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           When we think of the way we discuss passion, we tend to associate it with strong feelings and opinions about a given topic or occasionally a person. Most of the time, these associations are made to express an insurmountable respect or deep admiration towards whatever it is that one might have a passion for, similar to when an individual expresses their love for history or various types of music. However, what is interesting to note is that while we use this in a positive connotation, it is also possible for the term to express severely negative feelings about a subject or person. It is through the intertwining of the positive and negative aspects of passion that Denis Diderot opens his article in the Encyclopédie with: “This inclination or so-called disposition of the soul, is born of the opinion we hold that a great good or a great evil is contained in an object in which in and of itself arouses passion.”

           Essentially, passion is a feeling that arises within individuals when a certain thing, either animate or inanimate, evokes strong positive or negative sensations within their minds and, according to Diderot, their souls. But what is so fascinating about this idea is that it doesn't label the concept of passion as simply an emotional feeling, but instead, it is considering it as almost a supernatural experience that occurs within each and every person. The likes/dislikes of a person can occasionally be so strong that it gives him or her a powerful, emotional sensation as a response. Diderot explains that “all our sensations, our imagination, even our intellectual ideas, are accompanied by pleasure or pain, by pleasant or painful feelings, and these feelings are independent of our will.” The passions that every person experiences, no matter what they may be, are attributed to either good or bad feelings. These are feelings that occur whether a person wants them to or not, almost taking on the characteristics of a separate entity within themselves. It is this way that the passions we feel can be seen as zealous, supernatural occurrences, because they act freely, against our command, and they grant us the opportunity to get in better touch with our souls. In other words, they can help us understand what makes us human as well as our importance as individuals.

           There were several literary figures during the eighteenth century that wrote on the topic of supernatural love/hate felt through certain kinds of passion. Although passion is not directly addressed, these authors discussed a sensation of love or hate that was almost indescribable; a definition that could easily be correlated to the concept of passion itself. One of those aforementioned authors includes Mary, Lady Chudleigh, who, in her poem To Almystrea, addresses individuals who seem to find happiness in money and greed:

“Let those whom wealth, or interest unite,

Whom avarice, or kindred sway

Who in the dregs of life delight,

And every dictate of their sense obey,

Learn here to love at a sublime rate,

To wish for nothing but exchange of thoughts,

For intellectual joys,

And pleasures more refined,

Than earth can give, or fancy can create” (2186).

           This passage is significant for two key reasons; the first reason is that Chudleigh is stating that those who only seek wealth in life do not know how to “love at a sublime rate.” While she does not explicitly call this “sublime love” passion, the idea of having an almost supreme love for something implies that she is talking about a sensation that can easily be attributed to having a sort of passion. The second reason that this passage is significant is because the subtext is establishing a very noteworthy component of passion, in that the concept of passion itself can and will differ from person to person. In other words, while one person might not be able to find much passion in a subject, another person might have very passionate feelings towards it.

           This poses a very interesting question: how exactly does one decide what’s passionate and what isn't? If the question was proposed to Chudleigh, based on the passage above, she might suggest that one shouldn't take much of a passion in money but should instead take to finding passion in intellectual studies. While this is a very profound claim, one must keep in mind the possibility that there could be people who will argue that it’s completely rational to have passionate feelings towards money, or people who argue that it would be more beneficial for one to have equally passionate feelings for both. She isn’t providing a solid answer about whether or not it is wrong for a person to find passion in something that she doesn't, but that isn't her goal in this passage. Instead, she is using this metaphor to express her beliefs on greed and what she instead perceives to be passionate.

           Perception is a crucial part to understanding the way we find passion in something. After all, a large part of what makes an individual an individual is through the way he or she perceives and comprehends the world. If we didn't have a decent perception of the world, it would be impossible for us to find passion in something. Philosopher John Locke discussed a similar idea in his piece, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding:

“The other fountain which experience furnisheth the understanding with ideas is the perception of the operations of our own minds within us, as it is employed about the ideas it has got…The term operations here I use in a large sense, as comprehending not barely the actions of the mind about its ideas, but some sort of passions arising sometimes from them, such as is the satisfaction or uneasiness arising from any thought” (2618-19).

           Here, Locke is discussing not just passion in general, but a few major components of passion as well, which include perception and ideas. He is stating that the reason human beings go out to understand the world they live in is to have many different experiences, both good and bad, so that they can develop their perceptions and their ideas which can later form into passions. Notice, however, that he is not stating that those who set out to strengthen their understanding of the world will develop the exact same passions as others who have done the same thing. What this implies is that one persons’ various understandings and perceptions of the world will dictate what he or she will find passion in. This is an idea that Diderot also briefly touches upon in his article:

“Variety occupies us with the multitude of objects it presents to us; uniformity facilitates our perception of them, by placing them within reach of our understanding assembled under a single point of view. It can therefore be said that the pleasures of the mind, like those of the senses have a single origin, the moderate exercise of our faculties”.

           All of this being said though, the question still remains; how does one adequately decide what is passionate and what isn’t? Going over the aforementioned ideas by Locke, Diderot, and Chudleigh, it seems that while scholars seem to have a general definition for the term, whether or not an individual finds passion in a certain object or person depends solely on the individual alone. What makes passion such an interesting theme is the fact that it relies so heavily on the individual discussing it, which creates a sense of ambiguity when attempting to define what is passionate and what isn't because while one person might find passion in a subject, another might not, a perception that parallels with the differing beliefs of eighteenth century writers. However, regardless of what some people decide is passionate or not and regardless if it is one of pleasure or pain, by finding passion within their imaginations they are gaining a better understanding of both the world and themselves. It is something that we do that makes each one of us unique, and that is one of the many reasons why passion is both fascinating and important to discuss.