises as a result of the sensory cognition of an apt object. He avoids the one-sided and negative evalution found in the Stoics because he does not limit the concept of passiones to violent, destructive and very intense feelings (affectus in the narrow sense). Aquinas also includes under affections feelings that are ordered by the reason and thereby serve the realization of a good proper to a rational and free being. He observes that although somatic changes are an integral part of every feeling, these changes may be almost imperceptible in weak feelings, while in the case of intense feelings (affectus) they can be seen by any observer. They may cause illness and even death. According to Aquinas, the intensity of a feeling depends, on the one hand, upon the force of the stimulus that evokes it, and on the other hand, it depends upon the sensitivity of the subject. Affections that precede the reason's judgment have a destructive influence upon the operation of the reason and will, and they weaken or even destroy the moral value of an act.
Descartes examines affections (in the general sense as passiones) mainly from a physiological point of view. He studies the construction of the human body and the physical motions that occur in its organs. He defines an affection as a movement of the soul caused, supported and strengthened by the movements of living breaths. He mentions six primary affections (or feelings): wonder, love, hatred, desire, joy and sadness.
According to Spinoza, the source of afffections (understood in general terms) is the drive for self-preservation. There are three fundamental affections: desire, pleasure and pain. All the other affections can be drawn from these. Affections may have a passive character (e.g., sadness), or an active character (e.g., pleasure). Moral progress consists in liberating oneself from passive affections (by which man is possessed), and transforming these into active affections (which are not ordinary reflections of bodily modifications, but which influence the reason).
The term "affection" has been used for acts of the will (the appetition of the reason) in distinction to acts of sense appetition which are still described by the term "feeling" (J. Woroniecki).
Woroniecki KEW I (passim) [Catholic Educational Ethics]; J. Pastuszka, Psychologia ogólna [General psychology], II, Lb 1948, 19572; A. Usowicz, Dynamika uczuć w psychologii tomistycznej [Dynamics of feelings in Thomistic psychology], ACr 1 (1969), 21-31; K. Wojtyła, Osoba i Czyen [Person and Act], Kr 1969, 19852; A. Tallon, Head and Heart: Affection, Cognition, Volition as Triune Consciousness, NY 1997.