Emotion Over Reason, Reason Over Emotion?

Reason-and-Emotion-title-card

Suddenly seeing a snake in your path, followed by a fixed wide-eyed stare, muscle tenseness, increased heart rate, perhaps a jump backwards, are emotionally reflexive responses, not deliberative or reasoned choices and actions. There is little if any deliberative, choice-making reasoning occurring in this instance.

During the snake encounter emotion played a dominant role. Reasoning, as a reflection on the events that just happened, came second: “Yes, that was a snake, a poisonous one. Good thing I saw it when I did. To have stepped on it may have made it bite me. I might have died if it had.” Reasoning can also be a slower more deliberative post hoc rationalization of the emotions we experience and the emotion-driven actions we take: “So-and-so repulses me physically, visually. I have a bad feeling being in his/her presence. I will avoid this person because of this.”

These examples do not justify a now widely accepted conclusion that reasoning, in general and for the most often, is an after-the-fact comment, reflection, justification or rationalization of emotional states. This emotion-above-all view is one that psychologist Jonathan Haidt and others have recently convinced many pundits and much of the public to believe. I think Haidt’s view is yet another modern version of sociobiology or Skinnerian stimulus-response behaviorism. It minimizes the role and importance of reasoning in human affairs and points to genetic, sensory-emotive and hormonal processes as the predominant and overriding causes of behavior.

Deliberative, choice-making reasoning also plays an important role as a basis for action, a role in one’s life that may be influenced by but can remain functionally separate from one’s emotional state.

In a mature mind that is operating optimally in terms of personal and social wellbeing capacity, reasoning is a skill that can be learned and improved upon. It is a deliberative process, a post-emotion, option-considered, over-riding response to matters our senses and emotions alert us too. It is not a perfect, failsafe process. The best deliberative thinking and choice-making can lead to failure, harm or death due to circumstances beyond one’s knowledge or control. But, reasoning of this kind, versus behavior based on raw emotion (the snake response, etc.), increases one’s chances of making decisions and taking actions that provide greater benefit for individual survival and social flourishing.

There is also a virtue and moral aspect of reasoning – Hitler was capable of deliberation and considering options but his ideas and actions were immoral and lacking virtue. His ideas and actions did not provide benefit to individual wellbeing or contribute to social flourishing as these are understood by most sane people.

More generally, consider the matter of individual survival or wellbeing and group flourishing in the long-term, that is, evolutionarily. Take, for example, the emotion fear as it is prompted by conditions of extreme hunger, lack of shelter or safe haven, or knowledge of being in a high-threat predator environment.

Under such circumstances the deliberative, option-considered responses and strategies arrived at from deciding on how to seek food and protect oneself from weather and predator attack are not emotional ‘decisions’ where reasoning comes along later as a rationalization or justification. They are arrived at through a process of decision-making based on calculated assessments of the potential positive yield and risks associated with various behavioral response options.

This is a process all sentient animals use. If birds at my backyard feeder, for example, become habituated to my presence they do so based on their recognition and remembrance of me, and their acceptance of their conclusion that I pose a low and therefore tolerable risk of harm or death. This is not a post hoc rationalization of, say, a bird’s initial emotional response to my presence. It is a decision it makes each time it sees and identifies me, as opposed to its reaction to someone who is not me, someone they have not seen before.

The Greco-Roman Stoics wrote down this ancient wisdom and encouraged and taught methods for its practice. They taught the use of deliberative reasoning to devise and choose among various possible responses when specific emotions (impressions) arise. Here is an excellent essay by Massimo Pigliucci describing the Stoic view of emotions:

Reason and Emotion, Plato

Plato saw reason and emotion as two horses pulling a chariot, with the charioteer struggling to make them work as a team. But while reasoned thought and emotional response are distinct mental modules that even operate in different brain areas, yet they do work together. For a normal person, they are so intertwined that it’s really a single combined process of mental functioning. – Frank S. Robinson, “Reason vs. Emotion?,” The Rational Optimist, September 13, 2012

Stoicism and Emotion, IV: Feelings Without Assent

by Massimo Pigliucci

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The Things and Processes of Life

GBH Takes Flight
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“[A]n answer to one of the oldest chestnuts in the history of philosophy: is reality made up of things that somehow change over time, or are things just temporary shapes that our perception plucks out from a flux of unruly, unfolding processes?”
“[S]cience is simply too limited, parochial and fallible to tell us anything truly fundamental about what something is or is not. But for a naturalistic metaphysician, these observations of constant biotic flux point to the need for an overhaul in how we see the world. Instead of searching for things with fixed essences based on form and function, naturalistic metaphysics suggests that we need to move to a picture that’s much more dynamic – in which any ‘thingness’ is strictly temporary.”
“In the living world, at least, a metaphysics of ‘things’ is hard to sustain. Where once we had discrete and distinct ‘proteins’ and ‘organisms’, all we are left with are highly dynamic processes.”
“The really remarkable thing about the world isn’t how much things change, but how they achieve stability for any length of time.”
“In nature, though, nothing is ever independent of what’s going on around it. … If a living system ever manages to provide a constant result, it does so by reacting appropriately to an ever-changing scene.“
“[L]iving things are processes that are capable of assuming many protean forms: dynamic, ever-changing, but balancing, for a time, on just the right side of chaos.”
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If You Like What You Find Here On ‘Being’….

….you might also like my other blogs and website. If you do, kindly visit them, follow or subscribe to them via email, and leave your comments, if any, on my posts. Thank you.

Here’s a guide to what each site is about:

Being Human – Our Past, Present and Future in Nature
www.jameselassiter.blogspot.com
On Anthropology and Biology

This is my original blog begun in September 2010. My original description of it remains unchanged: “an open forum on topics in anthropology, science, philosophy, religion, and African studies. The purpose of the blog is to promote thought and increase and improve knowledge.” The blog’s focus has since narrowed to human biological evolution and “human nature.” Topics in cultural anthropology, human cultural evolution, and the peoples of Africa are addressed on this blog, Being: In Nature and the Ethnosphere. To follow or subscribe to Being Human – Our Past, Present and Future in Nature go to its home page and complete the form “Follow by Email.”

 

Owl & Ibis – A Confluence of Minds
www.owl-ibis.blogspot.com
On the Natural & Social Sciences, History, Philosophy, Modern Stoicism, and Aspects of Cultural Studies, Including the Sacred

I initiated Owl & Ibis – A Confluence of Minds as a private critical thinker club in mid-2013. On September 22, 2015, I made it public as an open-to-all freethinker online forum and in-person gathering. On September 9, 2017, following my departure from Facebook, I moved the online forum for O&I posts and comments from Facebook to this blog. O&I is a secular, humanist, free-thinker discussion group. Discussion topics are drawn solely from the natural sciences, social sciences, philosophy, history, and cultural studies, including the sacred. Sacred topics have to do with the impact of sacred beliefs and behaviors on the well-being of the individual and his/her society, and on Humankind as a whole. Owl & Ibis is not the forum for religious apologetics and proselytizing. The chairship of meetings will rotate among the participants. At each meeting a presentation will be made by the chair. The presentation will cover a topic from one of the above subject areas and should include a point of argumentation. Any time remaining after the presentation will be used for discussion. Meeting attendees accept and advocate, totally or in part, an understanding of the Universe based on the principles and methods of scientific-secularism, skepticism, and reverence. Owl & Ibis is tolerant of a wide range of worldviews and belief systems. Pluralism and inclusion are regarded to be the best ways forward in Humankind’s efforts at forging a global morality and civilization, and for acting responsibly as Earth’s steward. Owl & Ibis attempts to contribute to such a future. To follow this blog fill in the “Follow by Email” form on its left sidebar.

 

Migration Anthropology Consultants (MAC), LLC
www.migrationanthro.com
On Human Migration, Refugees, Cross-Cultural Training, and Workplace Culture Analysis

Begun in May 2009, Migration Anthropology Consultants (MAC), LLC provides expert international and domestic consultancy and training services to governmental and international agencies, non-governmental organizations and voluntary agencies, and corporations and businesses. The multidisciplinary, holistic, participant observation methods of anthropology are applied to human migration, refugee populations, and business and organization workplace analysis.  Behavioral scientific rigor and humanism are essential to this approach. Training programs are also provided on cross-cultural communication and other skills necessary for living and working in multi-cultural, international settings. The MAC website also provides news and commentary on migration, immigration and refugee matters around the world. To follow or subscribe to this website go to its home page and complete the form “Follow by Email.”

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African ‘Reverse Missionaries’ Have Come to Save Souls Among the Heathens of Britain

African Christians in Britain

African Mission Church in York

Africa’s Reverse Missionaries are Bringing Christianity Back to the United Kingdom

“[Nigerian Rueben Ekeme Inwe of York, England] is what some scholars would call a ‘reverse missionary,’ evangelists from former mission fields in Africa, Asia, and Latin America who believe their calling is to revitalize Christianity in the countries that first brought the religion to them. It’s a phenomenon that marks a shift in Christianity’s cultural center from the West to the so-called global South. By 2025, at least 50% of the world’s Christians will be in Africa, Latin America, and parts of Asia; in 1950, an estimated 80% of the world’s Christians were in Western countries.”

“The idea of the reverse mission has been around for a while. In 1880, a West African preacher named Edward Blyden predicted that one day Africa would be the ‘the spiritual conservatory of the world.’ In the early 1900s, Daniel Ekarte, a sailor from Nigeria, started a church in the slums of Liverpool for both Africans and white British. Around the same time, a Ghanaian businessman, Kwame Brem-Wilson, also founded a pentecostal Sumner Road Chapel in Peckham, London and helped spread Pentecostalism in the UK.
“In the 1970s, as former colonies adjusted to newfound independence, religious leaders from Africa, Asia, and South America began calling for a moratorium on Western missionaries to give local churches a chance to ‘stand on their own feet.’ The International Congress on World Evangelization, held in Lausanne Switzerland, declared in 1974, ‘A new missionary era has dawned. The dominant role of western missions is fast disappearing.'”

“Since then, the growth of Christianity in the developing world, migration, and the explosion of diaspora churches have given the idea new currency. Today, the largest Christian church in Europe was started by a Nigerian pastor, Sunday Adelaja, who first went to the Soviet Union and Belarus in the 1980s to study journalism. In the US, the Catholic church has been recruiting African priests for years.”

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The Future of African Agriculture – Think Agribusiness, Not Subsistence

African Irrigation

The Future of Farming in Africa is Not Agriculture But Agribusiness

“Africa is a farm lover’s dream: abundant uncultivated arable land, roughly over half the global total; tropical climates that permit long growing seasons; a young labor force; and an expanding population that provides a readily available market for produce consumption.

“Yet, African countries are yet to harness these opportunities to ensure sustainable food security and food production. The average age of farmers is about 60 years—in a continent where 60% of the population is under 24 years of age. Farmers are also less educated, with younger, more educated Africans are leaving rural areas, where farms are located, and moving to cities.

“Some of these youngsters are also discouraged by the difficulties of accessing funds or land, the reliance on manual technology in smallholder agriculture, all compounded by the low and volatile profits.

“But to remedy these issues, a new report suggests governments should change their outlook on agriculture from a subsistence, daily activity into a commercial enterprise. The African Center for Economic Transformation (ACET) says focusing on the entire value chain of the process—land tenure, farming technology, markets, and pricing—would help transform food systems around the continent. Positioning farming ‘as a business and entrepreneurial endeavor’ would also help draw younger people into the practice, and make them see it as less of a ‘cool’ idea and more as a ‘career option.'”

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Demogaphy of Africa

Africa Population Children

There’s A Strong Chance A Third Of All People On Earth Will Be African By 2100

“The population of Africa is increasing because births outnumber deaths four to one. While African mortality is the highest in the world, it has decreased in recent decades, following a pattern already observed on other continents. Fertility has also declined. African women have 4.5 children on average – as opposed to 6.5 forty years ago and 5.5 twenty years ago. Here too, the same trend has been established on other continents. Women in Asia have just 2.1 children on average, in Latin America 2.0 children, in North America 1.9 and in Europe 1.6. This combination of declining mortality and relatively high fertility is the driver of rapid population growth in Africa”

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