With the progression of time, humans learn to recognise more areas of knowledge through the inventive nature, and we are introduced to the areas of art and music, where the systematic trend of reasoning seems to transition into that of emotion. Since art is based around a subjective and personal medium, emotions tend to play a bigger role in determining knowledge, due to the ability to communicate one’s natural reactions into perceptions and create within oneself an individual perspective on the artwork. This is best experienced when dealing with music, that of which the literal language from the lyrics is not understood by the listener. For example, when playing a song from a foreign language, I was able to construct a certain image in my mind of how I interpreted the pulsating sounds of the instruments in relation to the emotions being triggered inside me. However, upon viewing the English translation of the lyrics, I found that the literal meaning is completely different to upheld subjective meaning. Additionally I found that my initial interpretation made more sense to me and carried much more meaning in comparison to the latter meaning which I developed through reason. Thus, emotion can in fact act as a good indicator for certain areas of knowledge, and this is true in many of the arts; such as the use of provocative visuals in movie-making, using emotive techniques in poems and prose, and using certain tunes in music.
When it comes to the area of history, the conflict between reason and emotion becomes much more apparent. It is reasoning that plays the major role in modern history, because we are able to analyse and understand the causes and effects of past events. However, often in history we find that there are many conflicting or differing views regarding certain problems of the past and we come to realise that reasoning determines how you know history, while emotions determine what you know. This means that when events are retold, they become so sullied with emotion that they tend to influence your beliefs on the matter. At the same time, each person’s beliefs and experiences create a bias that taints the events being retold, and thus influences what the listener knows. History is essentially facts that are interpreted by a variety of perspectives which are dependent on the historian’s emotions towards the event. This becomes problematic as people tend to disregard the fact that the history is subjective and instead openly accept the biasness as true knowledge. However, even though one cannot be entirely sure of the historical account, they can narrow it down to the truth as much as possible by first posing an objective stance and rationally scrutinizing the event from a variety of (primary and secondary) sources.
Finally, the area of moral ethics is where reason and emotion go hand in hand. In the early stages of the development of modern philosophy, it was widely accepted that emotion played the major role in justifying the reasons behind our moral system. For example, statements such as “donating to charity is a very good act” seems to sit on a rational foundation, when in reality, it is simply reflecting one’s emotions towards the action, such as linking with the poor through empathy or pity. Eventually, however, philosophers such as Immanuel Kant argued that despite the fact that emotions influence our conduct, reason instead plays the major role when it comes to being truly moral. He strictly believed that “true moral action is motivated only by reason when it is free of emotion and desire”. Applying this to the previous statement, Kant would say that it is morally good to donate to charity due to reasons such as “It would continue the survival of human species”, or “It would stabilize the equality between people” etc. However, going by this theory he would also say that disabled or old people should be killed as they demand much more than they give, and are basically dragging communities back, but as rational as that may be, it is completely immoral. So it is clear that a combination of reason and emotion as ways of knowing would better justify the ethical area of knowledge, where they would work in synergy instead of conflict.
In conclusion, for one to analyse the effectiveness of emotion and reason as a way of knowing, the target area of knowledge must be considered. When we examine reasoning we are forced to accept the fact that it is no more than a means for human endeavour, meaning it will involve trial and error, thus reasoning carries a great possibility encountering falsehoods. On the other hand emotion is simply a state of mind that has great influence on belief, where one is to act in the name of something, believing is all they need, and not necessarily the truth behind it. Therefore, a correct balance of the two ways of knowing is necessary to achieve an optimised position in the path of knowledge.
“The first and simplest emotion which we discover in the human mind is: curiosity” – Edmund Burke
- Mohamad Montather Naji
Marya Mannes -
Immanuel Kant -