Author Topic: What is the "heart"?  (Read 386 times)

Online Daniel

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What is the "heart"?
« on: December 05, 2018, 09:51:47 AM »
Well, obviously, the "heart" is a bodily organ.

And the "heart", as a symbol, at least in our day and age, signifies "love" (e.g. "I NY", the Valentine's Day hearts, the Sacred Heart).


But I'm pretty sure that I've also seen the word "heart" used with reference to one of the soul's faculties. I haven't been able to find a precise definition though, but it seems that "heart" might refer to the irascible passions and/or the will (according to Aristotle's model) or the "high spirit" (according to Plato's model).

For example,

St. Francis de Sales uses the word thus:
Quote from: St. Francis de Sales
[God] had no need of you, but he put you here to exercise His liberality and His goodness toward you, and to give you his paradise. To enable you to obtain what He has planned for you, He has given you an intellect to know Him, a memory to keep Him in mind, a will and heart to love Him and your neighbor, an imagination to have a picture of Him and His gifts, and all your feelings to serve Him and glorify Him.

And Horapollo (a Hellenized Egyptian) says that the "heart of a jealous person is always inflamed" (Hieroglyphics I.22).


Anyway, I'm just wondering whether anyone knows anything about this? Has any philosopher or theologian ever provided us with a good definition of "heart", or do they all just assume that it's common knowledge with no need of explanation?
« Last Edit: December 05, 2018, 10:01:45 AM by Daniel »
 
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Offline Maximilian

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Re: What is the "heart"?
« Reply #1 on: December 05, 2018, 02:06:34 PM »

I'm just wondering whether anyone knows anything about this?

Good question. Spending one's lifetime to understand the "heart" is a life well spent. You won't find many answers in books (except perhaps one book, of course).

Actually, here is another book where you might find some answers:

St. Francis de Sales
Treatise on the Love of God

http://hosted.desales.edu/files/salesian/PDF/love.pdf
 
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Offline Vetus Ordo

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Re: What is the "heart"?
« Reply #2 on: December 05, 2018, 08:45:03 PM »
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9).

John Gill offers a profound commentary on this passage:

The heart is deceitful above all things,.... This is the source of the idolatry and creature confidence of the Jews, sins which were the cause of their ruin; and though what is here said is particularly applicable to their hearts, yet is in general true of the heart of every man; which is "deceitful", and deceiving; and puts a cheat upon the man himself whose it is: it deceives him with respect to sin; it proposes it to him under the notion of pleasure; it promises him a great deal in it, but does not yield a real pleasure to him; it is all fancy and imagination; a mere illusion and a dream; and what it gives is very short lived; it is but for a season, and ends in bitterness and death: or it proposes it under the notion of profit; it promises him riches, by such and such sinful ways it suggests; but, when he has got them, he is the loser by them; these deceitful riches choke the word, cause him to err from the faith, pierce him through with many sorrows, and endanger the loss of his soul: it promises honour and preferment in the world, but promotes him to shame; it promises him liberty, but brings him into bondage; it promises him impunity, peace, and security, when sudden destruction comes: it deceives him in point of knowledge; it persuades him that he is a very knowing person, when he is blind and ignorant, and knows nothing as he ought to know; and only deceives himself; for there is no true knowledge but of God in Christ, and of a crucified Christ, and salvation by him; see 1 Corinthians 3:18 it deceives in the business of religion; it makes a man believe that he is a very holy and righteous man, and in a fair way for heaven, when he is far from that, and the character it gives him; in order to this, it suggests to him that concupiscence or lust, or the inward workings of the mind, are not sin; and it is only on this principle that it can be accounted for, that Saul, before conversion, or any other man, should be led into such a mistake, as to conclude that, touching the righteousness of the law, he was blameless: it represents other sins as mere peccadillos, as little sins, and not to be regarded; and even puts the name of virtue on vices; profuseness and prodigality it calls liberality, and doing public good; and covetousness has the name of frugality and good economy: it directs men to compare themselves and their outward conduct with others, that are very profane and dissolute; and from thence to form a good character of themselves, as better than others; and as it buoys up with the purity of human nature, so with the power of man's freewill to do that which is good, and particularly to repent at pleasure; and it puts the profane sinner upon trusting to the absolute mercy of God, and hides from him his justice and holiness; and it puts others upon depending upon the outward acts of religion, or upon speculative notions, to the neglect of real godliness; see James 1:22. The man of a deceitful heart, the hypocrite, tries to deceive God himself, but he cannot; he oftentimes deceives men, and always himself; so do the profane sinner, the self-righteous man, and the false teacher; who attempts to deceive the very elect, but cannot; yea, a good man may be deceived by his own heart, of which Peter is a sad instance, Matthew 26:33. The heart is deceitful to a very great degree, it is superlatively so; "above all", above all creatures; the serpent and the fox are noted for their subtlety, and wicked men are compared to them for it; but these comparisons fall short of expressing the wicked subtlety and deceit in men's hearts; yea, it is more deceitful to a man than the devil, the great deceiver himself; because it is nearer to a man, and can come at him, and work upon him, when Satan cannot: or "about", or "concerning all things" (q); it is so in everything in which it is concerned, natural, civil, or religious, and especially the latter. The Septuagint version renders it "deep"; it is an abyss, a bottomless one; there is no fathoming of it; the depths of sin are in it; see Psalm 64:6 and, seeing it is so deceitful, it should not be trusted in; a man should neither trust in his own heart, nor in another's, Proverbs 28:26,

"and desperately wicked": everything in it is wicked; the thoughts of it are evil; the imaginations of the thoughts are so; even every imagination, and that only, and always, Genesis 6:5 the affections are inordinate; the mind and conscience are defiled; the understanding darkened, so dark as to call evil good, and good evil; and the will obstinate and perverse: all manner of sin and wickedness is in it; it is the cage of every unclean bird, and the hold of every foul spirit; all sin is forged and framed in it; and all manner of evil comes out of it, Revelation 18:1 yea, it is wickedness itself, Psalm 5:9, it is so even to desperation; it is "incurably wicked" (r), as it may be rendered; it is so without the grace of God, and blood of Christ:

who can know it? angels do not, Satan cannot; only the spirit of a man can know the things of a man within him; though the natural man does not know the plague of his own heart; the Pharisee and perfectionist do not, or they would not say they were without sin; such rant arises from the ignorance of their own hearts; only a spiritual man knows his own heart, the plague of it, the deceitfulness and wickedness in it; and he does not know it all; God only knows it fully, as is expressed in the next words, which are an answer to the question; see 1 Corinthians 2:11.

(q) "de omnibus", vid. Noldium, p. 548. (r) "et immedicabili malo affectum", Gussetius; "incurabiliter aegrum", Cocceius.
DISPOSE OUR DAYS IN THY PEACE, AND COMMAND US TO BE DELIVERED FROM ETERNAL DAMNATION, AND TO BE NUMBERED IN THE FLOCK OF THINE ELECT.
 
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Online Daniel

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Re: What is the "heart"?
« Reply #3 on: December 08, 2018, 03:06:45 PM »
But I'm pretty sure that I've also seen the word "heart" used with reference to one of the soul's faculties. I haven't been able to find a precise definition though, but it seems that "heart" might refer to the irascible passions and/or the will (according to Aristotle's model) or the "high spirit" (according to Plato's model).
Plato alluded to this in the Republic and the TimŠus. What he said was:
head = intellect
heart = irascible passions
gut = concupiscible passions
(Though he didn't use that exact terminology.)

The "heart = will" thing comes from C. S. Lewis's The Abolition of Man (which I've never read and can't really comment on). Lewis uses "chest" rather than "heart" but it seems to be the same idea.
head = intellect
heart = will
gut = passions
I'm not sure where Lewis got this from... he might have just made it up :shrug:

It's also worth pointing out, Plato and St. Augustine (and perhaps Aristotle as well) didn't see the will as a separate faculty. So that would explain why the will is missing from Plato's model.
« Last Edit: December 08, 2018, 03:13:15 PM by Daniel »
 

Offline Kreuzritter

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Re: What is the "heart"?
« Reply #4 on: December 21, 2018, 07:46:32 AM »
But I'm pretty sure that I've also seen the word "heart" used with reference to one of the soul's faculties. I haven't been able to find a precise definition though, but it seems that "heart" might refer to the irascible passions and/or the will (according to Aristotle's model) or the "high spirit" (according to Plato's model).
Plato alluded to this in the Republic and the TimŠus. What he said was:
head = intellect
heart = irascible passions
gut = concupiscible passions
(Though he didn't use that exact terminology.)

The "heart = will" thing comes from C. S. Lewis's The Abolition of Man (which I've never read and can't really comment on). Lewis uses "chest" rather than "heart" but it seems to be the same idea.
head = intellect
heart = will
gut = passions
I'm not sure where Lewis got this from... he might have just made it up :shrug:

It's also worth pointing out, Plato and St. Augustine (and perhaps Aristotle as well) didn't see the will as a separate faculty. So that would explain why the will is missing from Plato's model.

No. Lewis is actually in line Hebrew tradition and the views of Eastern Christianity that place the center of man's being, his spiritual nucleus and imago dei, in the heart with its will and capacity to love, just as the life is in the blood. Catholic iconography says as much with the Sacred Heart, an image whose symbolism can jump out at someone versed in Hebrew mysticism but whose significance in that sense seems to be lost on Roman Catholics (I'll only say that it is quite literally a representation of "I am the Alpha and Omega" as linked to Genesis 1:1). The excessive emphasis upon reason that lead the Scholastics to locate this in the head and intellect is the consequence of the pagan Greco-Roman influence upon Western Catholicism.

https://torahapologetics.weebly.com/language--word-studies/hebrew-anatomy-part-1-the-heart

I've just been pointed by someone here to this book http://theradtrad.blogspot.com/2013/08/book-review-banished-heart-origins-of.html

and I think these words quoted from Orthodox saint Theophan the Recluse are a nice summation of that sentiment:

"You should descend to your heart from your head... The life is in the heart, so you should live there. Do not think that this applies only to the perfect. No, it applies to everyone who begins to seek out the Lord."



 
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