The French Enlightenment has Distorted Our Understanding of Emotions

Wall of Emotions
Wall of Emotions

The French Enlightenment heralded the promise of human rationality to solve human problems. Voltaire, Rousseau, Newton, and Locke reacted to the religious wars of  the 17th Century by denigrating what they saw as the role of the emotions in fomenting the human devastation associated with decades of brutal butchery by people who claimed to be suffused with love for humanity.

Given human tendencies to dichotomize, we should not be surprised that the potential misuse of reason to lead to similar butchery was ignored as completely as was the constructive role that our emotions can play in guiding our behavior. 

The point of this post is to assist in seeing emotion, like reason, as a tool–one capable of abuse AND inspiration.  If I am successful, I hope you will pursue this thought by studying Martha Nussbaum’s argument for the intelligence of emotions.

Intelligence of Emotions


Take a look at this video clip from the documentary MIDWAY. Emotions

Do you think that some emotional reactions to this video clip are more consistent with improving human behavior than others?  In other words, is there not a powerful and important intelligence operating here? Would not the acting on those emotional responses be sensible and advisable? 

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