Who Knows What is Right?
Everyday humans are flooded with emotions, desires and thoughts, which are often in conflict. In order to understand and realize their roles in our lives we turn to the works of philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle, who pay particular attention to human flourishing. Through their works and discussions we are led towards a path that will help us examine our human nature and all its aspects and capabilities. One discussion that has interested humans for some time is the role of emotions in our lives; what can we learn from them? When should we express them? How should we react to them? It is these questions that have led us to Plato and Aristotle who have both reflected on the role of emotions and even come to some conclusions on their importance and roles.
In "The Republic" Plato recognized that emotion and desire are both aspects of the soul, which are in conflict with the most important aspect of the soul, reason. When our emotions interfere with our ability to reason, it can not be expected for us to flourish. In order for humans to flourish we must understand the role emotions should play and their impact on us. If our emotions become to strong and we display them to greatly we will only hinder what is important and will not be able to have justice within our souls. However, he feels strongly that without proper understanding of our emotions, no matter what our natures are we will not flourish. (P 54). Strong showing of emotion is at no time appropriate and we should instead be turned off by such displays.
Our emotions constrain us and will not allow us to flourish if we do not correctly train them through education, whose goal should be to teach us what, should be pleasurable and what should be painful. Plato does believe that certain emotions are important to life and should be permitted as long as we understand which emotions are permitted and desirable. However, if these emotions are expressed strongly, we will only be distracting ourselves from attaining reason and flourishing, by giving too much attention to our desires.
Aristotle gives emotion a more important role than Plato does; he emphasizes that if emotions are experienced at the right time in the right way they are beneficial to human flourishing. In Aristotle's mind if the context of the emotion is appropriate, then the emotion itself can be construed as being helpful to attaining moral virtue. If we feel pleasure doing the right thing, express it as appropriate to that, then emotion is a good thing, and will help us flourish.
Aristotle also believes that the soul has two aspects, rational and irrational. Under the rational aspect lies contemplative and practical reason; under the irrational aspects lie the vegetative element, desires, and emotions. He believes though, that in the perfect circumstance emotion and desire can be rational, thus allowing individuals the ability to express strong emotions. It is important for the...