Tok Essay -- Emotions vs Reason

Topics: Emotion, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Human Pages: 5 (1714 words) Published: October 25, 2011
TOK Essay
Reasoning and Emotions and the quest for Knowledge

19th century English philosopher Samuel Taylor Coleridge claimed that “deep thinking is attainable only by a person of deep feeling”, thereby implying that emotions, or “deep feeling”, play a key role in the quest for knowledge and the ability to reason, or, the ability to think deeply. However, day after day I am confronted with evidence contradicting his statement, and, although I do my best not to have biased perception, I do not see much in support. Emotions cause me, day after day, to make poor decisions while a little voice in my head – a voice I like to call reason – urges me to act differently. The first example that comes to mind is the fact that I am currently working on this essay late at night while I did spend considerable time busying myself with other activities, activities that include the infamous wasting-my-time-in-front-of-the-television. But Coleridge must have been aware that such a case was possible, and a reality, for countless many people: the plump who says she will go to the gym tomorrow, the middle-aged man who says he’ll go back to school, and he who could not resist the fruit. Still Coleridge believed that the positive effects of emotions on the quest for knowledge outweighed the negative, raising the questions: what role do emotions play in the pursuit of knowledge? And would our pursuit be better off without them or are they beneficial? This essay shall investigate the contributions of emotions – if any – to the pursuit of knowledge. First of all it is necessary to draw a clear distinction between the individual purposes of reason and emotions. If knowledge would be a physical object, we would need to add a new element to the periodic table: reason, not emotion, for reason is what knowledge is composed of and emotion is – arguably but not certainly – what fuels the process of reasoning. I therefore find it a given that reason is heavily more significant than emotions when seeking knowledge. Nonetheless what Coleridge would presumably argue back, is that the ability to reason is useless when unable to put it to use. He would claim that without emotions the process of reasoning cannot be fuelled and would therefore never be initiated. And one can only agree that this is a valid statement as it is based on the premise that the human desire to understand is an emotion. But what truly fuels intellectual inquiry, and thereby reasoning, is curiosity, or inquisitiveness, as it is what drives the individual to demand for knowledge. But I am not speaking in terms of individuals, but rather considering humanity as one being with multiple fragments. Thus the question becomes: is curiosity an emotion? A 20th century psychologist by the name of Abraham Maslow once said: “What a man can be, a man must be”, thereby implying that the homo sapiens is a being of innate curiosity, thus defining curiosity as an instinct rather than an emotion. Consider the following illustration: you find yourself in a ten by ten room with nothing else but four white walls, the white floor, and the white ceiling. Except there are two doors, one with the inscription “happiness”, and one with the inscription “knowledge”. You thus find yourself in the same situation as Neo when Morpheus presented the two pills, one blue and one red. You must make a decision. Perhaps for some, the Socrateses of the world, this is not hard as both doors lead to the same place. But the fact is, the vast majority does not study metaphysics for fun. You might strongly believe that you would open the “knowledge door”, though you have already chosen the “happiness door” many times before. For instance when you decided to sit on the couch and watch that entertaining TV program instead of completing work, it made you happier – or at least more satisfied – than working at the time being. Now, reminding ourselves that happiness is an emotion, what if the “happiness door” suddenly vanishes? All...
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