The irascible appetite as worry-box

We all have some ability to stop thinking about things that bother or worry us since all of us have some ability to shut off conscience as a prerequisite to doing something evil. The ability to shut off thought has a virtuous use too in the power to put an anxiety in a box and stop worrying about it. Some people by nature have an extraordinary power to bind and gag anxiety while in others the power is less developed. Depression and scruples, for example, seem to require that this power be relatively underdeveloped, thus allowing worries to pour over the gunnels while the person can only watch himself sink.

This power to bind worry is one dimension of what Plato calls in spirit in Republic IV and what Scholastics called the irascible appetite. Parts of this appetite seem to be offloadible since the biblical tradition speaks extensively of “handing over” one’s anxieties and concerns to God: Cast your cares on the LORD and He will sustain you; (Psalm 55:22) Cast all your anxiety on Him, for he cares for you (1 Pt. 5:7.) Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life (Mt. 6:25.)

Like the concupiscible appetite the irascible can be developed and educated – this seems to be precisely what the biblical tradition is driving at in prohibiting worry as much as it prohibits lust or coveting.

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