Apr 192011
Authors: Shane Rohlender

Emotion is powerful.

Reason is powerful.

But do the two mix?

Last week in my deliberative techniques class we discussed emotion. This discussion got me thinking hard about what emotion is and just how much it affects my everyday life. Too often in scholarship, reason is favored over emotion and “emotional” people are frowned upon. This column is meant to complicate that notion.

A few common beliefs about emotion are:

  • Emotion helps you recognize who you are, what you like, and what you need.
  • Emotion enables you to understand and empathize with others.
  • Emotion triggers communicative skills beyond the verbal — hence, it helps you communicate messages clearly.
  • Emotion helps you make decisions — whether those decisions are good or bad is arbitrary; they were still weighed and made, as opposed to weighed and stayed.
  • Finally, emotion motivates you to action.

Obviously, we have over-simplified emotion by bracketing it into these five categories. We all know that emotion is seldom, if ever, that simple because it is linked to “the self,” or human consciousness. The question is, is emotion an intrinsic or extrinsic act of consciousness?

Human consciousness has been debated and pondered by philosophers for centuries. Aristotle coined the phrase, “we perceive that we are perceiving,” alluding to the idea that consciousness is intrinsic and infinite because we cannot identify a body part responsible for creating it. A simpler way of saying this is: The little voice that talks to you and tells you that you are watching x, y, or z happen is what we call “consciousness.”

So, how does our emotion vs. reason dichotomy play into this?

Since emotion is unidentifiable — you can’t grab it, bottle it up and label it happy or sad — it stands to reason that it is intrinsic.

If this is true, emotion is inextricable from reason because that little voice that tells you not to touch the stove because you’ll get burned is the same one that tells you you’re sad.

Take the analogy of a mixing bowl holding the proper mix of dough and chocolate chips for making chocolate chip cookies. It is near impossible to separate the chocolate chips from the dough once they’ve been mixed. Furthermore, the product, void of either the dough, or the chocolate chips, would not be recognized as a chocolate chip cookie upon coming out of the oven. Separating the two causes and extrinsic flaw, but the separation happens intrinsically.

What this analogy is meant to show is that reason and emotion cannot be separated. If they are, the knowledge we claim to have of a certain issue — the product we pull from the oven — is facsimiled knowledge. It is knowledge robbed of intrinsic cohesion –– separated where it should be joined.

So, who cares?

Well, you should. Politicians, marketers and your peers use emotional appeals to motivate you to act, all the while telling you to be reasonable. A better understanding of emotion will help you better understand exactly what a person is saying, and exactly how that little voice inside your head — i.e. your consciousness, or your cookie mix — is telling you to present yourself.

The more you accept that the chocolate chips and dough are inextricable, the sweeter cookie you will be. You will have a full understanding of your inner self and the better understand your inner-self, the better the external “self” will be presented. With a better presentation of your external self –– the way you’re perceived, say, in a job interview, will be more favorable.

Job interviews are emotional in nature, but your potential employer expects reasonable, not emotional, answers to questions. Hence, by embracing the fact that emotion and reason are linked, you are able to answer questions holistically and your potential employer will see you as irresistible as a perfectly made chocolate chip cookie.

Of course, I could have made all this up. How does that make you feel?

Shane Rohleder is a senior communication studies major. His column appears Wednesdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 3:27 pm

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