Truth and Emotion

Something about what philosophers in our readings have been saying is bothering me – they seem to think reason and emotion are two opposites, that the truth is independent of emotions, that having your emotions affect your actions is a sign of weakness. But to me that is simply not true.

The truth cannot be apart from emotion. We experience satisfaction when we do a good deed, and it is part of what drives us to keep carrying out good deeds. Emotions convey truth, and to me they are proof that a truth exists (the fact that different people can relate to a certain thing together but in individually unique ways too is a miracle; it’s like we are parts of a whole). For example, when I feel the joy my mother’s banana bread gives me, to me the emotion stems from the knowledge that I am loved by her (and also from the knowledge that she makes really good banana bread). When I learn something from new from class and get excited about it, it is from knowing that I have learned a new truth, and that I love learning about truth. When I feel empty despite all the work I’ve done to be a good person/student/friend, it is pointing at the truth that I need something other than myself to fill me up and fuel me. Without emotions, how would we know from right and wrong? Righteousness would then become mere rules and legislation, and there would be no joy in learning what is true.

So often people see truth as a boring, inflexible thing, something that puts people in boxes and limits them. I have a friend who refuses to commit to one truth because she thinks it will limit her ability to relate to people and appreciate art. But I think truth involves action, and that is the action of loving others, which of course involves and is often aided by emotion. We may have differing views on what truth is, but I think most people can agree that things like being kind, being generous, being encouraging, being patient, and so on, are good things i.e. things that align with our truth/our view of what is good. And all those good qualities come from a love for others.

Professor Ashley Pankratz (who, sadly, is not in Geneseo anymore) once shared a quote that talked about writing as an act of love. It is the writer’s attempt to make the world a better place. If so, writing that conveys strong emotion and reveals the weaknesses and struggles of the writer must not be seen as fallacy so much as an act of love and of truth.

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