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Theory of Knowledge: Emotion and Reason

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In order for an individual to make a decision a process of reason must take place. While emotion is not quite needed, it involuntarily plays a part, sometimes without the individual even realizing it. This is where bias decisions can take place, which in some cases can be a problem. However, emotion can play an important role in decision making when it comes to ones personal needs or moral beliefs. In order to understand how and how much each part plays a role in justifying a moral decision we must first understand the difference between reason and emotion and how they can intertwine during decision making.

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Reason plays a role when emotion is regarded as an unreliable source to gain knowledge. A majority of an individual’s reasoning is done unconsciously. For example, a person can reason if something is safe or not by simply looking at their surroundings. Many experiments have proven that the unconscious brain is able to gather data much faster than the conscious brain.

It filters out information to use in the cognitive decision making process and therefore results in the reasoning of the decision maker.

Emotion is a less tangible and measurable than the other senses. This is because every individual is affected in a different way by their emotions. Bias decision-making can occur when an individual has a strong emotional connection to one side of a situation. Reason can be completely overlooked when this happens and their emotion takes over. For example, if an individual was accused of murdering the child of Mr. and Mrs. Brown (names chosen at random) and was on trial, the parents of the victim would see the story differently than the jury.

This is because the parents strong emotions of losing their child take over their logical reasoning, while the jury has no relation to the child or the family and therefore their emotions do not play a role in their decision making, they are simply using reason and logical process to gain truth. The situation above shows how emotion does not have to play a role in justifying a moral decision when the situation at hand has nothing to do with the decision maker personally. But what if you knew of a guilty loved one? Reason would say that the individual is guilty, loved one or not, and the right thing to do is to report them.

However, reason is not the only factor in this decision. Because the guilty individual is a loved one emotion also plays a part. You know if you report them they will go to jail, you know the consequences of their actions, and this is where you would ask yourself “do I really want to do this? ”. However, even though your emotions are involved you would still use reason to gain facts and conditions to come up with the conclusion. As you can see from the two examples above, context is a major part in making justified moral decisions.

Before justification of a decision can take place a person needs to know the basis of the situation at hand and the circumstances that situation has. This is extremely important because in different cultures or religions things can be morally right or wrong depending on what an individual’s culture or religion is. For example, on my fathers side of the family there are Jehovah’s Witnesses and my father used to be one as well. On my mothers side there are Catholics and my mother is also a former Catholic. Within the Jehovah’s Witness religion members are discouraged to marry outside of the religion, as well as Catholics.

It was a common thought that one of them must convert to the others religion but neither families liked that idea at all, so when my parents started to get into a serious relationship there was a conflict of moral beliefs from their families. Myself, being an Atheist, believe that if two people are in love, they should be able to get married whether they are from two different religions or not, that is my moral belief. But the contrasting religious beliefs of my parents families won out and both of my parents left their religion to be married.

My parents both had to make a difficult justified moral decision to leave their religions. They had to use both reason and emotion to make the justified moral decision of leaving their religions when leaving each other was out of the question. The point of sharing this story is to show how different moral beliefs can come from different religions. The belief of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Catholics, and my own were all very different and in these situations there is no correct or incorrect solution. Should a person follow the rules of their religion? Or should love always win?

The answer to those questions depends on the moral beliefs of the individual. As you can see, religion is an area where beliefs can clash, and therefore making a justified moral decision can be difficult. An area of knowledge where this difficulty can also take place is ethics. Within the United States there are thirty-three states that use the death penalty and seventeen that do not. The death penalty is only used in the most severe crimes, such as murder. But one could argue that killing a murderer is still wrong because whether the person is a murderer or not, killing him would still be wrong.

As Gandhi would say, “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. ” But on the other hand if a person takes a life, then they should lose theirs as well, “a life for a life” (Exodus 21:23). These are conflicting ethics within the states of our own country. In order for these ethics to have formed emotion and reason must have taken place to come to the conclusion if the death penalty is right or wrong when a murderer is in question. I think that everyone can agree that taking a life is wrong, but what if it’s the life of a murderer?

Someone who has already taken a life? Does that fact alone justify their death? Or is taking anyones life wrong, whether it be an innocent person or a murderer? These are the kinds of questions one must think of when discussing ethics. Personally, I believe that one cannot possibly use only emotion or only reason when justifying a moral issue. I believe that both sides have to play a part in order for the decision made to be justifiable. Reason is what we use to list the facts and circumstances of a situation and calculate what is the best thing to do.

Emotion is what makes us different from other creatures, its what makes us human. Emotion allows us to feel the decisions we make and tells us if they are right or wrong without waiting for an outcome. While reason tends to take over the decision making, for something to be a justified moral decision emotion must play an equal part. No decision is wrong if a person can justify why they made the choice they did. A decision with reason alone could result immoral, but with emotions that morality remains evident throughout the decision making process and therefore results in a justified moral decision.

Cite this Theory of Knowledge: Emotion and Reason

Theory of Knowledge: Emotion and Reason. (2017, Jan 23). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/theory-of-knowledge-emotion-and-reason/

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