Passion over Reason



Prior philosophers and researchers emphasized the dynamics of reason and passion for understanding action.  Pascal, in 1670, exposed the contradiction between passion and reason  (Genet, 1983) (Pascal, 2007) (Cottingham, 1998). Differently, Descartes, in 1649, postulated on the supremacy of reason over passion (Descartes, 1989) (Cottingham, 1998).

Hume, in 1739, advocates a theory in which reason is governed by passion. (Hume, 2004) (Beauchamp, 2009) 

In his model, Hume asserts that reason does not by itself constitute grounds for an action of volition, and that reason only intervenes to explain passion's impulses to action's proceedings and thus connecting between the two elements.

Hume (2004, p.375) also states that reason can't oppose passion for directing the will for action:

''Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them''

Hume goes further arguing that passion can influence or even disregard reason on purpose to serve goals behind actions, under the prevalence of action. 

By passion, Hume categorizes the following feelings:

• direct passions (desire, aversion, joy, hope and fear) 

• indirect passions (pride, humility, love, hatred, vanity, envy, pity, malice, esteem, benevolence, respect and compassion) 

So… Are you fooled by your emotions? 


Beauchamp, T. (2009). David Hume: A Dissertation on the Passions; The Natural History of Religion Critical. (OUP Oxford).

Cottingham, J. G. (1998). Philosophy and the Good Life: Reason and the Passions in Greek, Cartesian, and Psychoanalytic Ethics (Cambridge University Press).

Descartes, R. (1989). The Passions of the Soul: Les Passions De Lame New Ed. (Hackett Publishing Co, Inc).

Genet, C. (1983). Profil d’une oeuvre : Pensées, Pascal, 1670 (Hatier).

Hume, D. (2004). A Treatise of Human Nature New edition. (Dover Publications Inc.).

Pascal, B. (2007). Blaise Pascal: Thoughts, Letters, and Minor Works (Cosimo Classics).


  1. Kristen Sukalac on

    Modern neuroscience shows that emotion trumps reason. This is why people don’t change their political beliefs on the basis of fact-based articles: when presented with an uncomfortable conflict between beliefs that have served us well and pesky facts, the easiest way to resolve the conflict is to dismiss the fact. This is assisted by the fact that our brains don’t actually distinguish between fact and fiction, which is why stories that aren’t “real” can still be “true”.

  2. Great sum up… It doesn’t seem totally disconnected. Only question : Does it concern as women in men ? We hear so much about it…

  3. Raphaëlle LAUBIE on

    Well, I guess there’s a link to male-female brain differences…Simon Baron-Cohen from Cambridge University wrote a book on it ( highlighling that women are more connected to their feelings due to a larger limbic brain…..I would also recommend Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain, from Damasio (…), where injured Phineas Gage ( was subject to surprising mental changes…

  4. Doug Battleson on

    This article has very interesting practical implications, beyond the research considerations. A case in point, in one of my current projects there have been many examples of passion over reason governing personal and organizational behavior. This has of course created significant challenges within the project and program.

  5. Doug Battleson on

    Hi Raphaelle,I agree. It is very interesting how seasoned professionals with great responsibilities can depart from a proven successful model of leadership and decision making without some semblance to reason. Moreover, based on experience, the reaction to the risk mitigation plan put in place was an anomaly, more passion over reason.

  6. It's remarkable to go to see this site and reading the views of all colleagues concerning this article, while I am also zealous of getting know-how.

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