To begin with, there are four ways by which a person can obtain knowledge which are Emotion, Reason, Perception and Language. Perception is defined in psychology as the process of interpreting, acquiring, selecting and organizing sensory information. Language is the way by which people obtain information by communicating with each other either by using patterns of sound and/or hand gesture symbols. Moreover, Reason is known in philosophy as the ability of the human mind to form and operate on concepts in abstraction, in varied accordance with rationality and knowledge. Furthermore, Emotion is defined by the scientist Edward O. Wilson as the modification of neutral activity that animates and focuses mental activity. Despite the fact that each way of knowing is distinctly different from the others, they sometimes have huge impact on one another and help to clarify each other.
Emotional knowledge has many advantages over other forms of knowledge, which are firstly we do not need language to express it. Secondly we do not need to apply reasoning to it. In addition, we do not need to use our senses to perceive it. There has been a philosophical tradition of separating feelings and emotions from other aspects of human life, especially reasoning. A famous philosopher called Plato once said “reason and emotion are like two horses pulling the chariot in different directions”. His saying reveals that emotion and reason oppose each other and only one can prevail. Furthermore, the common views have been to overcome our emotions and listen to the voice of reason. The title Homo sapiens which means Thinking Man also encourages us to ignore our feelings. Many people around the globe agree with Plato’s theory, and therefore they tend to ignore their emotions and as a result, a vast majority of people at this century don’t comprehend what emotions are, and what role they play in acquiring knowledge. We use our feeling all the time to guide us in our lives, so emotion should form an important part of our search for knowledge. We rely on our emotions all the time when we have to make difficult decisions. For example, when a person plans to marry a woman, he tends to follow who his heart chooses to be his life partner, in addition to considering reason as his future wife should be familiar with his culture and traditions and lifestyle, not to be a complete foreigner to his religious and ethical believes. All these facts should be considered but the final decision is reached by his emotions & feelings towards this women. This is an example of how emotions enhance reason as a way of knowledge.
Emotions are classified into four different types which are Instinctive Emotions, such as anger and love, Social emotions such as guilt and shame, Inward-Looking emotions such as fear, where we are ‘drawn into ourselves’ and Outward- Looking emotions, such as wonder, where we are drawn ‘out of ourselves’. The problem of classification is that it is never neutral.
Emotions are bound up with our bodies – they have a visceral component. When we are angry or frightened, for example, our heart thumps, our breathing speeds up and adrenaline releases fuel from the liver. We would conclude that those reactions are a result of our inward emotions, and emotions cause changes in our body. However, one philosopher called William James suggest that emotions are purely and simply our experience of a bodily reaction to an event. However, experiments have shown that there is more to emotion than response to bodily effects.
Eventually, a conclusion was reached that our whole awareness and knowledge of a situation must be involved to cause the emotions that we feel towards it.
We can now see a connection between emotions and reason. Emotions are hot, urgent and irrational impulses that come from the body, and reason is the cool, reflective analysis that comes from education and civilization. We can express our emotions as ‘forces or ‘substances’ of some sort. If we resemble ourselves as boats, then under this model the emotions are the tides. We have no control over our emotions. We can use our reason to try to keep the emotions in check, though we need to be careful not to go too far, because emotions is a source of wisdom, innocence, and creativity & to repress them is very dangerous.
An idea is put on the table which argues that when you feel an emotion, such as anger or disgust, do you choose to feel it? Do you have control over them? Most people say that they are not. This shows that we are helpless towards our emotions, and that they are irrational. However, if you consider the role of reasoning in interpreting our emotions throughout the situations that we experience, we see that it does not reveal the whole truth. This is because we tend to feel appropriate’ emotions relevant to the situation at hand. For example we won’t feel angry when we win we achieve excellent results in our studies, or when someone tells us a joke which we find funny or when we score a goal in a soccer match. Furthermore, we will not be happy if someone dear to our hearts suddenly dies, or during an argument with someone, or when Oman’s national football team loses the Gulf Cup. There has to be a reasoned judgment before we ‘know’ what emotion to feel. We need the input of our senses so that the reasoning can take place.
In addition, we cannot feel an emotion about something if we don’t know anything about it. Finally, it appears that emotion we experience comes after empirical data has been processed rationally. We might think that emotion is derivative from these two primary ways of knowing. I can know anything about anything, but I can only feel about things/people that have some personal impact on me.
Last but no least, Emotions are vital characteristics of any human being engaged in a physical world which is indifferent to human needs. With no emotions there can be no goals, and no being-in-the-world, as some philosophers have called it. Emotions are considered by many philosophers as the central aspect of human life.