Reason and Emotion

Broadly speaking, it is surely correct that reason and emotion are the two forces that govern our minds. It is often stated or assumed that they are opposing forces; I do not believe that to be necessarily true.

What is reason? One might say that it is logic, or the application of logic to practical problems. And as logic is absolute by definition, any reasoner given the same data will reach the same rational
conclusion if any is possible. It is of great advantage to us that we can so predict what any person thinking rationally must do; it is the same as ourselves, thinking rationally, would do in the same situation. And one may find that any seeming exception is explained by a failure of reason to completely explain the action in question.

What is emotion? Emotion may be defined as the part of our mental state that is not rational. This is very broad, and one might wish to differentiate physical needs such as 'I am hungry'. But I do not think
it possible; an example that shows the point is the desire for a sexual relationship - does that have a physical or an emotional nature? I therefore subsume all under the word emotion. How well do we
understand the emotions of others? It is a fundamental fact that we can never perfectly understand the emotional function of any other person; though most of us can do fairly well most of the time, we can
all recall a time when it was otherwise.

Do reason and emotion conflict? Not inherently, since they are separate processes. But we must be persuaded that where both apply, reason must correctly prevail over emotion, indeed by definition. For
logic asserts not just that it useful, but that it is universal: where logic does apply, it must give the truth, or as near as possible with our knowledge. And those situations where logic does apply are precisely the domain of reason. But reason can't tell us everything; decisions from whether to prefer Coke or Pepsi to whom to be sexually attracted to can not be settled by reason. Those matters, then, are the domain of emotion.

So we can rightly see that giving in to our emotions is not a contradiction of the supremacy of reason, but an extension of it.

This is an essay created by Andrew Usher. Please do not edit it; but only comment in discussion.

Also see the original Usenet thread in which this was posted:

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