Emotions and Reason

Emotions and Reason

Emotions and Reason

Emotions and Reason

Excerpt

The prevailing opinion seems to be that these two sides of human nature--emotion and reason--are alien to each other, or diametrically opposed. When a man thinks clearly, and behaves in a deliberate and rational fashion, it is assumed that emotion is absent, suppressed or under control. When he "loses his head" or acts stupidly, his conduct is described as emotional, and reason is supposed to be absent or distraught by feeling. It is as if there were two contrary forces within the individual contending for control over his thoughts and actions--"two souls within one breast," as Goethe Faust (of Part 1) put it. When the individual manages his affairs astutely or sensibly, according to the standards of his society or set, or according to some other approved standard, reason is said to prevail, whereas if he fails to conform he is simply not using his head and is acting emotionally.

In line with this bifurcation of the human being is the representation of human conflict as a clash between pure intelligence and blind or wilful emotion. If one's child, wife, colleague or boss were only reasonable, but alas he is prey to arbitrary passions and cannot listen to the clear voice of reason. One can therefore punish or outwit him, or feel sorry for oneself, but logical argument is useless. From this dualistic point of view, conflicts between groups and nations also become more grisly and uncompromising, for there is no hope of a rational settlement. The other side is seen as driven by dark fears and ambitions which can not . . .

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