2

In this SEP article on emotion, it talks about how one can experience fear even in situations where there seems to be no threat. For example, one may be in a tall building with a transparent glass floor and feel an intense tinge of fear if one fears heights, even if the building and the floor have had many years of reliably holding up.

My question is how can one show that one’s fear response, or anger response, or really any sort of emotional response does not indicate any sort of truth about the matter at hand except the acknowledgement that one is feeling fear itself. For example, how can one show, using reason, that just because you feel fear that a person is cheating on you, does not imply that that person is cheating on you.

For example, if my partner has been loyal all the time, and yet I still feel fear, how can I through reason show that this fear is unrelated to the actual evidence at hand. I am having trouble understanding how this can be non circularly shown.

For example, it seems reasonable to state that just because one feels fear of X does not imply that X is true. However, one can simply further fear and doubt this very statement resulting in the question “But what if my fear does imply that X is true?” resulting in an infinite cycle that seems to be hard to get away from in my head.

Note that my question is not about the therapeutical question of how to reduce the fear nor is it about whether fear is rational in a pragmatic sense such as in the case of a fear of bugs even when the bug presents no harm.

My question is how one can show, through reason, that their fear of X does not imply that X is true. Can a feeling, by itself, be seen as evidence of some truth about the world?

6
  • feelings are not emotions, "truth" of feelings based on sense "skill". Commented Mar 11, 2023 at 6:14
  • www.askachemist.com
    – Hudjefa
    Commented Mar 11, 2023 at 7:54
  • It's quite obvious that there's dukkha.
    – Hudjefa
    Commented Mar 11, 2023 at 10:02
  • I think this is backward. If one has a claim that fear of X implied X is real, one has to demonstrate it, not the opposite.
    – armand
    Commented Mar 11, 2023 at 12:01
  • Emotions can be easily manipulated with various drugs. Drugs can make you happy, sad, depressed, elated, manic, etc etc ... Will these drug-induced emotional states be valid enough to make things true? And by the way, even coffee is a psychoactive substance. Emotions are not constant in a person either. They can change from one day to the next. So if emotions can be so easily manipulated what is their value to say anything about the world?
    – Frank
    Commented Mar 11, 2023 at 15:40

2 Answers 2

2

First, feelings can easily be manipulated and do change from day to day. You may be angry one day, possibly because of some drug you took (even a simple antibiotic), and then not angry the next day. Is the anger or the non-anger going to be the correct "evidence" for some about the world? Note that many common substances, such as coffee, can alter our emotional state. You might reach contradictory conclusions about the world just because you had too much coffee, or didn't have any...

Second, this question has disturbing implications. What if someone is inhabited by a feeling of hate for some group of people. Is that feeling alone going to be evidence that the targeted group of people is inferior, malevolent, morally reprehensible... ?

0

"My question is how one can show, through reason, that their fear of X does not imply that X is true".

By examining evidence.

If a person is troubled by a fear of being in a car accident, one of the most effective means available to them lies in their ability to examine evidence external to any emotional phenomena.

They can look to car accident statistics to determine a rough probability of being involved in one. They can look also at the causes of car accidents and compare their own behaviour and circumstances with that of a person likely to be in an accident. They can ask questions of themselves such as:

"Do I drive when fatigued?"

"Do I drive when affected by dangerous substances?".

"Do I obey other road rules and regulations?".

"What is my level of driving ability? Have I completed a defensive driving course?".

"Is my car roadworthy and reliable?".

"Do I drive on dangerous roads?".

"Am I fearful when I drive and does this lead to unsafe driving practices?".

...and so on.

By undertaking such a process, the importance of an emotion such as fear is diminished to insignificant when it comes to making a decision about whether to continue driving or not. If the emotion persists and contributes to the very danger being feared, there are of course various means by which to treat this (although you state you're less interested in this aspect).

"Can a feeling, by itself, be seen as evidence of some truth about the world?".

If 'by itself', you mean something like, 'in the absence of evidence', then no, because in the absence of evidence it is impossible to determine whether the emotion is justified or not. (The obvious exception is that to feel an emotion is to have evidence that you are least - in all likelihood - experiencing that emotion, and this can be useful in that it might suggest that certain actions be taken to either amplify or reduce the strength of that emotion).

"How does one invalidate emotional reasoning?".

'Emotional reasoning' might be an oxymoron. It may be that for some reason, a person's emotions actually correlate quite well with reality, and that this correlation justifies a reliance upon emotions as an indicator of reality. In most our experiences though, there is always some external evidence available against which to compare our emotions, and so there would not seem to be a very good reason to rely upon - or allow ourselves to be governed by - emotions alone. To do so in many circumstances would be reckless and/or dangerous. It is probably important to acknowledge that emotions are not to be ignored though. A mindfulness of our emotional state can allow us to better regulate our behaviour despite the influence of emotion; to more effectively utilise reason in situations impacted by powerful emotions such as fear, euphoria, anger, lust and envy.

You must log in to answer this question.