What is the source of the content of human emotions?
A college professor enters his classroom, opens his briefcase, takes out a stack of blue books, and then begins distributing them to his students. As he is handing out the bluebooks, there is an atmosphere of tension and anxiety in the classroom. Finally, one brave student raises his hand and says: “but, but, you didn’t say there was a test today!”
With that the professor gathers up the bluebooks and puts them back into his briefcase. Then, he looks up and asks: “Who can explain the emotions you were experiencing while I was handing out the bluebooks?”
Summary: Bluebooks mean a test, a test means failure, failure means getting a bad grade, a bad grade could mean not getting their college diploma, or getting a lower graduation GPA. This will mean fewer job prospects and a lower salary. Maybe they won’t be able to afford the two cars, house, family, comfortable lifestyle, and prestige in the community. The professor’s test is a threat to the students’ future! This explains the anxiety and tension they were feeling while the bluebooks were being handed out.
Invariably there are 2 or 3 students auditing the class who will not receive a letter grade. The test is not a threat to them so they remain calm and relaxed throughout the exercise.
Conclusion: Emotions are a response to value. The relationship of reason to emotion is similar to the relationship of cause to effect. Reason and emotion are NOT on the same hierarchical level. It is not reason versus emotion as so many people mistakenly believe. Reason is more fundamental than emotion. A situation occurs, you mentally process that situation within the context of your values, and an emotion results.
You select your values either by careful thinking and reflection, or they are unthinkingly absorbed from people around you by default. Years ago computer programmers originated the term “gigo” which means: Garbage in, garbage out. If your values are a hodgepodge of irrational values that you have not thought through, the emotions that result from them will be an irrational mixture of feelings. On the contrary, if your values are an integrated and harmonious result of thinking and thoughtful reflection, your resulting emotions will be rational and explainable!
If someone then accuses you of being too rational and thus of being emotionally “cold”, they do not know what they are talking about! If your emotions are based on rational values, they will be objective and predictable. They will be an ally of your life, not an enemy. They will also be pure and be felt more intensely than any irrational emotion could ever be–except maybe stark fear. If someone says that he is an “emotional” person, he is making a far more revealing confession than he realizes! The emotions of a truly rational person will serve and promote his life. The emotions of an irrational person might destroy his life.
(The above came from a lecture about 30 years ago by Dr. Leonard Peikoff, Ayn Rand’s legal and intellectual heir.)
Humans are the rational animal. We possess a conceptual consciousness, and its function is to perceive reality. By rationally processing your perceptions through your faculty of reason, through your conceptual consciousness, you will gain a reliable knowledge of reality. Reality simply exists. It does not care about your “feelings” (emotions). If you don’t agree, then go ahead and talk to a brick wall. I don’t care so long as you leave me alone. If you attempt to impose anything on me, then we will have a problem. Live and let live.
Emotions are important and are a part of human nature, but they should not be the architect of your life and destiny. Reason is more fundamental than emotion, and it is the appropriate guide for living your life. Happiness can properly be the goal of your life, but not the standard by which to make choices in the service of your life. Rationality implies exercising foresight. We must think pro-actively!
So many very intelligent people are enamored by the fantasies of a socialist utopia or the incoherent values of political correctness. Their intense but irrational emotions have blinded their reason because they have never examined their premises (assumed “truths”) carefully enough to see (foresight) that there is no rational connection between their benevolent intent and the principles of collectivism (of which socialism is a variant).
One of my goals is to simply and clearly explain the philosophical foundation of collectivism. It logically follows from the concept of a moral duty to your group; the idea that you must submit to the will of your group. It is the enslavement of the worker bee in the collectivist honey bee hive. The group is the focus, not the individual. The worker bee must sacrifice his life for the “common good” of his hive, of his group. He has no rights, only duties to his group. This is the ideology of slavery.
The opposite ideology is individualism. It follows from the concept of individual rights which is the opposite of a moral duty to your group. The focus is on the individual, not on the group This is the ideology of individual freedom. If I can explain this clearly, then hopefully it will prevent some well-intentioned people from mistakenly advocating socialism, and thus unknowingly advocating the ideology and system of slavery. We are humans, not worker bees. We are not insects, we must think–as individuals!
The beauty of the non-initiation of force principle is that no one can violate another’s rights so long as it is followed. It says that: No person or group can initiate the use of physical force against any other person or group. Initiating force is the only way a right can be violated, and the greatest potential violator of our rights is our own government. Self-defense against someone who initiates force against us is the only justification for the use of force. As a buddy of mine says: “I didn’t kill him; I stopped him from killing me!” This principle should be the fundamental foundation of the law in any civilized society.
The reason or force alternative says that there are only two fundamental ways to deal with another person: reason or force. And, when anyone through his words or actions demonstrates that he has rejected reason, he leaves us no choice but to deal with him in the only way that he himself allows, and that is with force. And, he cannot expect that our force will be reasonable. If he does, he will be a hypocrite because it is he who has rejected reason!
When someone initiates physical force against you, mistakenly or not, you can either defend yourself or submit. The time for talking is over, and it is now time for action. He who hesitates could be dead, literally. If you submit, there is no guarantee that he will not kill you. “If he defeats me, so be it, but it will not be without fight!” It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees. Be ready, and be personally formidable. Liberty or death.
Emotional Learning Will Be the Downfall of Society