Divine Neutrality, Blog. Science, Philosophy

Emotion and Reason

December 17th, 2014

Emotion has taught mankind to reason

Marquis de Vauvenargues 1715-1747

What is it that captures us about these words? It is this. They appear to contradict common opinion which holds that emotion is the antithesis of reason; behavior is either emotional or reasonable.

We want to survive. We want to reproduce. Why? Can we justify these ‘wants’ rationally? We wanted these things long before they were attributed to biological evolution. Or demanded by religions. We can’t reasonably justify our desires by these. We reasonably justify wanting a particular key because it’s the one that fits the lock. But wanting to survive or to reproduce is fundamentally irrational. There’s no reason to want them. These drives are purely emotional.

But in order to service these emotions we need logic; we need rational assessments of how the world around us works. These assessments are what it takes to gratify our emotional need to survive.  It is emotion that drives us to reason.

Reason surely arose from trying to resolve these opposites: security and nourishment. To eat and not be eaten. The mind perceives the current event. It correlates it with all its past history of experience. And, by the power of logic, it guides the individual on how best to survive. (more…)

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March 24th, 2014

Probability of the Improbable

According to Deirdre Bair, biographer of C. J. Jung, (“Jung”, Little Brown, 2003) the term ‘synchronicity’ was introduced by the well known psychologist that was her subject.

Synchronicity refers to a confluence of events that is so startling and improbable as to constitute a miracle – usually received as a blessing conferred by unknown and unfathomable forces in nature.  It is currently popular among devotees of the mystical and supernatural. For them it validates their belief that nature has aspects that are beyond access to the methods of science.

Synchronicity is a highly improbable conjunction of events that may be received as a message or insight delivered to enter ones consciousness from the universe itself. You are in distress and have abandonned hope when, lo, someone arrives unexpectedly whose presence precisely meets your needs. This is the classic generic synchronicity. You gave your precious and only shawl to your aunt who was suffering from the cold. The next day you receive, quite unexpectedly, a gift from someone. It is a shawl of just the same weave and fabric. Synchronicity, is what your friends call this improbable event.

But, we may ask ourselves, what, in fact, is the probability of the improbable? With what frequency may we expect events that we might deem improbable? Are they, in fact, more probable than we think! Does our intuition compute probabilities differently than does mathematics? According to psychologist Daniel Kahneman, “Thinking Fast and Slow”, (2011) that is exactly the case.

Do we mistake for magical synchronicity, events that are merely less-than-probable? I propose we can answer this question via a conceptual model.


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June 22nd, 2013

Righteous Indignation As Temper Tantrum

righteous indignation

Righteous Indignation is a Temper Tantrum

What he practiced was Fine Art.
It issued from his being.
His brush was sure, his color strong.
He had the gift of seeing.

So when the lady said to him,
“May I commission you?”
He swelled a bit, elation hid,
said, “What would you have me do?”

“The carpet’s pea green here, you see.
The wall’s a delicate pink.
A piece just there above the chair.
Perhaps a pen and ink?”

‘Innocent enthusiasm’
describes her inspiration.
“A philistine”, was what he thought.
“Picks art for decoration.”

“Would bind my work, not let it free.
Offends my art. Indignant me!

“Righteous indignation,
as bitter as it’s sweet,
is but a temper tantrum
when I don’t get my treat.

“Though blind to it have I not always
worked within constraint:
My moods and pains, shape of frame,
the pallette of my paint.

“What then is art but style and fluff;
Novel structures, whatever stuff.
Where now green rug and wall sits bare,
I’ll make beauty sparkle there.”


At the very core of righteous indignation is this reckoning:

“I don’t like the world as it is. What I encounter doesn’t suit me. I want it to be otherwise.”

Petulant thoughts like those that drive a child having a temper tantrum.

But that very same righteous indignation motivates people to action;
to right wrongs,
to secure justice
. . as it motivates others
to persecute opponents and
to commit mayhem on occasion.

We live with a symbiosis of incompatibles.

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