Are You Noetically Handicapped?

The idea that emotion affects cognition is by no means a recent one in history. Aristotle himself believed that emotions had the power to rival, weaken, or bypass reason. He taught that emotion challenged reason in all three of these ways, and that our feelings often compete with our reason for control over our actions. Indeed, Aristotle believed that our emotions rob our faculty of reason of its full acuity, thus leaving us noetically handicapped. Further, he thought that our passions made us impetuous: “the impetuous person does not go through a process of deliberation and does not make a reasoned choice; he simply acts under the influence of passion.” [cited here] For Aristotle, this means that the influence of our emotive faculties over our cognitive ones is such that there are times when our reasoning process does not enter into conscious reflection until it is too late to influence our decisions.

Do not misunderstand: I am not advocating beliefs without emotion or repudiating the role of personal experience in our faith. I wholeheartedly believe that our experience and our feelings function well to passionately fuel our God-given desires to serve Him. But God designed our faculties for functioning in an integrated, holistic fashion.

From Come Let Us Reason, “Apologetically Blonde” (pp. 42-43) by Toni Allen, Director of Thought Life, LLC.

3 thoughts on “Are You Noetically Handicapped?

  1. Those who reason that they can function intellectually without emotion in any fashion are not using their full cognitive abilities. Our emotions fuel the focus of our reasonings. According to Scripture all our focus should be settled upon loving God first and foremost and loving our neighbors with the same care that we love ourselves. When we do those things, we can suddenly become more intelligent and reasonable. :)

    1. But of course! However, this is not to set reason against emotion; only to show that reason with emotion is the full human experience. I read this chapter in light of what the author intended, viz., that we must not think with our hearts and feel with our heads. At the end of the day, we are to love God with all our minds (Mt 22:37) and not merely our hearts.

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