Slave of the Passions?

David Hume famously wrote that “Reason is and ought to be the slave of the passions.” Hume did outstanding work on moral psychology, but I wanted to discuss the “back and forth” between reason and emotion.

This back and forth–where one is cognizant of one’s emotions and then learns to regulate the is known as emotional regulation. As human grow and develop, hopefully they develop this back and forth play and learn to moderate emotions as needed.

Regulating one’s emotions is an important part of maturing and living a healthy life. Some philosophers, such as Martha Nussbaum, discuss the intelligence of emotions. They may be intelligent, but they can also get out of hand, in which case, that’s not too bright.

Just as emotions can get out of hand, so too can reason get out of hand. Much ink has been spilled recently about EQ (Emotional Intelligence) and its importance. Being overly cognitive and having an emotion deficit can be a problem, too.

The key, as in most cases, is balance. Learning to regulate one’s emotions may be a lifelong task for some, but it’s well worth it.


Author: Jennifer Lawson

Philosopher. That is all.

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