Thinking Our Anger on Feed 44

C4SS Feed 44 presents Roderick Long‘s “Thinking Our Anger” read and edited by Nick Ford.

“This disagreement between Lawrence and Seneca conceals an underlying agreement: both writers are assuming an opposition between reason and emotion. The idea of such a bifurcation is challenged by Aristotle. For Aristotle, emotions are part of reason; the rational part of the soul is further divided into the intellectual or commanding part, and the emotional or responsive part. Both parts are rational; and both parts are needed to give us a proper sensitivity to the moral nuances of the situations that confront us. Hence the wise person will be both intellectually rational and emotionally rational.

If Aristotle is right, then Seneca is wrong; emotional responses can facilitate our moral perceptions rather than either displacing or merely echoing them. But that does not mean that Lawrence is right; Aristotle is not advising us to place blind trust in our gut reactions. Emotions can be mistaken, just as intellect can; as Aristotle puts it, emotions are often like overeager servants, rushing off to carry out our orders without first making sure they’ve grasped them properly.

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