'We think and name in one world, we live and feel in another.' MARCEL PROUST, 1871-1922
'Conquer your passions and you conquer the world.'
'The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing.'
BLAISE PASCAL, 1623-62
'Philosophy is the finding of bad reasons for what we believe on instinct.' F. H. BRADLEY, 1846-1924
'Deep thinking is attainable only by a man of deep feeling.' SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE, 1772-1834
'Axioms in philosophy are not axioms until they are proved upon our pulses.' JOHN KEATS, 1795-1821
'If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs... you have probably misunderstood the situation.' ANON
'Nothing great is accomplished in the world without passion.' GEORG WILHELM FRIEDRICH HEGEL, 1770-1831
'Laws are only reached by non-logical methods. To make a law one has to have an intellectual love of the subject.' ALBERT EINSTEIN, 1879-1955
'All emotions were abhorrent to his cold, precise but admirably balanced mind.' SIR ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE, 1859-1930 – ABOUT SHERLOCK HOLMES
The opinions that are held with passion are always those for which no good ground exists, indeed the passion is the measure of the holder's lack of rational conviction'. BERTRAND RUSSELL, 1872-1970
'Man is a rational animal who always loses his temper when called upon to act in accordance with the dictates of reason.' OSCAR WILDE, 18S4-1900
'Reason is always and everywhere the slave of the passions.' DAVID HUME, 1711-76
In Theory of Knowledge the emotions are treated as one of the four ways of knowing, together with language, reason and perception. Since the emotions have traditionally been seen as more of an obstacle to knowledge than a source of it, this may initially seem surprising. There are some good reasons for the traditional suspicion of the emotions; for an angry, frightened or infatuated person is unlikely to see clearly or reason well. That is why we usually advise people to 'be reasonable' rather than 'be emotional'. When we have recovered from an emotional outburst, we typically say things like 'I don't know what came over me', and this suggests that we think reason ought to be in control.
At the same time, our feelings matter to us a great deal, and we naturally consult them when we make important decisions. Indeed, some people believe that feelings are a better guide to the truth than reason. This view was popularised by romantic writers and poets in the early nineteenth century and it is still common today.
1 'You're being emotional' is usually taken as a criticism. Why? Could 'You're being rational' ever be seen as a criticism?2 To what extent do you think we are able to control our emotions? Which emotion is the most difficult to control?3 'What reason weaves, by passion is undone' (Alexander Pope, 1688-1744). Illustrate and analyse this quotation, by choosing a character from a novel, play or film whose reason is overcome by emotion.|
Before looking in more detail at the relevance of the emotions to our search for knowledge, we should begin by saying something about their nature.
The nature of the emotions
The word 'emotion' is derived from the Latin verb movere meaning 'to move'. We shall be using it in a broad sense to include such things as feelings, passions and moods. An emotion usually consists of various internal feelings and external forms of behaviour, and it can vary in intensity from, say, mild irritation to blind anger. The word 'passion' is usually reserved for a strong emotion. You can, for example, be in a passionate rage, but you cannot be passionately irritated. A mood is an emotion which continues for a period of time. Thus you may be in a bad mood all day long and your behaviour may be punctuated by fits of anger. (Later in this chapter, we will also be looking at intuition - something which does not fit comfortably into the category of either reason or emotion.)