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Which Way is Up? – 1 – Emotion and Human Reasoning

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emotion_reason1.jpgI’ve decided not to write in a scholarly style. That would be too boring for me and probably for the reader. So let’s just say that emotion, conscious and unconscious, plays a huge role in human thinking. Most psychologists suggest that the best type of reasoning blends the “logic process” with emotions such as empathy. In other words, if we write or speak keeping in mind how we imagine the reader or listener will receive our words, we tend to be more effective and humane.

It’s pretty well known that the emotion of anger can limit our reasoning powers. When we’re ticked off we fail to consider alternatives, give the benefit of the doubt or see a bigger picture. Have you ever heard an angry person say “I KNOW I’M RIGHT” and then sheepishly admit later on that they were blinded by their heated emotions? We’ve probably all done this from time to time. Hopefully we learn as we go along and can recognize when we’re hot under the collar and not let that influence our better judgment.

On the other side of the coin, positive emotions such as enjoyment and love can facilitate learning. But positive emotions, not just negative ones, can also influence thinking to produce what psychologists call “cognitive distortion.”

The term “cognitive distortion” is somewhat problematic because each individual, I would say, has a unique perspective on life and the universe. True, there are cultural agreements from which we can draw some kind of temporary norm. But any student of the globe and/or history will note that cultural norms are rarely if ever absolute truths. And sometimes they’re downright scary (e.g. those produced by a Hitler, Stalin, Nero… ).

I don’t want to go too deep into sociology and philosophy here. Rather, I’d like to also point out that many explanatory systems seem to fall short when it comes to the spiritual aspect of mankind. Some even equate the words “emotion” and “spiritual.”

This likening of emotion and spirituality is problematic as many different faith systems and philosophers, alike, make important distinctions between “emotional” and “spiritual” experiences.

In actual fact, nobody fully knows just what causes emotional or spiritual experiences. However, it seems to me that emotional and spiritual experiences coexist but somehow differ, just as sunlight will hit a pond of water, warm it up and eventually evaporate it. In this analogy, sunlight would be spiritual light while the pond of water would be a personal emotional center, for lack of a better term.

By now you should see that I’m not a scientist in the commonly understood sense of the word. But at the same time, I believe we can apply a kind of ‘science’ to human experience. We can form hypotheses and test them on the basis of our ongoing, lived experience. We may never reach absolute truth. But we can certainly improve upon existing models.

Thus to return to emotion, we wouldn’t be very good scientists if we allowed our emotions (both desires and dislikes) to prevent us from considering alternative hypotheses.

THIS BLOG IS PART OF A SERIES:

Which Way is Up? – Introduction – Rethinking Cosmology

Which Way is Up? – 1 – Emotion and Human Reasoning

Which Way is Up? – 2 – Concepts of “Matter” and “Energy”

Which Way is Up? – 3 – “Matter,” “Energy” and Solipsism

Which Way is Up? – 4 – The “Field”

Which Way is Up? – Conclusion: Into the Mystic

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Author: Michael Clark

I'm the administrator of Earthpages.org | Earthpages.ca with a Joint Honours B.A. in Psychology/Sociology at York and Trent U, an M.A. in Philosophy and Religion at Visva-Bharati, India, and a Ph.D. in Religious Studies at UOttawa.

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