“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” – John 12:24
“The last enemy to be destroyed is death...Death is swallowed up in victory.” – 1 Corinthians 15:26, 54
"The greater the sin, the greater the mercy, the deeper the death and the brighter the rebirth.” - C. S. Lewis
"This story...has the very taste of primary truth." - J. R. R. Tolkien

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Reason of the Heart, Part III

How, then, are we to judge whether or not our emotions are reliable? We should judge emotions by whether or not they are in line with reason, not vice versa. Ultimately, reason is a higher and stronger standard for knowing truth. I think the best way is to consider whether or not they are leading us away from what we judge to be rationally true. However, even if our emotions suggest that something is true which we would not suppose to be true based on reason alone, we might still trust our gut. I think it is important to distinguish between whether objective reasoning contradicts something (or suggests it is false), or is merely neutral to it (that is, not directly or decisively pointing in either direction). For example, our hearts may incline us to believe in God. Now, although there may be strong objective evidence for belief in God (that is, not dependent on our emotions but on reason alone), I think that even if the objective evidence did not point decisively one way or the other, the “reason of the heart” would be a piece of evidence in favor of God’s existence. Only when emotion leads one to think differently from how he would think based on reason alone must emotion be overruled by reason. Otherwise we must give some weight to it.

Essentially, we can trust that our emotions point towards truth to the extent that they do seem to point towards truth. That is, we should acknowledge what our emotion inclines us to think is true. This is rather difficult to put into words. Perhaps the best way to say it is this: there are moments when we are aware of a most profound reality, when we perceive through our desires the heights and depths of all reality. The beauty, the majesty, the terror, the wonder of existence – sharp as a knife, cold as ice, bright as the sun, deeper than anything we know. For me it is music that takes me there, or the great stories (often told through film), or simply the wind in my face. It is during these moments that we know we have touched upon truth. This is what religion attempts to explain – with God, or Brahman, or nirvana, or whatever. But whatever it is we cannot deny its existence. Our emotional understanding of reality points to it, and reason does not point in the other direction. There is something down there at the foundation of reality, something with the power to be. If we knew it fully, we would understand fully why something exists instead of nothing. We cannot know fully, but to deny it is to deny the reality that we clearly perceive.

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