Emotion Versus Reason - the Fight for Survival

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The antagonistic relationship between logical reason and emotional desire has been troubling philosophers and psychologists alike for many years. While these two forces must co-exist for the human soul to survive, it is up the soul to find balance between the two. The narratives found in Primo Levi’s book, The Periodic Table, provide prime examples of the fight between emotion and reason. The chapters ‘Mercury’, ‘Sulfur’ and ‘Titanium’ are narratives, and each chapter demonstrates one prime emotion; jealousy, anger and fear respectively. It is up to the protagonist in each chapter to overcome their emotion in order to listen to reason. Through his narratives, Levi’s characters prove that emotions limit logical judgment, where success in survival is stemmed from the ability to ignore emotions and listen to reason. Experts in the field of emotion, logic and cognitive beliefs have debated the topic of emotion versus logic for a very long time. While some find their contradictory relationship arguable, many still believe that they are opposing forces, destined to remain irreconcilable. Dating all the way back to classic Greece, Plato proposed the chariot allegory in which the human soul is governed by two opposing horses; one representing spiritual boldness, the other representing animalistic desire. The fight between logic and emotion is very similar to the allegory in the sense that these two opposing forces govern moral judgment. Even today, this relationship is being discussed. According to philosopher Patricia Greenspan, emotional states such as anger, fear, jealousy, contempt, sadness, disgust, joy, pride and shame “are commonly thought of as antithetical to reason, disorienting and distorting practical thought” (Kirman, 2). Peter Goldie of the University of Manchester also agrees that “we are inclined to say that our emotions can and do profoundly distort our view of things” (Goldie, 1), arguing that “our emotions can mislead us profoundly” (2). As...
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