“Anyone can be angry-that is easy. But to be angry with the right person to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose and in the right way- that is not easy. “[Aristotle] In justifying moral decisions, reason and emotion are symbiotic. Emotions, the feelings, moods and passions that a person has, have both a physical and a mental aspect. They are quick, appealing and unforgettable. They are independent from thinking and are reactions to a person’s perception. Reason on the other hand, derives from logic.
Without reason one cannot validate his/her ideas and this often results in urgent and short-sighted moral decision making. However, without emotion one has no operative long-term memory process, obliterating decision making and appreciation. One must also consider culture and belief however, for it is not only the ways of knowing concerning emotion and reason that justify moral decisions. In the area of knowledge, ethics, emotion without reason can result in hasty generalisations and blind one of the true realities of morality.
Having lived in the Islamic nation of Indonesia, people are often prone to associating this country with terrorists and suicide bombers. If the moral decision at hand would be to define Islam, one would immediately respond upon his hidden contents. He/she would remember the feelings evoked upon hearing the word Islam; disgust, spite and hatred. For this is the image a person would retrieve, upon seeing pictures of debris and shrapnel in the news followed by the word Islam.
One would not immediately be aware of some aspects of reality and without reason this form of ‘spontaneous communication’ would result in emotional colouring. Reason would allow one to make a decision against the roots of reality and henceforth make a person be reasonable and question the equivocal idea which one has responded upon vs. the professed facts. It is often acknowledged, however, that ‘a picture speaks a thousand words’. Emotion is therefore important in the field of ethics as a medium to retain accurate scenes at a later point in life.
My aunt died from cancer and though I do not remember the day, the place or her true identity, I did not forget the primary emotions of sadness and anger against smoking that were called to mind. In deciding whether or not to smoke, I have a clear implication in mind and an image with substance. As an individual, it was emotion alone that has justified the fact that I can easily respond with a ‘nein danke’ (no thanks), when asked if I want to have a cigarette. On the other hand, if one is in a certain state of mind and undergoing an emotional outburst, emotions could also gravely affect justifying moral decisions.
Take the area of knowledge of mathematics. In 8th grade, I had a fight with a very good friend after he stole my girlfriend and I wanted to prove myself better than him. I was even willing to cheat on a test, a thing that I never would’ve done before. This social aspect of emotions can easily undermine our ability to think, distort reason and lead to poor moral decision making. Reason is therefore vital to build a strong relationship with logic and rationality.
If there is too little emotion, however, this is just as irrational as too much. In having to decide between going to a family members funeral or a friend’s 18th birthday party, emotion would help one to appreciate and respond upon feelings rather than logical, for surely it would not make sense to go see a perished person. Emotions are important in that one needs to consult them for important decisions, in which reason alone could result in what is known as a ‘rational fool’, meaning one would lose his/her ability to make decisions.