Re: Plea (was ExI: Cognitive Extropians)

Lee Daniel Crocker (
Fri, 17 Jan 1997 16:18:47 -0800 (PST)

> I'm developing a short seminar on conflict resolution skills, and for
> the first time am addressing the emotional aspects of communication.
> Rather than present our emotional systems as something that
> interferes, however, I am utilizing a concept central to Daniel
> Goleman's _Emotional Intelligence_: Humans can learn to manage and
> utilize their emotional systems in concert with rationality to have more
> productive and happier lives. Goleman resists imposing an objective
> standard for behavior, because he starts from the standpoint that
> emotions are triggered through specific situations that can differ
> with the individual. Possessing a self-awareness of one's own
> triggers is the first step to developing an understanding of the
> emotional reactions of others.

I applaud such efforts to identify, classify, study, and learn how
to use one's emotional faculty. I'm sure it served a useful role
in our evolution to this point, and may well be a useful tool in the
future as well (I do not necessarily grant descriptive evolution any
normative status, though). I am sure as well that mastery of the
faculty will always be useful in interpersonal relationships.

But can we not improve upon those faculties just as we improve upon
speech and hearing? Evolution failed to grant us flight, so we used
reason to create airplanes. Evolution seems to have granted us the
shortcut of emotional reaction to guide us in the kind of lives we
evolved in, but can't we do better? Evolution created sex, but we
created marriage, commitment, family. Evolution created legs, but we
created the automobile. Evolution created tongues and ears, but we
created the Internet.

Why must we use moral codes and behaviors developed for the lives and
technologies of our ancestors to guide our use of airplanes, contracts,
or email? All I am suggesting is that the old, established habits of
restraint and diplomacy might not be as useful as they once were. When
argumentation was done face-to-face, a thoughless word might provoke
a fist to the nose, so restraint was practical. Why should that apply
to the Internet? Why should we not instead develop an ethic based on
tolerance on the receiving end? Wouldn't that be more likely to result
in lively, unrestrained, productive discussion?

I also don't see why I should grant any special cognitive status to
my emotions any more than to my sight or hearing. A blind man, and
a deaf man, each following pure reason, will find the same laws of
physics. The blind man may not develop art, and the deaf man will
not create music, but each will improve his life as it suits him and
each will make new discoveries as he is able. I would not choose to
supress my emotions any more than I would blind myself, but I do not
give them equal status with cognition. Every inch of human progress
ever made is the result of reason, and only reason. If I can please
my senses and my emotions along the way, great. But I will not let
my emotions substitute for reason in my search for progress and
boundless expansion.