Prescribed Title No. 10: There can be no knowledge without emotion
. until we have felt the force of the knowledge, it is not ours (adapted from Arnold Bennett). Discuss this vision of the relationship between knowledge and emotion.
The correlation between reason and emotion is not always clear. Intuitively, one may conclude that there is none and that the two states operate separately of each other within the deep wells of our minds. Upon scrutiny, however, one can observe that the faculties, though entirely different, work together to produce knowledge.
According to Merriam-Webster, emotion is the affective aspect of consciousness.1 Thus, emotion is the way by which we become acquainted with our surroundings. Reason is the power of comprehending, inferring, or thinking especially in orderly rational ways.2 In this way, emotion is the tool of reason. Through sensation and feeling, one obtains tangible evidence of entities beyond oneself. Touch, taste, sight, sound, and smell work together to paint a picture that only reason can understand and translate into knowledge.
Reason organizes these sensations in such a way as to bestow upon individuals in the pursuit of knowledge a golden key of sorts to the gate of innovation. Reason holds control over emotion and can wield it as yet another apparatus in its investigation of the surrounding world. Although it seems as if reason can operate alone and simply utilizes emotions and sensations to operate successfully, evidence exists to prove that this is not the case. The psychologist Antonio Damasio once treated a man identified as Elliot. Elliot suffered from damage to the emotional center of his brain and was thus unable to make simple decisions, although he seemed able to pass IQ tests in the same manner as before his accident. He relied on rationality alone and became what Damasio dubs a rational fool (van de Lagemaat 155). Therefore, one can conclude that reason and emotion have a co-dependant relationship. Reason relies on emotion to function and emotion relies on reason in a similar manner. As explained in the aforementioned example, reason alone leaves individuals in a state of mental paralysis (van de Lagemaat 155), where they cannot maneuver through the decision-making process, as emotions are not present to guide them. Emotion itself cannot function detached either; such will be further elaborated later in this essay.
This relationship is not, however, the one outlined in Arnold Bennetts statement. The one, which one finds within his words, is the opposite. It is emotion controlling reason or in a different manner of speaking, fueling reason. Emotion may give individuals the extra incentive to pursue knowledge. Indeed, emotion provides humanity with a drive for knowledge. This drive is innate; it is an inexplicable longing for truth about our world and ourselves.
One cannot truly own knowledge without the impetus for knowledge. Passion allows one to give oneself to this pursuit, to succumb to the drive and discover. Until one does just that, knowledge is forever out of ones reach. Floating in the abyss past fingertips unable to grasp it or in most cases, unable to hold on to it. Jeff Oxenford comments on this phenomenon in his web log. Having helped his daughter with her science project he observes that her enthusiasm for the subject allows her to run a variety of tests. Her enthusiasm seemed to disappear when she was forced to write a report on her work only to reemerge later when she relayed her scientific adventure to her grandmother3. In this way, her passion allowed her to capture and retain the knowledge she gained from her experiment and even write a decent report no matter how tedious. One can infer from this example that emotion gives those involved in the never-ending search for knowledge energy to continue said search.
Thomas Edison once said, Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.4 In other words, the hunt for comprehension of our world is tedious and even tiresome it requires dedication to the subject that that one percent inspiration provides. That one percent is an immense emotional energy to preserve and accomplish what one sets out to accomplish. It gives us patience and passion and may be the source of most of mans greatest breakthroughs. It should be noted that some do occur simply by serendipity but even these only do so because some individual spent enough time looking for another such knowledge before finding the data in question. The process of finding knowledge is time-consuming and dreary, without this inspiration, without this drive for knowledge, man would not set out to attempt to warrant and contain awareness of our ever-changing world and our current situations would be greatly altered.
In addition, a subset of emotions and emotional knowledge is intuition and beliefs that do not come from experience. These can influence the way we view rationality and even the accumulation of knowledge. Indeed, one cannot own knowledge unless it fits in with ones intrinsic values or unless it comfortably allows one to adopt new values that fit the knowledge itself. Some such values and belief can lead to rationalizations that may bring to an end to the search of knowledge itself as these emotional prejudices make it difficult for one to be objective.
Although, Arnold Bennett may not have meant such with his quotation, emotion can indeed be a detriment to reason and its pursuit. Feelings can change the way one makes decisions and influence another way of knowing: perception. The way individuals view the world affects the conclusions that they make about the world. Thus, knowledge cannot be completely ours if we obtain it in a biased process. One does not feel the full force of the knowledge but instead what our preconceived notion held within our emotions allows us to discern. This statement contradicts the original statement made by Mr. Bennett, however, as he asserts that emotion is necessary to become cognizant of knowledge. Nevertheless, a control of emotion is necessary as well, since emotion, when allowed to roam free, can make reason its slave and transform the knowledge one obtains. For that reason, emotion alone can turn individuals into creatures of instinct who accomplish nothing significant but the simplistic of survival mechanisms. Emotion that channels reason can accomplish an infinite many of things, however, and one must utilize both in order to attain knowledge.
Therefore, knowledge cannot be owned and understood unless one also understands its emotional significance, a significance that seems to strengthen the one attaining knowledge. This significance is essentially the one that gives us the emotional energy required to further our search for knowledge. Although emotion may galvanize the quest, it may conversely consume the very individuals that quest. Passion proves imperative, however, though the danger of mental and in some cases physical eradication always exists. Passion is a demanding mistress that asks for much but gives little in return. Little, that is, until the final breakthrough that in most cases takes years to reach. Arnold Bennett may have implied that knowledge is not truly ours until we allow ourselves to be taken over by this passion even though logic and to an extent, reason advises us against this action. Once we commit the final emotional sacrifice that allows us to become part of the process and ultimately lose a small part of ourselves in exchange for a great spectrum of knowledge and acumen, then in that moment, knowledge becomes ones possession, a tangible piece of success that can never be relinquished.
Van De Lagemaat, Richard. Theory of Knowledge. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2005. 145-165.