Knowledge and Emotions

Feminist philosophers have been played an important role in the now-quite-popular rejection of the idea that emotions are only obstacles to reason and knowledge-seeking.  Here’s a nice example of emotions helping someone to arrive at moral knowledge– specifically the knowledge that gay relationships and people deserve the same respect as straight ones. The Republican mayor of San Diego recently reversed his opposition to same sex marriage, citing knowledge gained from his relationship with his lesbian daughter and her partner: 

He fought back tears as he said that he wanted his adult daughter, Lisa, and other gay people he knows to have their relationships protected equally under state laws. His daughter was not at the news conference.“In the end, I could not look any of them in the face and tell them that their relationships – their very lives – were any less meaningful than the marriage that I share with my wife, Rana,” Sanders said.

10 thoughts on “Knowledge and Emotions

  1. gavin kitching (british sociologist): the greatest difficulty in life lies in getting one’s intellect to understand what one’s intuition already knows.

  2. at a glance, the kitching comment is a bit disconcerting, but it explains a lot in the world. i don’t think it means that rational discourse is futile. i’m a huge optimist when it comes to issues of the human condition and am a strong believer that given the right circumstances anyone can change his/her most rigid convictions.

    steve benen over at talking points memo wrote this post mentioning the pattern of conservatives being unbending on their ideologies until they are personally affected by issues they thought were distant. he frustratingly ends his post with this, “The key to social change in this country seems fairly straightforward: wait for conservatives to have more life experience.”

    steve’s frustration is understood, but i think he misses the point that much like other trends, there’s probably a tipping point to societal empathy and that it’s a long, steep struggle for now, but an attainable goal, nonetheless, for a better tomorrow.

  3. The idea that emotions are just ‘intellectual baggage’ ive a feeling is a falsehood that probably goes to back to the enlightenment where you were either a ‘man of faith’ or a ‘man of reason’.

    I see alot of modern neurologists and psychologists fighting for emotion’s corner these days though. The old intellectual/emotion schism seems to be breaking down quite rapidly.

  4. I think the emotion/reason divide can still be useful. As a tool, not as a absolute truth — which applies to most such divide IMNSHO. As usual, hell breaks loose when we start pasting value judgments to arbitrary divides. Not rating emotion over reason seems to me weirdly related to my belief that feminism is not about rating female over male, but only equal. I might be wrong about the latter, please tell me if I am and I’ll just move on.

    Disclaimer: the phrasing might suggest I’m associating emotional with female and reason with male, but that’s just not the case. I’m just a geek, so 0 and 1 just mean not-same to me.

  5. from the seventeen years i’ve spent on this planet, it has always been about emotions and aliittle bit of perception and reasoning but i strongly feel that most of what we do is because of how we feel.

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