Emotion And Reason In The Seventeenth Century And Literary Examples

1694 words - 7 pages

The struggle between reason and emotion existed as long as human history. Human actions are the result of the struggle. Behind each action, the motive is either determined by one's emotion or reason. As a reflection of human thoughts, literature illustrates the struggle between emotion and reason in society. The seventeenth century is an era of change. It is an era intruded by science and reason. Despite the intrusion, emotion stood as an important element in society. The seventeenth century is an era of war between emotion and reason, which can be seen through the writing of authors such as Shakespeare, Hobbes, Swift, and Herrick. Through their writings, they explored the motives of human ...view middle of the document...

In the play, Shakespeare analyzed the characters’ emotional needs and their ability to resolve their problems with rational actions. He showed the consequences of acting rashly and irresponsibly through the sufferings of King Lear. He explored the struggle for power and the emotional need of a tired king. For example, King Lear stated in the beginning of the play, “ Give me the map there.—Know that we have divided In three our kingdom, and ’tis our fast intent To shake all cares and business from our age, Conferring them on younger strengths while we Unburdened crawl toward death (Shakespeare, 1604).” This shows that King Lear has already divided up his kingdom;so, as he goes on saying “ Which of you shall we say doth love us most”, he has already made his decision and knows the answer (Shakespeare, 1604). He does this due to his emotional needs as a king. He wants to hear flattering words. King Lear is a character driven by emotion. On the other hand, Cordelia, King Lear’s daughter, is the voice of reason. Cordelia is a very logical person. Therefore, she understands the love she has for her father as she states, “I love your majesty according to my bond, no more nor less (Shakespeare, 1604).” She understands Lear’s fretful waywardness and her sister’s hypocrisy as she states “The jewels of our father, with washed eyes Cordelia leaves you. I know you what you are, and like a sister am most loath to call your faults as they are named (Shakespeare, 1604).” Cordelia understands how to behave and love as a daughter and sister. It is the honesty and reason of Cordelia that saves King Lear from insanity. Shakespeare illustrated emotion and reason as the sides of a same coin. He inferred that in order to survive, one must achieve a balance within emotion and reason. If there was any disruptions to the balance, it will cost death to oneself.
Thomas Hobbes was a result of Enlightenment. He was an English philosopher who established the foundation for most of Western political philosophy from the perspective of social contract theory. He strove to find the perfect balance for emotion and reason; thus, humans may be able to live in a peaceful society. As a result of Enlightenment, Thomas Hobbes was a very rational person. Therefore, he attempted to use logic to achieve social unity and civil peace. In his 1651 book Leviathan, Hobbes used scientific knowledge to arrive at his laws of motion. Thomas Hobbes believed that all universe can be explained in terms of the motions and interactions of material bodies. For example, Hobbes stated in Leviathan that humans were like machines, and, as machines, human beings pursue their own self-interest relentlessly, mechanically avoiding pain and pursuing pleasure (Hobbes, 1651). Therefore, Hobbes is inferring that humans are driven by emotion naturally. There must be forces of reason to balance out the emotions within the human society. In addition, Hobbes provided the rational answer he thought were true “The...

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