login about faq

If decisions made according to the heart lead to acts of evil, can it be said that emotions themselves are a form of evil, because it can lead to, as Ayn Rand puts it, someone turning into a mystic of muscle or faith? If I like a girl even though she's not particularly smarter than me, and kind of liberal, am I doing something wrong? I genuinely like her presence. She's kind and caring, and is a very independent person--something I admire--but she's a liberal, and that's where I question myself on whether or not I'm judging the situation according to my heart or mind. My question is: Are human emotions bad? (Plus, she's really hot).

asked Dec 24 '11 at 21:03

Collin1's gravatar image


Is food bad because it can make you fat?

Your emotional capacity is a tool, a mental counterpart to your physical pain/pleasure mechanism, but whereas the latter is basically unalterable, you must "set" your emotions, so to speak, by automatizing the correct premises, or making clear in your head the proper ideas from which your emotions ought to flow.

To paraphrase Leonard Peikoff, "think, and you shall feel." You seem to understand that reason alone should guide your actions, but that doesn't mean emotions don't have a place; you simply have to use them appropriately, as inducement to do or refrain from doing certain things.

Analogize this to pleasure and pain. You feel good when you eat tasty food. However, if you only rely on taste, you might get sick. Should you therefore have surgery to numb your sense of taste so as to ensure you never eat on its basis again? No, that would be totally unnecessary and harmful, considering you can simply choose to eat rationally and then have your taste buds reward you for it.

In short, there is no reason to destroy an esthetically pleasing hammer just because you could stare at it all day instead of using it to build a house.

answered Dec 24 '11 at 22:22

CrownOfTheVirtues's gravatar image

CrownOfTheVirtues ♦

Yanking one hand back from touching a hot stove, squinting in bright sunlight - are automatic reflexes to the stimuli experienced. Similarly, emotions are an automatic lightening fast response to what one is presented with at the moment, but they are not, as such, a tool of cognition.

If you brandished a gun at a toddler, they would likely regard it with the same curiosity they apply to the rest of the world they encounter. Contrast this with brandishing a gun to an adult - the combination of seeing the gun is processed against what that individual knows about guns and even the individual brandishing it. The emotional response is more or less a summation of the equation which is constructed from what one knows about all the relative factors involved.

To the extent the ideas one holds are true, an emotion can provide quick, gut-level guidance to a situation. If an emotion is inappropriate to the situation at hand, it can be a tool for introspection to discover an idea that one holds which causes them to feel that way.

Emotions, in and of themselves, are amoral. As an automatic response, emotions just are.

Your identification of kind, caring and independent relate to attributes you value. Your identification of liberalness points to an attribute you have reservations about. The fact that you are questioning yourself about your judgment of the situation suggests you are using the emotion as a tool to evaluate what ideas you hold lead you to this emotional response. You are in essence, asking if the emotion you are experiencing is appropriate to what you know and hold to be true.

To put it in Miss Rand's words in "The Ayn Rand Letter
Vol. III, No. 10 February 11, 1974
Philosophical Detection--Part II:

"An emotion as such tells you nothing about reality, beyond the fact that something makes you feel something. Without a ruthlessly honest commitment to introspection—to the conceptual identification of your inner states—you will not discover what you feel, what arouses the feeling, and whether your feeling is an appropriate response to the facts of reality, or a mistaken response, or a vicious illusion produced by years of self-deception."

answered Dec 24 '11 at 22:35

dream_weaver's gravatar image

dream_weaver ♦

Follow this question

By Email:

Once you sign in you will be able to subscribe for any updates here



Answers and Comments

Share This Page:



Asked: Dec 24 '11 at 21:03

Seen: 1,629 times

Last updated: Dec 24 '11 at 22:35