On Logic and Emotion

Nicholas Van Baak

The relationship between logic and emotion is generally viewed as a war. Two irreconcilable ideas locked in conflict, one destined to triumph because it is reportedly greater. Our society’s last major philosophical influence was the Romantic movement of the 1800’s, and so we support emotion. In an age of machines, those evil, emotionless tools that we fear will turn evil and crush us, we associate emotion with humanity. We fear that the lack of emotion will promote pragmatism and crush all that is good. But these ideas are little more than baseless propaganda, and, indeed, a tighter selection of word choice would resolve the entire conflict. It is to this end I begin to write. My argument is entirely categorical, because my ultimate goal is classification. I also hope to shed light on the relationships between several key terms.

Certain words will be tossed about here and there in this essay, and so I think it best to clarify what I mean by each. Confusion may therefore be reduced to a lesser beast than it aspires to become. I provide the following definitions: • • • • • • • • • • • • • • Facts: unbiased attributes of reality. Logic: a branch of philosophy that deals with order and classification. It relies on cause/effect (or causality) theory. Logical: acting in the spirit of the principles of logic. Reasoning: arriving at a decision by considering all factors (of which emotion is a part). Rationality: the ability to think logically, to reason. Emotion: a term describing the effect of certain hormones on the human psyche or certain mental patterns. (This is the only aspect of emotion humans can deal with, whatever significance we may attribute to it without backing). Emotional: anything based in or exemplifying the qualities of emotion. Balance: the maintenance of a proper order. This is NOT to be confused with equilibrium. Moral(s): a system of beliefs pertaining to what is righteous and what is not. Morals govern actions from a standpoint different than that of simple expediency. Moral (as adjective): in accordance with a system of morals. Pragmatism: the pursuit of what is most expedient. It is regarded as amoral. Pragmatic: in accordance with pragmatism. Function: to work in a proper fashion or to work in compliance with a goal. Operate: to work according to specifications.

These are the key terms of my argument. Other terms may be introduced and explained in context, but they will rely on this list. In fact, this list provides a large part

of the context, and so it would be most fulfilling if the reader kept these definitions in mind as he/she continues.

I have organized my argument (amusingly) in a logical format for ease of reference. The main questions I will be addressing are as follows (and as they are all intertwined, they may be addressed in a different order than how they are presented here): 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. What is logic? What is emotion? What makes a human being? How do logic and emotion relate to humanity? How do they relate to each other? Is one greater, and, if so, which one?

Based on these questions and the answers thereof, we can then progress to different scenarios of the “what if?” variety. The argument will be summarized as possible in the conclusion.

The Case:
1. Analysis of logic and emotion. I have provided simplified definitions in the “Definitions” section, but these are both complex concepts and deserve a fleshing-out, so to speak. A. Logic. Logic is a science developed by Aristotle. I will leave it to the reader to remember the definition I provided. In this definition, I made sure to stress the causality of logic. Causality, for the layman, is the theory that things happen because of cause and effect. Belief in causality rules out such abstractions as “luck” or “chance”. Causality is the core of logic. There is, I fear, some disambiguation required for use of the term, “logic.” The definition I have provided should be sufficient, but the reader should beware of certain phrases and expressions. For example, when a person makes a choice to benefit himself, he may be said to act logically. I must stress that this is an improper use of the word. Was this person acting in accordance with the principles of logic? Not exactly. The expression implies that self-interest is the ultimate end, and that it is “logical” to fulfill that end. The dictionary definition in this case is “characterized by clear, sound reasoning.” This is very nearly the definition it provides for “rational”, and is also in accordance with my own definition of rationality. To reduce confusion, such a concept will be referred to as “rational” from here on, and my definition of logic will stand. Another problem with usage such as the above example is the implied value. Logic, true logic, is unbiased. There are no hidden values. So, the phrase “It was logical that Bob picked up the money on the ground” would be rewritten, “Bob desired money, and so logically he picked up the money on the ground when confronted with it.” This is a step from textbook logic, which, while exact and 100% accurate, is quite unwieldy. The adapted form I am using, for example, is entirely discernible to the layman.

Given the example of a logical action, can anything really be branded illogical? They cannot, the explanation is quite simple. All actions have a reason (or cause), and, indeed, an action may be defined as a fulfillment of that that cause. In that sense, all actions are logical. There cannot be any judgement passed on an all-pervading aspect of the world – because, again, logic is at its core a description of causality. So logic is out of the question. The attribute we should seek to explore is not logic but rationality. As defined above, rationality draws its definition from the principles of logic, and from those of reasoning (after all, “rational” and “reasoning” share the same root – one directly from Latin, the other through Old French). Reasoning, however, is not so much descriptive as it is proactive. Reasoning is considering the factors and attempting to use logic, but imperfectly. Reasoning, therefore, can be considered an interpretation of the situational logic. This is to be expected, with a veritable mountain of factors in any situation and a limited capacity of the human brain. The ability to reason is the deciding factor, then, in determining what possesses the trait “rationality.” B. Emotion. Emotion is not scientific. Like the brain and other aspects of the human body, science cannot provide a definitive answer as to what it is. Unlike logic, it has a tangible aspect. Studies have revealed glands and hormones that fulfill certain purposes, along with specific patterns of mental activity in connection with feelings. One such study monitored the mental activity of college students who had recently split up with their girl or boyfriends while making them look at a picture of the person in question (by the way, these people were volunteers). They reported that the areas of the brain associated with physical pain were active during the process. Other studies have identified an area of the brain known as the Limbic System which becomes active when experiencing certain emotions or when listening to music. But in spite of all this progress, exactly what causes emotion is a mystery. Instead, and this is what we are dealing with in any case, we must focus on the effects of emotion. Emotion, in this case, refers to a wide range of concepts. How much of it is instinct, reflex, or hormone? And is there anything else? Emotion is associated with the soul, but there is no concrete evidence even proving the soul’s existence, so no help there. So, the best way to observe emotion is to see what the human loses when emotion is taken away. To begin, I will bring up a few examples from fiction to introduce theories on the subject. In relation to the concept of a “Bad Utopia,” emotion is seen as a tool to be used against the general populace. In George Orwell’s 1984, brainwashing patterns are used to make the Party members love the figurehead of the Party, known as Big Brother. In a session known as the Two Minutes’ Hate, all Party members are required to sit in front of a giant screen, which blasts propaganda at them while they work themselves into a fury over pictures of the fictitious Enemy of the Party. As the two minutes wind down, Big Brother’s face arrives and the Party members switch emotional gears almost instantly, from throwing books at the screen to crying tears of joy in seconds. Also in 1984, the sex drive is suppressed and converted to aggression against whatever enemy the Party faces at that moment. O’Brien, representing leadership of the Party, explains that eventually they will eradicate it altogether. Whatever emotions the Party cannot use, it destroys. In Brave New World, another of the Bad Utopia strain, babies are raised artificially from test tubes, beset with propaganda from the moment they can understand.

And even before – those babies meant for in-flight engineering are rotated while still in the artificial womb to alter their development. The Director of the Hatcher remarks, “They learn to associate topsy-turvydom with well-being; in fact, they’re only truly happy when they’re standing on their heads.” Brave New World describes a society in which the theories of Sigmund Freud become law. “Impulse arrested spills over, and the flood is ‘feeling,’” is the rationale for such practices. In the movie Equilibrium, the citizens of the fictional city Libria are required to take a drug called Prozium, which eliminates emotion. Art, music, movies, and feeling love are all punishable by execution in the city furnaces. The only thing on the air is a continuous stream of propaganda, describing how bad things were before Prozium and how good things are now. The figurehead leader known as Father gives anti-emotional sermons throughout the background of much of the movie. Father says once that emotion causes crime, hatred, and war. He explains that Prozium has eliminated all these things, and that the loss of joy and happiness is acceptable. The city is entirely gray, and all the citizens wear black or gray. People who refuse to take their Prozium are hunted down by the police force, the Grammaton Clerics, and persecuted as “sense offenders” before being burned. Throughout all of these examples, emotion is seen as the strength of the people and very closely associated with freedom. In the Bad Utopias, emotion is twisted or crushed, and in Equilibrium, it is done away with altogether (although the pro-emotion Underground eventually restores the old order). The conclusion from the first examples is that emotion makes us vulnerable, while the message of Equilibrium is that freedom of emotion is worth any cost. It is considered simultaneously our greatest strength and greatest weakness, a paradox that suits its illogical nature. However, there is another example, one that passes no judgement – in Star Trek, the alien race known as the Vulcans is entirely logical, according to the producers. The character Mr. Spock, a Vulcan, is simply a personified computer. He runs around, doing calculations in his head and using words like, “logically.” But he has a personality, if somewhat subdued, akin to a professor’s. It mostly comes out in his verbal sparring with other characters as they tease him about being purely logical. But, in the new Star Trek movie, the Vulcans show prejudice against Spock for being half-human. They recognize family ties and act on that recognition, Spock even risking his life to rescue his father. Whatever the producers imagined was emotion, they did not think too much of it. Therefore I label this example unhelpful and throw it out. It follows from all this that no one knows exactly what emotion is. Therefore it is possible to speak in the abstract, but only in a very few instances can an action be truly labeled “emotional.” For example, take the suicide of Romeo and Juliet. Their thought process cannot be called reasoning, as they ignored mostly all factors in their decision. What it comes down to is that emotion is an integral part of the human psyche, and not much else can be determined. 2. On sentience, and the relationship between it and logic and emotion. What causes this? The line between human and animal has been questioned by philosophers from all time periods. The generally accepted distinction is the ability to think. The soul, if you will. And so the qualities we possess which are not shared with the animals we call, "sentience." Science fiction has given us a wide variety of a

different sort of creature, widely known as the “alien”, which is obviously not human but shares this gift of sentience. Besides the Vulcans, who are relevant here by virtue of being “totally logical”, aliens will not be addressed here. A. Sentience is not emotion. Recent medical studies have proven that dogs have emotions (the article in the Seattle Times was ironically headed "Studies Prove Dogs Have Souls -- But You Already Knew That). But dogs are not sentient. Monkeys exhibit humanlike behavior, which is why people believe we evolved from them. But they are not sentient. They lack the soul. Therefore, emotion does not make a sentient being. B. Rational thought and sentience. Greek and Enlightenment philosophers especially exhorted the values of rationality. The principles of logic are foundational to this rationality. And what qualities can we attribute to the soul, to sentience? Emotion and rationality. Emotion is found in the lower creatures, and so is not essential to sentience. And so, sentience, the ability to think, must be focused on rationality. This discounts for the moment irrational thought, but that will be addressed. The conclusion, then, is extremely important – sentience is determined by the ability to think rationally. 3. The relationship of logic to emotion and vice versa. As stated in my "Definitions" section, "balance" is the maintenance of proper order. This is in terms of ratios. For example, think of a pie chart presenting population statistics, containing two demographics. If one demographic takes 75% of the pie, then balance demands giving that group 75% of the power. Splitting the power 50-50 would be an imbalance. Let it be so with facts and emotion. The world around us is full of facts, which pertain to everyone, but the emotions only pertain to the self. How to balance these? Firstly, all decisions must be situational to be effective. For a formula to work, it must be true in all situations. Therefore, ultimate proof lies in repeated accuracy – at the situational level. Is there such a formula? The answer lies in the relationship rationality and emotion have to each other. Because this is not immediately clear, we must be slightly more clever. A. The extrapolation of logic and emotion. I have chosen to use the word “extrapolation” to describe the process of magnifying the qualities of each. Normally, the word implies that such an act is done inaccurately, but no such error has occurred here. The extrapolation of logic is called pragmatism. I call the reader’s attention to the definitions provided above. Pragmatism seeks to achieve maximum expediency using whatever means possible. Take the following example: a baby is ill, and a person possesses the means to cure it. There is reliable information that the baby will grow up to become a mass murderer. If the person is pragmatic, and his goal is preservation of life, then he will let the baby die. This is the most expedient way to preserve life. It is logical, but, as Romantically-influenced critics would scream, heartless. This is a foolish accusation. The generic person has adhered entirely to the principles of logic, regardless of moral standards, and is therefore pragmatic. This situation is called a moral dilemma, and the introduction of a code of morals can seriously hinder decision-making. The best fictional example of pragmatism comes from Max Brooks’ World War

Z. Brooks’ character Paul Redeker rids himself of emotion and embraces pragmatism. His worldview can be shown through select quotes. Of expediency, he said, “imagine what could be accomplished if the human race could only shed its humanity.” And, in the context of a zombie holocaust he wrote, “The first casualty of this conflict must be our own sentimentality, for its survival will mean our destruction.” This is the quintessential example of a completely pragmatic mindset. But no one really goes this far. Almost as a warning, Brooks mentions offhand that Redeker simply could not deal with what he had done and eventually imagined himself a different person to detach himself from his crimes against humanity, even though pragmatically he could justify it by the fact that he actually saved the human race. Emotion is entirely different. Its extrapolation is called morality. Morality is a sort of unwritten law that governs the actions of those who subscribe to its specifications. A moralist, put in the example above, would be stuck. Either way, he violates the sanctity of life. In being exclusively moral, he adheres (to mimic my above sentence structure) entirely to emotional values. Unfortunately, he suffers emotionally either way – the knowledge of having killed a baby one way, or some version of Survivor’s Guilt in the other. That is why it is called a moral dilemma. B. The correlation between the extrapolations. Because logic, and, by extension, rationality are based on decision-making, while morality is not, decisions in the real world must rely on expediency, the key word when describing pragmatism. But relying only on pragmatism ignores the innate human sense of morality, and would damage such a person emotionally – like Paul Redeker. Neither extreme is acceptable. For a solution, let us look back to the pragmatic solution to the moral dilemma. The generic person held that life had value. That is, in fact, a moral belief. So, in going against his emotions short-term (killing the baby), he upheld moral standards long-term. This is the correct solution to the issue. Pragmatism should be embraced, except that, when pursuing expediency, moral standards should be considered as well as practical facts. I hinted at this when I said that emotion should be considered in the definition of reasoning. C. The balance of logic and emotion. As we go back to the question of an applicable formula slightly more knowledgeable than when it was first posed, it finally becomes clear. The answer takes three steps. Firstly, how do we make the jump from logic and emotion, two abstract ideas, and practical application (that is, analysis of their effect on decision-making)? Simply, we extrapolate. Secondly, how do we determine balance? Now that we have moved into the realm of practical application, we use (possible) real-life examples and show the different courses of action using extremes. We discovered, using this line of attack, that logic is better suited to decision-making because of its grounding in the facts. And so, the balance of these two is found. Logic should be dominant, but emotion should still be a guiding influence – not the main one, but still active.

4. Humanity and the components thereof.

All of the examples I have used and even the opinion of the average person would indicate that humanity results from emotion. So our example pragmatic person would be “heartless” or “inhuman” for overriding his emotions. But he managed to come out of that situation, while pro-emotion fanatics would not be able to. For that, he is to be commended (because any action is morally repugnant in that situation, his success is in taking any course of action, not for his decision). As per my exploration of “sentience,” emotion is not a distinctively human trait. The lower animals share it with humanity. So, humanity’s main difference, the soul, is not exclusively responsible for emotion. A. Definite qualities of humanity and their relation to logic and emotion. Can we really define humanity? Tongue-in-cheek, we could say that it is that collection of qualities that define a human being, but at least it gives us a starting point. First of all, a human has the ability to form attachments. This leads us to maintain families, as many animals do, but we can also have friends. From a strictly survival standpoint, this makes no sense; it is not logical. But emotionally, it provides benefits. This is a logical, rational decision that is influenced by emotion – perfectly in line with the principles I set down. Secondly, humans can appreciate art and music. We use up paper and paint, pour perfectly good materials into making instruments, and invest time in both. These finer things, like friendships, reward us emotionally for things otherwise illogical. Thirdly, diverse character traits are held as desirable for human beings to have. Idealism is emotionally based, but achieved through actions, which are logical. So this too fits the models, albeit slightly differently than the others. In short, I have defined humanity as being able to form attachments, being able to appreciate art, and possessing constructive ambition. This is so woefully incomplete a definition that no one should put any weight behind it, but I believe that these concepts are all part of humanity. This essay is about logic and emotion, and if it were about humanity, then I would devote much more time to the exploration of this topic. Let the reader be assured, however, that all qualities of humanity comply with these specifications. B. What makes a human being? Finally, having shown that this model of balance fits the qualities of humanity, we apply it to the task at hand. What makes a human being? The qualities of humanity were listed from observation of the ideal human being, so referring back to them would make this argument circular. But their relation to the model of balance would consistent if taken from observation, so that much, at least, stands. Let us go back, once again, to the difference between humans and animals. What additional features were added, so to speak, between the chimp and the human? Our cerebral capacity expanded, our vocal chords became capable of speech, and we have a soul. Symptoms immediately resulting from this addition: the ability to reason and a larger pronouncement of our emotions. With both emotion and reasoning enhanced, we gained rationality. After rationality, language, the method of expressing ideas, logically follows. And the logical implication of language is society. So civilization itself is the logical result of humanity. In light of this, we see man to be a social creature. For social interaction,

especially for non-business purpose, it is necessary to have emotion – this is because society developed through the emotional side of humanity. If you start a fire, feed it with wood, not rocks. And to be able to act in any way, it is necessary to be able to think, to be rational. What if? I have imagined several scenarios pertaining to the subject, and I have answered them based on the findings of this essay. These have mostly been included for humor/shock value. Permission is given to the reader to laugh or to recoil in horror. • • What if there were no logic? Civilization would not exist.

What if there were no emotion? Decisions would be based on expediency only. Propaganda would be substantially different. Family units would be much looser than they are, and there would be no friends. Art and music would be much different, possibly nonexistent. Imagine a world filled with politicians minus the corruption aspect. What if emotionless robots ruled the earth? Depending on the circumstances, things could go several ways. There are several levels of rule. Level One: the robots determine government policy and other aspects but do not interfere with everyday life. In this case, either nothing would change or the emotional side of the balance of emotion would increase as the need for pragmatism decreases. Level Two: the robots interfere with everyday life as well as governmental policy. In this case, civilization becomes more logical. Either the influence of the robots would increase pragmatism or would replace the need for pragmatism, depending on how they interfered. Pragmatism would increase if we suddenly had to compete with them. Level Three: not only do the robots interfere with everyday life, but they persecute humans for having emotion. In this case, emotion would increase, as the emotional desire for independence would drive humans underground. Examples: Equilibrium (although there are no robots in this one), The Matrix. •

In summary, the argument looks something like this: 1. Logic, when applied to human thought, becomes the structure of reasoning, which in turn determines rationality. 2. Emotion cannot be defined or explained in the current circumstances. It supplies another set of factors for analysis in the process of decision-making, reasoning. 3. Sentience is what separates us from animals, and it is mostly rationality. 4. Pragmatism is emotionally unfulfilling but most effective in dealing with the

world, and so the proper balance of logic and emotion is a morally-guided pragmatism, also known as the model of balance. 5. Humanity results from the model of balance. 6. The fact of humanity being the way it is resulted in a system, civilization, based upon the model of balance and designed for the continued use of the model of balance. Reflections: In the overview, I asked the question, “Which is greater?” The answer must be logic. Logic, when applied to the real world, has two influences. Firstly, it provides the very basis of reasoning, which in turn is the basis of rationality, which in turn is the basis of sentience. And because sentience is the result of the soul, logic must be the prime advantage of having a soul. Secondly, it has influence through its extrapolation, pragmatism. Pragmatism achieves maximum expediency, allowing each interaction with the world to be as effective as possible. Logic provides the framework of the model of balance, along with much of the content, and operates extremely efficiently when not in balance. Emotion cannot match this capability. But as part of the model of balance, emotion fulfills a very necessary purpose. Emotion, while not an exclusive human trait, is at least an intrinsic one. Denying this trait, or suppressing it to become more pragmatic, can have serious consequences. Morality also cannot be ignored, or treated as simply a duty. This will also lead to consequences. It is better to integrate it, resulting in the model of balance. Are emotion and logic at war? They cannot be. We live in a society descended from ones that followed the model of balance, although our own places too much value on emotion. But regardless, using both to their appropriate extent will allow them to build off each other, creating a symbiotic relationship, rather than a competitive one. Without emotion, logic can operate. But it cannot function (again, I leave it to the reader to remember definitions). Both are necessary for a human being to function as a human being. Both are necessary to achieve humanity.