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Evaluate the Ways in Which Emotion Might Enhance And/or Undermine Reason as a Way of Knowing

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Evaluate the ways in which emotion might enhance and/or undermine reason as a Way of Knowing

When answering this question, one must asses what reasoning actually is. In 1651 Thomas Hobbes published his magnum opus, Leviathan, in which he concluded that reason was an immediate function of all senses, and does not exist without them, meaning that reasoning is adding up all the signals from our senses and things we know. Emotions can both enhance and undermine reasoning, both consciously and unconsciously. As a society, we are taught that emotions not only hinder reasoning, but also render the individual weak; however there are certain situations when emotions can help a situation, just as there are situations when emotions cloud the reasoning process. Our emotions are used to manipulate others with, and are used by others to manipulate us. Despite this, those without pity or empathy are criticized as uncaring, or sociopathic.

Emotions enhance reason in many ways. In one aspect, emotions allow us to focus on more specific details. Attitude in a class is dependant on your feelings towards the instructor for the course. If the teacher fails to add inflection in his or her voice, or intrigue his class in any way, he becomes ineffective. The thirst for learning is dependant on ones emotions, and good grades follow a high interest level in the course. Courses that a student finds boring become tedious and boring to study for, yet in other courses, where he or she is interested by the subject matter, learning more, and committing what is already known to memory, does not become a problem.

Emotion can also enhance our reason through sympathy. Without feelings of pity or empathy, we would be inclined to help no one but ourselves, and when considering others, we make far better decisions. Mother Theresa devoted her life to helping the impoverished and the underprivileged, with little thought for her self. By considering our emotions and feelings for others, we engage in activities to aid them. Without emotion, our acts of kindness would be limited, or totally focused on how partaking in such an action will affect our image.

When horse riding, I am constantly told by my instructor to keep a positive frame of mind. It is constantly re-iterated to me that the horse "feels through his rider". Breaking down this statement, it is preposterous, because thinking good, happy thoughts should not affect your horse in any way, unless one is particularly gifted in telepathy. However, examining this from a more scientific standpoint, the words of advice make perfect sense. When one is nervous, one tends to tense up, and this will affect your mount. By tensing and gripping the saddle with your legs, you encourage the horse to go faster, and with the jerky movements that are common with those who are unsure of what to do, you confuse your horse equally. By forcing yourself to believe that it is possible to complete the task in hand, you become more relaxed and your movements more fluid. The shift in body language will remove pressure from your horse, and cool, calm thinking lets you plan ahead, ensuring that decisions are not made abruptly.

However, emotion can also be harmful to our reasoning. Traditionally, women are considered more emotional than men and therefore less adept to reason, and making appropriate decisions (Women did not get the vote until after World War One, because it was thought they could not handle such responsibility, and could not think for themselves). Women are considered less reasonable when under the emotions of love and sadness (weaker emotions), however, stereotypically men are also more unreasonable under other emotions, such as anger

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