Emotions and Epistemology
Updated: May 14
Our emotions can delude us and bias our view of reality. When we claim that something is "real" because it "feels real," we are more likely to be wrong. Our emotions and opinions are independent of reality, and reality is independent of them. Our emotions attempt to interpret reality, and reality does not care about how it is interpreted. Reality has no consciousness, and it is simply the accumulation of all existent things in a great void.
Subjectivity is always relative to the experience of the subject, while the objective is beyond the experience of the experiencer. Objective reality, the true reality, can only be experienced and interpreted, but never known beyond the experience and the interpretation. Both experience and interpretation are always biased by momentary feelings and by one's cultural framework.
For example, let's say you and another person watch a movie. You and the other person may feel different emotions because you come from different cultural backgrounds. If the movie, let's say, contains pornographic material, you may enjoy it while the other person may shake in disgust. In the end of the movie, you tell each other how the movie was.
You may say that you enjoyed the movie, while the other person may say that they were disgusted by it. Both of your statements are valid, because they are based on your own subjective experiences. There is no objective way to say whether the movie was good or bad, because it is a matter of opinion.
This is just one example of how our emotions and opinions can bias our view of reality. It is important to be aware of this bias, so that we can make more informed decisions about our lives.
You may say, "It was great!" and your friend may reply, "Are you kidding me? It was disgusting!". Both of your opposite emotions were about the movie, and they both felt "real"; the exact "real" you may state in your question. According to logic, something cannot be A and B together if A and B are entirely different things.
However, emotions are not logical. They are subjective and based on our individual experiences and perspectives. What one person finds disgusting, another person may find hilarious. What one person finds inspiring, another person may find boring.
So, it is perfectly possible for two people to have opposite emotions about the same thing. It doesn't mean that one person is right and the other person is wrong. It just means that we all experience the world differently.
In philosophy, what should matter is the truth or reason that we can find in other people's subjective experiences. If we are to learn from anyone and anything, as I am trying to do, then it matters to me why someone responded in a certain way. The fact that their response was subjective does not matter here. What matters is whatever reason we can salvage from that experience. This includes our critics, haters, and supporters.
Pay attention: It can contain both, like the color gray contains black and white. However, the color gray cannot be black and white together, only in union, but not as the same thing. The same thing goes for the movie: it cannot be “good” and “bad” altogether. It can combine “good” and “bad” elements, but never be both.
Now, let’s focus on a scene in the movie that contained pornographic material. The pornographic moment can’t be “good” and “bad” together; it can’t be fantastic and great, horrible and disgusting, altogether. Either one of you is wrong, or the other is correct, or you are both wrong.
A problem with momentary emotion is that emotions are not objective criteria for determining evidence that happens beyond our consciousness. The movie played beyond your and your friend’s consciousness.
If your friend asks you why you enjoyed a movie, and you reply "I enjoyed it," you are providing insufficient evidence. This is not because your opinion is not a collective one, but because coherent logical reasoning has nothing to do with the emotions of the reasoner. By saying you enjoyed it, you are simply telling your friend your personal experience, not something about the movie itself beyond your experience.
The same logic applies if you ask your friend why they found a movie disgusting and they reply "it contained pornographic material." This is because pornographic material exists beyond your consciousness and is not dependent on your consciousness. It has nothing to do with your consciousness as a distinct object.
Saying that you "really" feel that the pornographic material was great is just a way of saying in English that it felt very great to you, not that the material itself was great. Saying that the material itself was great is therefore, theoretically, hypocritical because you are claiming something that you feel about it is real as if it really existed beyond the sphere of your own subjectivity.
Even if you “really” feel something, it simply means that you feel it (as in, “It is true that I feel this emotion right now”), or feel it very much (as in, “I really, really feel it”), and that’s it. It does not mean that the thing you feel about it exists beyond your feelings. “Really” feeling – or thinking, for this instance – means that the feeling and thought is real within your subjective realm (or inter-subjective if others feel it as well), and nothing more.
This is why relying on emotions to determine what is real or unreal is delusional and does not actually contribute to your progress to understand reality beyond whatever feeling is that you currently feel.
The tide of a feeling can easily cause you to create a logical fallacy, ignore evidence, or both, while attempting to understand reality as independent of you (which really is – no pun intended). Hence the immense misleading power of emotional bias, and the opponent it is in the search for a better clarity and recognition of the World Beyond the Mind.