The Second Eclectic

Technology changes how we relate to God and each other

Reason v Emotion

Rationalism versus Empiricism. Thought versus feeling. Knowledge versus intuition. Head versus heart.

We have numerous terms that we use to frame the argument. Generally we come down on one side or the other regarding what ultimately guides our decision-making. Not so much because of a preference as practice. It’s a simple fact that we are more accustomed to using one or the other as we choose and plan.

Is one really superior to the other? Is the argument justified that we rely more on one than the other?

I am led to believe that the circles I run in (which are small) prefer reason over emotion in process of deciding. I have on this blog even promoted the belief that the capacity to reason is not altogether a natural phenomenon. In my mind this argument regarding the capacity to reason makes a strong case for the reason’s priority over emotion.

But I wonder if emotion is undercut for other, invalid reasons. We have, in research, a greater causal understanding regarding emotion. We have a clearer idea of the biological sources (endorphins, the pituitary and endocrine glands, the sympathetic nervous system) that emotion stems from. This undermines our respect for emotions as sources for direction—mainly because they lack the mystery that reason still retains.

Of course, this is an obscene reason for trusting something, that we have not yet grasped its inner workings. The same could be said for the likes of politics, light, even God. Yet, from the earliest points in time, that which we did not grasp earned our highest respect: Mother Nature, the fertility goddess, gunpowder, the flying machine, the atom bomb, black holes, the opposite sex, genetics. But once we’d mastered them, they became our slaves, subject to us, almost to the point of being disgusted by them.

Yet, reason has and will continue to come under the attacks of science, seeking to understand these natural processes. If ever natural science brings reason into the fold of known phenomena, what shall become of it? Lewis speculated on it in The Abolition of Man, painting a grim picture resembling a Brave New World. But he also provided hope, believing that reason was not solely subject to natural causes.

It is hope enough to continue believing that we can argue together as we do, and that whether we choose reason or emotion, it shall be because our thinking is altogether valid and worth the synapses and neurons fired in the process.