Re: Emotions "vestigial"? was Re: On being Extropian

Ira Brodsky (
Mon, 21 Oct 1996 17:23:50 -0600

Mark Crosby wrote:

>May I suggest another division? There are both rational and irrational
>emotions. In a slightly different way, there is formal knowledge and
>annecdotal knowledge. Rationality has both completeness and consistency

Hmmm. I don't see the difference between "rational emotions" amd my
preferred notion of emotions tamed by reason.

>Your response seems to be an emotional reaction to Russell's quote: A
>justifiably visceral reaction (which I share) to 'good things' (logic,
>rights) being yoked to 'bad things' (slave, emotion).

Ha, ha. And I suppose if I insist we must agree A =82 A is false to hold a
rational discussion, you would call my insistence "an emotional reaction."

(OK, I admit I am something of a slave to sarcasm <g>)

>Your reasoning,
>that Russell's statement is foolish, is _correct_ in so far as it goes
>(using your understanding that emotions are too often irrational); BUT,
>it's probably not _consistent_ with Russell's context - Russell was
>probably using 'emotion' to refer to 'good' emotions, like loyalty,
>charity, love and the aspects that QueeneMuse mentions:
><with emotion you can create. You can generate. You can luminate. With
>emotions you can fulfill and enrichen. You can move and you can soar.
>[snip] In a well balanced, non reactive type B person, most emotions are
>useful ... If emotions have a bad rap in the world, it is precisely
>because people think they are at the mercy of them.>

=46irst, while I agree that statements may be misinterpreted out-of-context,
we have to be careful about invoking such claims. E.g., argue with a bible
student and watch everything flip back-and-forth between literal (stands by
itself) and figurative (requires context). Admittedly, I haven't checked
the context of Russell's comment, but it is structured like an aphorism, so
I shouldn't have to.

If we are wise, we choose who we love and who we are loyal to. Emotion
might tell use who seems like a good candidate, but great literature is
largely about how we are so easily and often mislead. Still, if love is
made slave to reason and understanding, it can be a very good thing.

>This could be just as one-sided as B. Russell's 'reason slaved to
>emotion'. Emotions can also effectively constrain reason (in warning
>you what it is worthwhile to apply your logic to) and inspire
>understanding. This sounds more like what QueeneMuse and Steve W. were
>getting at.

I've never suggested you can derive inspiration from logic alone. And I
agree logic must be applied *to* something. Perhaps I should say emotion
must be ruled by reason, understanding, and knowledge. But I clearly don't
want to "emote" loyalty to someone and then apply logic and understanding
to better serve them; I want to use logic and understanding to first
determine who deserves my loyalty. In other words, my loyalty is
*controlled* by these higher functions.

>As Natasha Vita More added:
><Rather than putting a chain on or caging our emotions, we might think
>of exercising the management of emotions.>

Sounds like she agrees with me. <g>

Seriously, I am not saying we should put away our emotions, just take
control of them.

>My point is that value-free logic doesn't exist.

Lots of things are not value-free, but logic (strictly-defined) is. For
example, A =3D A is not contingent upon your or my values.

>That quote from Bertrand Russell is so startling and powerful because it
>comes from a mathematical genius, someone who knew as much about logic
>as anyone in human history, and yet had a rather difficult time
>harnessing the emotions in his own personal life. (This from a Wall St.
>Journal review of a Russell biography that I saw within the last few

Hmmm. He said logic should be slave to emotions, and he had a hard time
harnessing his own emotions. Isn't there a pattern here?

Ira Brodsky
Datacomm Research Company
Wilmette, Illinois