Thursday, May 20, 2010

Reason, intuition, emotion, and two of my favorite philosophers

I've been talking with friends about the relationship between (among?) reason, intuition, and emotion. Some friends seem to think that reason should be used to guide and restrain the unruly impulses of emotion, which can otherwise get is into such big trouble. Other friends argue that clear intuition, properly understood, is the best guide to action. I think it all goes together, reason, emotion, and intuition, and they all affect and correct each other. My friends are tolerant and open-minded people, but they seem to think that this is a rather unusual idea. As much as I would like to believe that I am the creative genius that has discovered this innovative way of looking at the world, it just ain't so. It is something that many radical feminists and lesbian feminists have been saying for years. This discussion inspired me to look up what two of my favorite philosophers have to say about the subject.

First, here is a passage from Mary Daly's autobiography, Outercourse: The Be-Dazzling Voyage. Starting on page 74, she describes her struggle with the concepts of reason and intuition when writing her dissertation for her doctoral dissertation in philosophy:
The point is that although I cherished this intuition, and could see no use in philosophizing without it, perhaps even in living without it, I wanted a clear defense of intellectual rigor/vigor. This insistence on having it all--intuition and arduous reasoning that is rooted in intuition--was of deep importance to me. I loved both modes of knowing, which I recognized as essential to each other. Sickened by the downgrading and caricaturing of intuition and the relegation of this pathetically reduced "talent" to women--which of course also implied the safeguarding of "reason" as the prerogative of males--I was struggling to Name this game which had been played by academics for centuries. It was indeed one of the masters' major mind fucks of the millennia.
That is one of my favorite things about feminist thinking, this wild insistence on having it all, on not having ourselves cut up into little pieces that get labeled "masculine" or "feminine." Another example of this wild insistence comes from radical lesbian Sarah Hoagland, whose 1988 book Lesbian Ethics has been one of the major influences on my own thinking. Hoagland has a long and interesting chapter on "Integrating Reason and Emotions," which I haven't the time to re-read at the moment. I'll content myself with quoting most of her first paragraph, found on page 157:
I want to discuss the split between reasoning and emotions, and the subsequent belief that one must control the other, which informs traditional anglo-european philosophy from ancient greece to the present and which we as lesbians perpetuate in our interactions. I want to suggest that accepting the split keeps alive the idea of power as control and keeps our selves fragmented and isolated. My overall argument is that our moral agency is encouraged by integrating and so politicizing reasoning and emotions within the community, for this is how we get back in touch with the energy that moves us, energy which is deadened when we separate reasoning and emotions.
Here is to unfucking all of our our minds and putting our reason, emotion, and intuition back together.

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