It is time to put to rest the Platonic assumption that emotions are one kind of activity (or faculty) and reasoning another kind of activity (or faculty). They are not two forces vying against each other, and it is not that one is the ‘slave’ or the ‘master’ of the other: Hume holding that reason is the slave of the passions, Kant replying that passions had better be kept under watchful eye by our reason. This Platonic assumption concerning the divide between our reasons and our emotions has been carried forward into our conversations concerning ‘John’s being emotional’ or ‘Jane’s being quite cerebral.’ Granted, it may be that John has strong emotional responses to a range of things and it may also be that Jane’s responses tend to be more tempered, but neither has anything to do with a response’s being untethered to reasons.
Quite the contrary, believing a number of things is at least a prerequisite for emoting. For I cannot be angry with another unless I believe that this other has deliberately wronged me. And I can be angry with ‘the world’ only if the world consists of hostile people who are bound to harm me. In this, sadness is like anger: only if someone I value greatly has gone away can I feel sorrow. Even if I cannot verbalize this belief to others when the emotions comes on (and mostly we do not do so from a first-person perspective when we are experiencing anger or sorrow or whatever), still it does not follow that this belief is not a necessary condition for the possibility of experiencing this emotion. It is.
Continue reading “The emotions accompanying our mental activities”