Real and false reason

Some liberals (and scientists) still think that reason is somehow above and beyond emotion. When I suggest framing in emotional terms they say sure, but that works only for emotional issues as if reason is something beyond emotion. So here’s a reminder from  this Lakoff classic:

“It is a basic principle of false reason that every human being has the same reason governed by logic — and that if you just tell people the truth, they will reason to the right conclusion. […] But many liberals, assuming a false view of reason, think that such a [moral, emotional] messaging system for ideas they believe in would be illegitimate — doing the things that the conservatives do that they consider underhanded. Appealing honestly to the way people really think is seen as emotional and hence irrational and immoral. Liberals, clinging to false reason, simply resist paying attention to real reason.”

“Real reason is embodied in two ways. It is physical, in our brain circuitry. And it is based on our bodies as the function in the everyday world, using thought that arises from embodied metaphors. And it is mostly unconscious.  False reason sees reason as fully conscious, as literal, disembodied, yet somehow fitting the world directly, and working not via frame-based, metaphorical, narrative and emotional logic, but via the logic of logicians alone.”

“Real reason is inexplicably tied up with emotion; you cannot be rational without being emotional. False reason thinks that emotion is the enemy of reason,  that it is unscrupulous to call on emotion. Yet people with brain damage who cannot feel emotion cannot make rational decisions because they do not know what to want, since like and not like mean nothing. ‘Rational’ decisions are based on a long history of emotional responses by oneself and others. Real reason requires emotion.”

One thought on “Real and false reason

  1. From “The science of emotion” by Antonio Damasio:

    “In the very least, we can say that emotion is always in the loop of reason. Emotion is an adaptive response, part of the vital process of normal reasoning and decision-making. It is one of the highest levels of bioregulation for the human organism and has an enormous influence on the maintenance of our homeostatic balance and thus of our well-being. Last but not least, emotion is critical to learning and memory.”

    “What we have learned, then, is that the brain has at least two systems for assessing the value of events. One system leads to a conscious recall, through memory, of options for action and of representations of future outcomes. Then we use logical reasoning and knowledge to decide that we will do X instead of Y. Another system, probably evolutionarily far older, acts even before the first one. It activates biases related to our previous emotional experience in comparable situations. These nonconscious biases affect the options and reasoning strategies that we present to our conscious selves.”

    “We do ourselves a disservice when we think of human beings as exclusively logic- or knowledge-driven, and fail to pay attention to the role of the emotions. The two systems are enmeshed [my emphasis] because that is the way our brain and our organism have been put together by evolution.”

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