In IGCSE I read the “ Iliad” written by Homer, and I was deeply impressed by the character of the Trojan prince Hector, the tamer of the horses. I was so captivated by his sense of duty and his love for the mother county Troy that I set more value to his character than the real hero Achilles’. Why? Simply, because I felt emotionally more attached to a real warrior than an egotistic warrior who fought only to annihilate others, and embellish his indisputable record as a belligerent combatant. I know I was wrong but I could not help it. Emotions are such feelings that can be affected by our beliefs. I feet history is a field of knowledge where emotions can get the better of reason, and hence create a superficial gulf between realty and appearance. No historian is equipped with the shied of Achilles, which is impenetrable to the arrows of bias, racism, and prejudice.
What do we feel when we see a spider? The very image of the spider fills us with an emotion of disgust and within twinkling of a second we kill it although we know that it is not a tarantula. This is psychology. Even in infants there is an emotional presence; they cry and laugh without having been taught to do so. Emotions are an inborn part of human psyche. It is the emotional power of the child that he learns to smile to its mother although it is poles apart from other ways of knowing: reason, language and perception. Emotions also make us inclined to rectitude by preventing us from committing morally reprehensible actions such as feelings of guilt and shame.
The psychopaths lack these emotional responses and as a result are transformed into beasts. Devoid of such emotions they “engage in immoral acts, show a callous lack of concern for the others and lack the capacities for guilt, remorse and empathy.” Thus emotions play a vital role in human psychology. People who are perfect strangers fall in love at first sight because sometimes “like emotions attract”. And it is on account of these ubiquitous emotions that we earmark others beforehand. For example we believe that mothers and nurses are very emotional while soldiers and butchers are insensitive.
What will happen if we study human sciences from an emotional bent of mind? I think it will lead us into a chaotic world. Not all soldiers are tyrants nor are all mothers caring. We have example of Sophocles’ Medea who kills all her children to avenge her pride. And we have examples of capitalist that were filled with the milk of human kindness. Remember Oscar Schindler! Emotions are very important in the development of one’s individuality but a person cannot be considered a sum total of his emotions.
What happens if a judge uses his emotions while dealing with a hardcore convict? A man has to overcome his emotions and use his reason, a contrasting force to emotion. In the opinion of Sigmund Freud- repressed emotions are responsible in the patients suffering from amnesia and hysteria. The emotional crises they pass through make them feel” as if life has become intolerable and the only way of coping is to cease to be themselves, at least temporarily.” Emotions can also make a person very impulsive, passionate and violent. In my country recently there has been a spree of honor killing. There have been reported numerous incidents wherein the lovers were burned alive by their parents as their love appeared against the norms to the parents.
Human beings are a gregarious people. They cannot stand alone without a society. They imitate one another without testing their actions on the anvil of reason. What happens when youngsters want to undergo emotional euphoria by taking drugs under peer pressure? Whether they are youngsters or the orthodox parents, during their emotional outbursts they even forget what they are doing. Social emotions make them change colors like the chameleon, and imitate the actions that are followed and practiced by others, howsoever irrational they are.
To draw some conclusions from the above discussion I feel that although emotions are very important in our decision making and understanding the things around us, we cannot attribute them with a life force. They are neither the precursor nor the guiding light to our pursuit of knowledge. We cannot trust them wholly when it comes to history and psychology. In fact they cannot stand alone aloof from the other ways of knowing.
Despite a number of knowledge claims such as “”There can be no transforming of darkness into light and of apathy into movement without emotion”, we must not forget “A fool expresses all his emotions, but a wise person controls them.” It is important to control our emotions. If we don’t control them they will control our reason. They are important but their trustworthiness and impeccability in our pursuit of knowledge are questionable whether they are for me or someone else. We must check them lest they should become mistaken judgments.