The Interplay between Emotion and Reason
"And this is of course the difficult job, is it not: to move the spirit from it's nowhere pedestal to a somewhere place, while preserving its dignity and importance."
I cry. There is pressure behind my eyes, my skin turns blotchy and my lips tremble, and mucus clogs my airways, making it difficult to breath. I hate crying in front of others: not because I want to hide how upset I am, but because the second that most people perceive my emotional state as fragile, they assume my reasoning and mental functions are also not sound. The outward expression of an inward instability is something we save for those who we know and trust best. They do not view our emotionality as a weakness, they already know us to be strong. Crying is represented in our culture as a lack of control. When upset, the "ideal" is to keep a cool head (and a poker face), not allowing emotions to enter into the decision making process. However, I submit that without our emotional base, rationality would have no reason or foundation upon which to operate.
A multitude of opinions are found on the subject: are emotions more a function of the heart or of the head? According to Antonio Damasio (1), emotions and feelings are an integral part of all thought; yet we as humans spend much of our time attempting to disregard and hide them. In the view of source (2), experience is the result of integration of cognition and feelings. In either view, it remains indisputable that emotions are not what we typically make them out to be: the unwanted step-sister of our cultural sweetheart reason. Reason in our culture denotes intelligence, cognition, and control. Emotions seems such a "scary" concept to our collective mind because they can be so overwhelming, and can cause us to lose the control we are so reticent to relinquish. Consequently, the perceived division between emotion and reason has resulted in more polar divisions that we experience on a daily basis: the great schism between the humanities and the sciences, for example. However, as is pointed out by a recent NIMH study on Emotion and Cognition (3), this historical division between emotion and cognition is losing its utility as research progresses. The integration of the concepts is reflected in the interdisciplinary interest: from neurobiology to psychology, the implications are far reaching.
An early interpretation of the relationship between emotion, cognition and physiology was that of William James, who thought of emotions as results of physiological processes of the autonomic nervous system (6). According to his school of thought, first comes cognition, then a physiological response, and then an emotion. In response to an event such as the death of a friend, first the cognition steps in about what this means, then the body begins to cry, and because we are crying, we begin to feel sad. Another later theory was proposed by Walter Canon and Philip Bard. This...