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The Philosophy of Emotional Epistemology -- Should We Always Listen to Our Heart?

Updated: Apr 29

A one-man command center inspecting a heart-shaped map.

The Treacherous Lens of Emotion: Why "Feeling Real" Doesn't Guarantee Reality

Our emotions are powerful motivators, but when it comes to understanding the world, they can be misleading. We often fall into the trap of assuming that something is "real" simply because it "feels real." However, this is a recipe for error.

Our emotions and opinions exist in a separate realm from reality. Reality doesn't care how we feel about it. It's the sum of everything that exists, independent of our interpretations of it. Our interpretations may effect the world, but only by proxy -- through our actions and behaviors. Our actions can be, even, powerful enough as to serve as circumstances for others to be confined in.

Emotions act as a filter, shaping how we perceive reality, and also what we're doing and not doing in it. That's especially true when we're not logical beings, for logic is also there to govern emotion.

But reality itself is unconcerned with this interpretation, as long as we don't act upon it. It has no consciousness and is a product of actions being done. Practically, your emotions do not mean much if you don't use them. They will forever remain in the shadows of those strong enough to dare to express them. Emotions shape both our perception and behavior. But what worth is a perception that isn't expressed, either by voice or by behavior?

There's a fundamental difference between the subjective and the objective. Subjectivity is colored by our individual experiences, while objectivity exists beyond the experiencer, even though the experiencer can influence it using their experience. We can strive to understand this reality, but it's a reality that can only be filtered through our experiences and interpretations. Using meta-cognition and self-criticism, we do however have a rational way to be partially out of our mental cages.

These interpretations, however, are inevitably influenced by our emotions, our cultural backgrounds, and our ideologies. They never exist in a vacuum. Researching our local environment could in theory reveal more on how we see the world, and be more able to understand that it's skewed, not objective. That's beside our confirmation bias, possibly telling us otherwise. That bias could also make us undermine our affiliation bias, which also has to do with emotion and with perception.

In essence, our attempts to grasp reality are like looking through a lens that's constantly being warped by our feelings and cultural conditioning. Logic, and its improvement, allows us to better examine our currently flawed understanding, and thus improve upon it towards a clearer understanding of the truth.

The Moviegoers: The Paradox of Opposing "Realness"

Emotionality's distortion of how we process and understand information, becomes evident when we consider how subjective experiences can lead to vastly different interpretations of the same event. An inability to associate interpretation and its subject, as seperate, is how we mislead ourselves and our false confidence of knowledge.

Imagine you and a friend watch a movie. The film contains scenes that might be considered provocative. Your cultural background might make you find humor in these scenes, while your friend interprets them as offensive, perhaps due to their religious upbringing. When the movie ends, you share your thoughts. "I really enjoyed it!" you exclaim. Your friend, however, cancels out your experience, and claims, "That was disgusting!"

Here's the key point: both your statements are valid. They stem from your unique experiences and cultural perspectives. There's no objective "good" or "bad" when it comes to this movie because your enjoyment hinges on personal opinion. A "Good movie" is one that yields profit, and that depends on the ability to appeal to as many people as possible.

This financial methodology is not about the truth, but about maximising profit. Therefore, a personal liking of a movie is just as correct as a personal distaste. Claiming that popularity is objective, sins in the ad-populum fallacy.

This is a prime example of how emotions and personal background influence our perception of reality, whether we actively choose that perception, or fail distinguishing between it and the external world. Recognizing this bias is crucial for making informed decisions, and even grow towards greater inclusivity of perceptions.

You might counter-argue, "But wait, how can something be both 'great' and 'disgusting' at the same time?" Logic dictates that A cannot be B if they're entirely different concepts. However, emotions defy logic, in a way that they can deter you from doing the logical next step of a plan. They're shaped by our unique journeys and perspectives, but much of emotion is impression, subjective to associations of biases and fallacies. They're not fact. For a greater understanding of the truth we must not confuse impression with reality.

What one person finds repulsive might elicit laughter from another, especially among the truly evil. Similarly, something inspirational for one person could be utterly dull for another. Logic may discard our emotions for a reason, and may even compel you to lose your emotions, as in my case.

Seeking Meaning in Shared Experiences

While emotions are undeniably subjective, philosophy encourages us to delve deeper. It's not just "feeling real" or "rings true to me" that matters, but the potential for a greater truth and reason hidden within the subjective experiences of others, as the indicators of the external world. As such, reading testimonials, can indeed increase our general understanding of a product or company, unless they are lies covering ulterior motives.

To truly learn and grow, we must understand why someone feels the way they do, even if their response stems from a personal lens. This applies not just to supporters, but also to critics and even those who dislike us.

Consider the analogy of the color gray. It contains both black and white, yet it's not simply black and white combined. This can be regarded as The Colour Paradox, a term I invented long ago.

Similarly, a movie can evoke diverse emotions. It might have comedic aspects alongside serious themes. However, the analogy breaks down when applied to a single scene, such as one containing nudity. That scene can't be inherently "good" or "bad." It may have both positive (artistic) and negative (exploitative) qualities, but it can't be both at the same time. That is unless unless exploitation is a form of art?

This highlights the limitations of judging solely based on emotion. The movie, or the scene in question, existed independently of your or your friend's perception, but without further reasoning to back up one's perception, it doesn't hold much ground beyond its legitimacy to exist. True love, for that matter, proves that all aspects of one's being, including irrational emotion, are legitimate.

But true love is irrational for a reason, as rationality is capable of ruining and industrializing the human experience, than let it blossom. The legitimacy of true love is not on the same grounds of epistemological reasoning. From epistemological lens, emotion is a source of knowledge, with a chance of being unreliable due to emotional bias.

If your friend asks why you enjoyed the movie, simply replying "I enjoyed it" lacks depth. Further understanding is not possible without the necessary depth required to explore and examine it further. It doesn't explain what resonated with you. Logical reasoning isn't about emotions themselves, but about the reasons behind them. And if reality is based on the logical chains of events, then your emotions, a product of reality, are of the same methodology. After all, emotions and reality are in a constant interplay of mutual influence.

Your enjoyment stems from your personal experience, which is a product of some inherent quality of the movie. The event "joy" cannot occur from the movie if there was no movie being experienced by the mind. The same applies to your friend finding it disgusting. The nudity within the hypothetical scene isn't inherently bad, but one's personal and cultural history have the power to render their emotions as completely different than yours.

Embracing Reason in the Pursuit of Greater Clarity of Reality

Understanding different societies could also help you understand the biases different people from different societies, could in theory be prone to. However, keeping an open mind, and being prepared to be proven wrong, is how you can avoid concepts such as racism and sexism from clouding your assertions.

As such, saying the pornographic material felt "great" simply means it sparked positive emotions in you, not that the material itself possesses some objective greatness. Attributing your internal experience to the object itself, as a necessary part of that object is a logical fallacy of mis-attachment.

Distinction between the different actors of reality, your emotions included, can give you the capacity to understand reality better, independently of your emotions. The "inhumane" part of logic occurs when your emotions are compelled to be canceled as be rendered irrelevant to the general context, when they are too unreliable to improve the accuracy of objective reception of reality. As such, in Rubinshteinic Content Theory, I've found that our emotions are weakness.

And all emotions are, by nature, biased, as they are fleeting and prone to constant shifts of change. Even your bodily functions, such as being hungry, can alter how you see reality.

Our emotions are powerful motivators, but when it comes to understanding the world, they can be a treacherous guide, deserving of constant doubt. While acknowledging our feelings is important, mistaking them for objective reality hinders our progress for a clearer understanding.

This is where philosophy comes in – it encourages us to delve deeper, seeking the reasons behind emotions, both our own and those of others. This relentless examination can help you understand the bigger powers at play in our perception and emotion, like in the proxy wars of the Cold War Era as an allegory.

What if your judgement of something, for example, has to do with trauma? What if you feel like you're being attacked, even though you're not, because of your personal history with violence? Does your trauma with violence is a good reason for a non-existing threat in the world, to come out of thin air?

Relying solely on emotions to determine reality is ultimately self-deceptive, and a "good" way to shoot yourself in the foot, as you delude yourself from understanding not only reality but also other people, who exist independently of you. This is why an intense feeling can easily lead us down a path of illogical conclusions and disregard for evidence through fallacies such as the Strawman's Fallacy and Whataboutism.

Philosophy offers a path forward by overcoming the emotional aspects of the self. It encourages us to move beyond the initial emotional response, explore its roots, and understand that the roots do not have to have that much of a power over us.

Why did this movie scene evoke disgust in your friend? What made the humor resonate with you? By understanding these underlying reasons, we can build bridges between subjective experiences and objective reality. This requires a healthy dose of reason, the ability to analyze our emotions and the evidence before us.

The Dance Between: Embracing Complexity for Growth

The relationship between our emotions and the world is intricate. Emotions aren't useless, especially when they are actually right. They are signals that can guide us.

However, relying solely on them as a compass can lead us astray. Philosophy teaches us to better understand the complexity of this dynamic, extensive interplay between reason, emotion, perception and action, in the grand theatre of reality, whose scenes are unfolding every second.

Acknowledging the power of emotions while using reason as a guiding light, allows us to embrace both, thus enhancing our learning efficency and growth. That is while fostering a clearer understanding of the world that exists beyond the confines of our minds.

Mr. Nathan Lasher's Feedback

Isn’t everything real if given the right context? Are emotions always in the shadows? Mr. Tomasio forgets the fact that the world has a very high EQ by nature. Humans are emotional creatures.
I believe emotions are the true culprit to every war we’ve ever had. Look at the American revolutionary war. It was based solely on the emotions Americans had about the british. Isn’t every war the result of someone being upset about something?
Human beings have a whole history with experience of emotions. Once we learn how to feel a way about something it is almost engraved in us to feel that same way about all related things. "Due to the brain’s proclivity to form habits, repeated focus eventually yields rigid sequences of conditioned responses, which we experience as habits. These shape the day-to-day experience that forms the fabric of our lives by default." (Psychology today).
We miss out on so much as a result of how something else makes us feel. Part of the subjectivity Mr. Tomasio talks about is the fact all humans have different cognitive features and history with emotions.
It should also be noted that subjectivity can be a family trait where an entire family can feel a certain way about one particular thing all because that is how your family feels about it. It does raise a question. Is the reason for emotions being so subjective, because of personal preference which you pick up from your family? Like, "I shall feel this way because my parents do"

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Tomasio A. Rubinshtein, Philosocom's Founder & Writer

I am a philosopher from Israel, author of several books in 2 languages, and Quora's Top Writer of the year 2018. I'm also a semi-hermit who has decided to dedicate his life to writing and sharing my articles across the globe. Several podcasts on me, as well as a radio interview, have been made since my career as a writer. More information about me can be found here.

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