Theory of Knowledge – Emotions

To what degree is emotion biological or “hard-wired”, and hence universal to all human beings? To what extent is it shaped by culture and hence displayed differently in different societies? As humans, we tend to have emotions. This is because it is inborn and we do not require teachings on how to use this instinctive state of mind. This is clearly proven by babies, who are able to laugh and cry without being taught how to. In other words, we are able to respond to a circumstance before we even learn how to pronounce a simple syllable.

This further suggests that emotion is universal for nationality, race, and religion do not influence the fact that humans can feel different emotions given different situations. However, the situation that can evoke a particular emotion may vary across cultures. It is through culture in which the cause of the expression is shaped. For example, my friends and I watched a clip of a skateboarder falling down from a steep flight of stairs in “World’s Most Funniest Videos” and I noticed that white friends laughed at it while the asians put on a disgusted face.

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This shows the influence that culture has on the emotions that we express towards a particular situation. It could be argued that this is a hasty generalized statement. However, the title of the show itself suggests that it was supposed to funny and not surprisingly, this show was produced in America. Other than culture’s influence on the cause of the emotion, a culture may also shape the expression of the emotion. There was a study conducted in Glasgow University that found that East Asians were more likely than Westerners to read the expression for fear as surprise, and disgust as anger.

This suggests that different cultures have different accustoms of expressions. Art is closely linked to emotion as it functions as a medium of expression. Likewise to emotion, Art can be seen as both universal and cultural. Every culture produces art and understands the value of aesthetics. However, it is the way that the beauty in art is judged which distinguishes a piece of art from the others. For instance, Mende art in Africa puts a lot of emphasis on the subcutaneous fat around a woman’s neck for it represents good health and well being.

This example shows that the emotion of desire is aroused by different things across different cultures. Furthermore, different cultures also have different ways of expressing the same emotion through art. This particularly applies to the illustrations used on a daily basis on msn and sms. Westerners tend to use ” 🙂 ” to represent ‘happy’ but east asians use ” (^_^) “. Westeners use ” 🙁 ” to show sadness but asians use ” T_T “. Third most popular emoticon would be for the ‘surprised’ emotion.

Westerners use ” 😮 ” but asians use ” O. o “. Overall, art is an essential method of expression and its dependency on culture clearly suggests that culture plays a large role in the shaping of emotions. 3. Why has emotion sometimes been seen as a less valuable way of knowing than, say, reason? Or does the value of emotion as a way of knowing depend on the kind of knowledge that is being pursued? I often judge that intuitive guesses have a higher risk of being wrong compared to guesses based on reasoning and rationality.

This is because emotions can distort perception -we tend to see what we want to see- and reason -we tend not to reason in an objective way but to rationalize our pre-existing prejudices. Having said that, emotions are short-sighted and often prevents us from seeing the long-term consequences. I had experienced this before and it was when I had an argument with my mum about being responsible where I unexpectedly criticized her parenting. I was clearly blinded by emotions at that time and I regretted saying such things after the fight ended.

At that time, I should not have used emotion to make decisions. Instead I should have reasoned rationally in an objective manner. Unlike emotions, reason is objective and it is purely based on logic and the premises of the argument. It may also be arguable that reason has its doubts as well for it could only be as accurate as the premises – fact in which could have contained pre-existing bias and prejudices. On the other hand, emotions also play an important role in our mental lives and help us to make sense of the world.

This particularly applies to expert intuition whereby talent, data, and background knowledge that has been extensively accumulated are used to make intuitive guesses. For example, in science, intuition has helped Albert Einstein develop the theory of relativity. Despite that, natural intuition seems to be ever-present and this could lead to biased perception and fallacious reasoning even within the scientists themselves. This could be further supported by the provisional nature of science.

Emotion is a very subjective thing that could negatively affect the rationality of the way we think but emotion could also give rise to new insights of life if sufficient background knowledge is already present. Thus, overall, I feel that emotion is of the same value as other ways of knowing as it all includes bias and favoritism towards pre-existing prejudices but these ways of knowing can become reliable depending on the kind of knowledge that is being pursued.

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