Dados vol. 59 n. 1 Rio de Janeiro jan./mar. 2016

The Government of Moral Sentiments in the Eighteenth Century

Andrade, Daniel Pereira


ABSTRACT This article presents a history of the notion of moral sentiments in British governmentality in the eighteenth century and its strategy of “emotional” power, which is distinct from other general conceptions of “emotional” life, such as the life of passions current in the seventeenth century. Building upon the social constructionism of emotions, the article strives to understand how the discourses and technique of power shape feelings. With this in mind, their sources (moral sense, sympathy and society), how they relate to other faculties of the mind (moral judgment, reason, imagination and memory), with the body (sensory pain and pleasure) and how they determine conducts. After presenting these developments, the article argues that the discourse of moral sentiments constituted an emotional power defined by certain objects (moral judgment), techniques (sympathy, the feminine art of pleasing and the mythologization of national community), finalities (development of the personality linked to group integration) and emotional rules (the recommendation of benevolent love and the moderation of self-love) and of expressions (manifestations of solidarity).

Keywords: moral sentiments, passions, governmentality, emotional power, emotional life

DOI: 10.1590/00115258201676

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The Government of Moral Sentiments in the Eighteenth Century