This is probably a fairly common one, but a good subject of debate.
I'm squishy and I whine a lot, so once I got a good punch in the face when a man told me something like this:
"No decision made by emotion is a good one."

Which I dispelled completely at first glance, but unfortunately I gave it a second thought. It seems that even with moral issues, you absolutely have to address logic. And often, logic does win. Is there a situation you can think of where the "emotional" decision wins over a more logical approach? Or do we say that logic and emotion are more separated than they are?

Which option do you find yourself catering to?  Stereotypically, Atheists are very cold, after all.








Tags: emotion, logic, morality

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Jason, I usually run everything through the spell checker first but I was rushing. I think alternative hotlines based on reality might have some use. You could have a hotline for people who were upset that their predictions were not working out so well.
It could be called The Not Psychics Hotline.
I use both *depending on the situation*, but logic tends to be the one used the most. For instance if I see a homeless person on the street I may feel sorry for them and give them some money, now I know the odds are that they will take it and buy their drug or booze of choice, but my emotions trump that in hopes that they may actually use it on food or water. But on big issues *like family size* logic wins everytime. While yes I see sweet little babies and sometimes get that warm fuzzy feeling before I grab the mustard and bread...*j/k*, I know that having another child is irrational. So I toss those emotions aside. It's a balancing act, but at the end of the day if you think about it we are still using logic to figure out if we should allow our emotions to help guide a decision or just reason alone.
Any action we take has two elements to it:

  • Energy
  • Direction

Energy in this discussion maybe nothing more than release of kinetic forces ... or it may be emotion admixed with that. Direction is what sets a vector apart from a scalar, and that is represented by logic, discipline and control. Point being, if you're going to act, you need both and if you're going to act effectively, you need LOTS of BOTH.

I'm not certain that the decision-making process is any different. Decisions based solely on either emotion or logic may work ... or they may result in energy expended wastefully without result or in a result gained without satisfaction.

As with so many other things, neither is sufficient by itself, yet the two, balanced and operating in concert, may be astonishingly effective.
It need not be a "vs" situation; it can be win/win for both logic and emotional well-being.

An analogy is one's life as an airline, with the emotions being the passengers. They're the reason we're in business, and they tell us where we need to go, and their best interests are what we're all about. Still, we sure don't let them come up into the cockpit and fly the plane.
I've thought a lot about logic vs emotion most of my life, thanks to the way vulcans are portrayed on Star Tek, hehe.

I agree, it's not exactly an either or situation. Emotion will cloud reason, and often does.
The truth of things is obvious on many subjects once you learn to separate your emotional investments from the facts. But who wants to live without the great joy and passion emotion brings? The way I think about it, we are developing an ability to view the world with our emotions kept in check, but not obliterated.

The way it was presented in the NOVA series, apes have no connections with their emotional centers, it is out of their hands to control and they're overwhelmed by them. We humans are developing the ability to "flex" this emotional region of the brain, it's no longer something we are left to the mercy of, we can consciously choose to let these emotions flood us or we can resist them.

Logic is not some cold institution to be opposed, as it is presented in Star Trek. Logic is simply the systematic process of understanding. You cannot understand or think without it, because it simply is understanding and thinking.
I agree with most of the responses. We need both emotion and logic working together to make decisions. Certain kinds of decisions are better left to the emotional part of our brains, or at least dominated by that part. Jonah Lehrer wrote a book on this subject entitled "How We Decide".
See this 4 minute video:
When Instinct Trumps Reason - Jonah Lehrer
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V2nPDM_Clic&feature=related

I made a bad decision a few years ago and thought afterwards: how could I screw up so badly when I gave it sufficient thought. Now I know that the problem was not that I didn't think enough but that I thought too much and discounted what my emotional brain was telling me. There were too many variables for the rational part of my brain to handle. I should have done my research and slept over it, then made the decision.
We have all made stupid (or at least unwise) emotion based decisions. I turned down a job that many would have killed for that was, in retrospect, for meaningless emotional reasons. I regret the decision but I don't dwell on it.
The two paths are not easily separated - a perfectly logical decision may be made with the goal of satisfing an emotional need or desire. Our emotions restrain or temper the harshness of a logical solution but logic brings a perspective to our emotional desires or impulses.
If you oversimplify cognition for a second and divide the brain into three realms - reptile (instinct), emotional, and reason - you will find that only the first two ever actually make decisions. Reason is the best at creating assessments - decision trees, pro/con tables, cost benefit analysis, etc. But, left on its own, the reasoning mind is incapable of 'pulling the trigger.'

When we are confronted with the need for a decision, the reptile brain will take over (or try to) if it perceives a threat or an immediate survival opportunity. After that, consider how quickly and readily children will make a decision when their choices are not encumbered by the 'reason' of an adult. Because they have so little experience of their own - their reason is an incredibly weak factor and they may only have to decide a conflict between their fears and desires.

Nevertheless, if reason were anywhere near strong enough to actually be in charge - there would be no war, no sexually transmitted disease, no obesity, no smoking, and, most certainly, no religion.

There would also, probably, be no human race - because it takes the rashness of fools to blaze some of the trails into the unknown that have allowed us to avoid extinction.
Yes, the Drake Equation leads to the Fermi Paradox, something all too often never considered in science fiction. The idea that most intelligent species eventually kill themselves off is in many ways a good thing. This ensures that the only species able to traverse interstellar distance would be the ones able to rise above destruction, as the ability to destroy one's world comes far down the chain before the tech needed for such travel would be developed. So in a way, that species would have to be benign, which really is good for little species like us who fear the aliens coming to take our resources. It's really laughable, as such a species would easily be able to harness the properties of matter and create inexhaustible levels of resources, never having to prey on the weaker. It's a shame this isn't worked into %99 of the scifi I've come across, there are ways around it of course to still get a suitably scary villain from the stars while treading the line of what is plausible.
"no decision made by emotion alone is a good one" seems more logical to me. I can't choose between them, I'm always balancing the two and I try not to give preference to either one of them.
I think that logic is our best means of determining how to accomplish a goal, and emotions are the way we determine what that goal is. Simplistic, but certainly pithy! On a perhaps more logical lane, emotions seem likely to have had a beneficial effect since they are both ubiquitous and powerfully efficacious.
Some effects are obvious, for example the interaction between emotions and the adrenal system.
It seems to me, although I have sparse evidence, that emotions often serve to guide us when urgency discourages rational thought. Possibly emotional motivation developed as a precursor to rationality?
Hum.. I'm going to say one but then i'll have to explain: veganism. It is an emotional decision if you're doing it for ethical reasons. I'm vegan because I love animals and I see zero reason to cause the pain, suffering, or death of an animal just for my pleasure. I believe killing for fun is completely cruel. That being said, there's no logical reason against veganism either. I can live a full lifespan and be healthy with less diseases than a meat eater in addition to helping animals and the environment. Compassion is, however, strictly emotional and not logical.

The same could be said for being against child abuse or sex slaves or circumcision.. you are against them because they hurt people- there's only a reason to be against them if you emotionally care about people. A sociopath or a narcissist, for example, would likely not care about any of these things and our only argument to them could be "but it's just morally wrong because it hurts them!" but a sociopath won't care if someone is harmed as long as it doesn't effect them. Even abortion and gay rights can be chalked up to the fact that we care about women and the lgbt community as human beings.

Thanks for asking this question! I didn't even know my answer until now!

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