Blinded by Emotion

Court wizards Economists model people as “rational agents” responding reasonably to facts and incentives. Con men Modern psychologists tend to model people as “meat robots” responding emotionally to tribal affiliations and signaling games.

There is truth in both of these models, easily reconciled by the cliche saying “Love is blind.” Anyone who has been in love is aware that strong emotion and rationality go together like fun and feminists–that is, not at all. But the word “blind” implies the opposite quality–sight. Sometimes we really can see clearly. Sometimes we really are blind. The switcher between the two? Emotion.

Am I saying that emotion is bad? Am I the reincarnation of Spock, here to mock you poor humans? Not at all. Emotion is certainly good. Love may properly be an act of will, but the motivation for that act of will is almost always the “warm fuzzies” that emotion gives.

So, what am I saying? To quote more than one Philosopher: “The will should rule the passions.” In this the virtue of Prudence consists. Easy to say, hard to do. But what should be easier to do is to recognize when you are emotional. Emotion may blind you to reason, but it cannot blind you to its own existence. Thus, the more emotion you notice in yourself, the more you should suspect your reasoning to be self-serving.

This works in reverse as well. The less passionate you are about a topic, the more you can trust your own reasoning regarding it.

This concept plays a large role in my confidence in the Catholic Church’s veracity over other denominations. While I may have a very strong emotional attachment to Christ and Christianity as a whole, I honestly didn’t care at all about denominational differences. I grew up in an explicitly non-denominational church. I had no idea what differentiated the various Christian sects for the vast majority of my life. I didn’t care. In this state, a logical argument based on facts and deductive reasoning, can actually operate. My conversion story is boring. I read a very long blog post and was persuaded. The end. Why did this work? Because no emotion.

Unfortunately, this is not the situation of the vast majority of people in relation to the Catholic Church. Internet atheists hate all believers with shockingly visceral insults. Protestants often tone it down a bit, but are still incredibly emotionally negative where Catholics are concerned. Can’t send these kinds of people a well-reasoned defense. They wont read it. They can’t.

All I can think to do is to ask them why they are so upset, in an attempt to show them that they cannot trust their reason when so infused with emotion.


One thought on “Blinded by Emotion

  1. Seems like a concise point was fluffed up to make sure everybody had an opportunity to be offended. A piece about how emotion clouds judgement using language that disgruntles; if intentional, genius.


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