Emotions and Rationality Mormon Scholars in the Humanities, 2013

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1 Emotions and Rationality Mormon Scholars in the Humanities, 2013 What reason weave By passion is undone. Pope s Essay on Man

2 Enjoy the Ninja The problems of language The problems of incommensurability The problems of translation 2

3 Things I Am Not Going to Sort Out: Different Concepts of Emotions passions sentiments emotions feelings 3

4 Jonathan Haidt Models of Human Inscape In the wellordered soul reason should govern the passions. Plato with the Platonic view Hume with the Humean view with the view from experimental psychology Reason is the servant of the sentiments. The mind is the repository of will. The mind is intended to be the power by which emotions and subconscious drives are regulated and kept within the bounds of propriety. Self-control and self-will are properly referred to as mental activities Emotions and intuitions are the elephant and reason the rider. Automatic processes do most of the cognitive processing, and the rider (reason) largely follows behind and justifies the direction the elephant has gone. Thaddeus Shoemaker with the Enlightenment view 4

5 Cartesian Dualism Descartes dualist legacy has encouraged scientists and philosophers to neglect the emotions and place undue emphasis on conscious, rational thought. Modern neuroscientists are only now beginning to realize that the emotions are key ingredients of rationality and vital for normal human functioning. The Cartesian notion of a disembodied, rational mind, unencumbered by mere emotion, simply does not correspond with the true nature of the human organism. We are no more capable of coping with life solely by rational calculations than we could through emotions and feelings alone. Source: Paul Martin, The Healing Mind: The Vital Links between Brain and Behavior, Immunity and Disease (New York: Thomas Dunne, 1997),

6 Feelings and Bodies To take into account feeling is to recognize humans as fully embodied beings, bodies engaging other bodies, people with a full complement of senses and feelings engaging with each other. Recognizing our embodiment, that we aren t just brains on a stick, is to challenge Cartesian separation of rationality and emotion. The human soul is intelligent and corporal, material and spiritual, body and spirit. Feeling connects the body to the mind. Source: Jacqueline Ryle, Laying Our Sins and Sorrows on the Alter, Practicing the Faith: The Ritual Life of Pentecostal-Charismatic Christians, ed. Martin Lindhardt. (New York: Berghahn, 2011), 72. 6

7 Emotivism and Rationality Much of the neglect for thought about the emotions has been the close connection researchers take for granted between embodiment and the passions. Many researchers view reason as disembodied, and the proper state of human thought. Feelings are thought to be irrational, bodily, subjective, with the body threatening to disrupt thought and the mind (Lupton, Emotional 2-3). Because the emotions are viewed as embodied sensations, they are considered to be the antithesis of reason and rationality and as such interfere with reason and judgment, even with civilization (Lupton, Emotional 3). Source: Deborah Lupton, The Emotional Self: A Sociocultural Exploration. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage,

8 Minds and Bodies A common objection to the epistemological standing of emotion is the assertion that emotions are irrational disturbances of our animal nature, and are the products of the body, not the mind. As Nussbaum summarizes this position, the emotions are thoughtless natural energies unworthy of academic study. This view has been influential in much positivist and empiricist derived philosophy and cognitive psychology. Source: Ole Riis and Linda Woodhead, A Sociology of Religious Emotion (New York: Oxford U P, 2010), about page 10, but the google view doesn t show page numbers. 8

9 Emotions as a Way of Thinking Haidt took a while to break through the false dichotomy between cognition and emotion. Emotions were long thought to be dumb and visceral but beginning in the 1980s, scientists increasingly recognized that emotions were filled with cognition (Haidt 44). But the contrast between emotions and rationality no longer makes sense. Emotions are one kind of information processing, of cognition. Contrasting emotion with cognition is therefore as pointless as contrasting rain with weather, or cars with vehicles (Haidt 45) Source: Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. New York: Pantheon,

10 The Modern Dismissal of Emotion & Religion Bryan Wilson dismisses religion as mere emotion, and it is aligned with irrational and arbitrary assumptions about life (Wilson 231). Source: Bryan R. Wilson, Religion in Secular Society: A Sociological Comment (Baltimore: Penguin, 1966),

11 Emotion/Reason in the Mormon Tradition Vogel asserts about religious experiences such as the burning of the bosom the opposition between reason and emotion, reductively consigning religious experience to brain chemistry and neurological connections: such religious experiences originate in the subject s brain and scientists are now discovering more about the nature of mystical and spiritual experiences, which originate in the lower part of the brain, the limbic system and, to some extent, the frontal and parietal lobes. Spiritual experiences are part of being human, but they are far from infallible guides to truth. Moreover, they are subject to manipulation, cultural bias, and unlike science and reason they are not selfcorrecting (Vogel 4). Later, in the next paragraph, Vogel asserts that obviously religion fulfills an emotional need so powerful that it becomes impervious to reason. For Vogel religion satisfies emotional needs that and are not objective conclusions in contrast to the scientific tools he thinks he deploys: Scientific method was invented to override emotional biases and help us overcome our tendency to make subjective judgments (Vogel 4). Source: Dan Vogel, The Real Conflict. (letter) Sunstone 132 (May 2004): 4. 11

12 Religion as Emotion The positivist asserts that religious experiences are too private, too subjective and merely internal to count as cognitive: A believer s experiencing God is not given through sense-experience, but he/she experiences God as an object of his/her emotion.... Therefore the positivist concluded that religious experience has purely subjective content and was psychological in nature. Source: Basil Pohlong, Culture and Religion: A Conceptual Study (New Delhi: Mittal, 2004),

13 Sterling McMurrin on Reason and Emotion Sterling McMurrin makes the standard modern claim about religion and rationality: Religion is not simply a rational affair. It is a sentiment that is rooted in the sense of the holy (Ostler 28). Source: Blake T. Ostler, "An Interview with Sterling McMurrin," Dialogue 17.1 (Spring 1984):

14 Feelings, Nothing More Than Feelings Louis Moench, a psychiatrist, noted the aspects of the romantic vision of life (as opposed to the tragic vision of life), which includes the following exact copy of binary opposition between reason and emotion when applied to the Mormon past: A whole realm of experience, subjective and emotional, is accepted as valid. The burning of the bosom rather than Central American archeology is likely to be the source of one s testimony (Moench 34). Source: Louis A. Moench, Perceptions of Life: Comedy, Tragedy, Irony or Romance, Sunstone 12 (June 1986):

15 Religion and Rationality The view that religion is nonrational is leftover from the anti-religious rhetoric of modernity, an assumption to continues to dominate not because it is based on solid evidence or argumentation but because its origins are forgotten, its status unexamined, and its presence unnoticed (Iannaccone, Stark and Finke 373). Source: Laurence Iannaccone, Rodney Stark, and Roger Finke. Rationality and the Religious Mind, Economic Inquiry 36.3 (July 1998):

16 Emotions and Subjectivity For positivists ethical and religious claims don t measure up to valid knowledge, being merely subjective in nature, they represent no more than the feelings or emotions of the persons who express them. Source: Douglas Walton, Ethical Argumentation (Lanham, MD: Lexington, 2003),

17 Are We Primarily Rational Creatures? The old Enlightenment notion that reason comes first and is nothing but impeded by emotion is no longer a viable view of the relationship between reason and feeling. Intuitions come first, and then we look around for reasons to support our intuitions and emotions. Rationality follows emotion, in other words, even among the progeny of the Enlightenment who believe their rationality is primary (Haidt 70-71). And our intuitions are profoundly influenced by our bodily state. The rationalist-first position is a longstanding assumption about human nature that goes back at least as far as Plato. Haidt notes that as an intuitionist, I d say that the worship of reason is itself an illustration of one of the most long-lived delusions in Western history: the rationalist delusion (Haidt 88). Source: Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. New York: Pantheon,

18 The More Recent View of Emotions as Epistemological Thinking about emotions is both complicated and enriched by the fact that emotions themselves involve thought, indeed, are themselves a kind of thinking (Neu, A Tear 13). Solomon, in his philosophical analysis of emotion, asserts that the emotions are rational (and sometimes irrational), they are intelligent, cultivated, conceptually rich engagements with the world, not mere reactions or instincts (Solomon, Passions viii-ix). Sources: Jerome Neu, A Tear Is an Intellectual Thing: The Meanings of Emotion. New York: Oxford U P, Robert C. Solomon, The Passions: Emotions and the Meaning of Life. Indianapolis: Hackett,

19 The Emotions in Recent Neuroscience Not only is the opposition of emotion and reason a recent view, but both neuroscience and psychology challenge this sharp division. The old picture of the brain s clear division into more ancient, animal-based centres of primitive emotion, and more-recently evolved centres of rational decision-making, has been questioned or refined in various ways, not least by the discovery that the brain-processes undergirding rational thought are inexorably inter-connected with affective function, and indeed operate quite weirdly and dysfunctionally in terms of human behaviours if artificially cut off from them (Coakley 219). The binary opposition between emotion and reason held sway until the 1980s. By the late 1990s and into about 2003, a consensus about the importance of emotion for reasoning had emerged to overthrow the previous view (Spezio 345). When Richard Davidson published an important paper in 2003, that study summarized the new consensus that emotion and cognitive reasoning used the same intellectual processes and processes, the same brain circuitry (Spezio 346). Sources: Sarah Coakley, Introduction: Faith, Rationality and the Passions. Modern Theology 27.2 (Apr. 2011): Michael L. Spezio, The Neuroscience of Emotion and Reasoning in Social Contexts: Implications for Moral Theology. Modern Theology 27.2 (Apr. 2011):

20 Heart & Mind as Two Connected Tong Grips of Oliver Cowdery s Knowledge Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart (D&C 8:2). But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right. But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong; therefore, you cannot write that which is sacred save it be given you from me (D&C 9:8-9). 20

21 Laman and Lemuel on What They Know Sixteen times in the narrative about Nephi s attempt to get his reluctant brothers to help build the ship is the verb to know used. Besides asserting that Laman and Lemuel knew Nephi couldn t make a ship (1 Nephi 17:19), L&L assert the essential rightness of their obstinate opinions they also claim other epistemological positions: And we know that the people who were in the land of Jerusalem were a righteous people... wherefore, we know that they are a righteous people improperly judged by Lehi and Nephi (1 Nephi 17:22). 21

22 Nephi on Knowledge Nephi counters L&L s epistemological claims by asserting counter knowledge: ye also know that by the power of his almighty word he can cause the earth that it shall pass away; yea, and ye know that by his word he can cause the rough places to be made smooth, and smooth places shall be broken up. O, then, why is it, that ye can be so hard in your hearts? (1 Nephi 17:46). How, if they know these things can be oppose both God and Nephi? Because the heart, their emotional centers counter what they truly know, for why is it, that ye can be so hard in your hearts? Just previous to this verse, Nephi claims that despite having heard an angel s voice and seen the angel (evidence empirically derived) but ye were past feeling, that ye could not feel his words (1 Nephi 17:45). Knowing is, in some essential way, dependent on feeling. L&L could not feel a still small voice so they had to be spoken unto like the voice of thunder, which did cause the earth to shake as if it were to divide asunder (1 Nephi 17:45). 22

23 Nephi Changes L&L s Knowledge, Temporarily In this instance also L&L must have the more dramatic empirical evidence because they can t grasp the workings of the still, small voice. The Lord tells Nephi to touch his brothers so the Lord can shock them, that they may know that I am the Lord their God (1 Nephi 17:53). Just before this narrative began, the scripture notes that God led the Lehites through the wilderness, provided them food and lit their way that as they kept the commandments ye shall be led toward the promised land; and ye shall know that it is by me that ye are led (1 Nephi 17:13). So when Nephi touches and shocks his recalcitrant brothers they change their epistemological position: We know of a surety that the Lord is with thee, for we know that it is the power of the Lord that has shaken us (1 Nephi 17:55). They don t just know, the know of a surety. Shocked out of their state of being past feeling, L&L come to a new epistemological understanding heart and mind leading on the path through the wilderness to the promised land of knowledge. 23

24 Moroni s Promise: How to Experience the Holy Ghost And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things. (Moroni 10:4-5) 24

25 Serving God And now behold, I say unto you that the right way is to believe in Christ, and deny him not; and Christ is the Holy One of Israel; wherefore ye must bow down before him, and worship him with all your might, mind, and strength, and your whole soul; and if ye do this ye shall in nowise be cast out. (2 Nephi 25:29) Therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day. (D&C 4:2) Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. (Matthew 22:37) 25

26 On This the Ancients Knew Better than the Moderns One day a paleographer came in excitedly to the classics department. There has been an earthshaking discovery, he announced. The Iliad and the Odyssey were not written by Homer but by some other Greek with the same name. 26

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