We should decide with our hearts not heads
Should we choose what we do by what we believe in, or what we think is right.
You can also add to the debate by leaving a comment at the end of the page.
No, this is not a YES! read on
Should we choose what we do by what we believe in, or what we think is right?
This “yes-no” format is inadequate to deal with an “either-or” question, and is a fundamental mistake on the part of the designers of this site; so my choice of “yes” must be taken to refer to the fact that the clickable “yes” link just happens to be at the top, and I am by nature positive...
The question boils down to an opposition between:
“we believe that our beliefs are right”
“sometimes we wonder whether our beliefs might actually be wrong”.
Or, to put it another way:
when an anterior belief conflicts with what we believe to be right, which belief should we follow?
Conflict between beliefs is an opportunity to examine the nature of our beliefs. I would guess that the original questioner was assuming that there are “assumptions” (which are beliefs we happen to have for no particular reason) and “ideals” (which are beliefs about what we really think is right). Presumably, we take it for granted that our assumed “beliefs” endorse what we believe to be “right”. So the problem that is being posed is: what happens when they don’t?
References to Maccabees or any other Bonnetbees are merely statements of belief and do no more than beg the question. Besides, the Maccabees commenter is merely answering a question of their own. The first thing to do is: find out what the question actually is.
I hope this clarifies the debate.
hearts are too easy to manipulate
Emotional responses can be manipulated by day-to-day positive and negative experiences, stress levels and tiredness, diet, alcohol, hormones and psychological problems. Politicians, including untrustworthy politicians, are experts at rousing people's emotions with carefully chosen words, scaremongering and propoganda. We can think we love someone at first sight because they provide a positive ambient atmosphere, look attractive and say the right words, when really it wouldn't work in the long run.
Intellectual decisions are just as easy to manipulate by lack of information, lies,disinformation and misinformation, not being intelligent enough to process information well.
A person of strong willpower will be true to their hearts and not be swayed by attacks on their resolve. A person of strong intuition will be able to make good decisions based on emotions.
4 Maccabees proves you wrong
 The subject that I am about to discuss is most philosophical, that is, whether devout reason is sovereign over the emotions. So it is right for me to advise you to pay earnest attention to philosophy.
 For the subject is essential to everyone who is seeking knowledge, and in addition it includes the praise of the highest virtue -- I mean, of course, rational judgment.
 If, then, it is evident that reason rules over those emotions that hinder self-control, namely, gluttony and lust,
 it is also clear that it masters the emotions that hinder one from justice, such as malice, and those that stand in the way of courage, namely anger, fear, and pain.
 Some might perhaps ask, "If reason rules the emotions, why is it not sovereign over forgetfulness and ignorance?" Their attempt at argument is ridiculous!
 For reason does not rule its own emotions, but those that are opposed to justice, courage, and self-control; and it is not for the purpose of destroying them, but so that one may not give way to them.
I could prove to you from many and various examples that reason is dominant over the emotions,
 but I can demonstrate it best from the noble bravery of those who died for the sake of virtue, Eleazar and the seven brothers and their mother.
 All of these, by despising sufferings that bring death, demonstrated that reason controls the emotions.
 On this anniversary it is fitting for me to praise for their virtues those who, with their mother, died for the sake of nobility and goodness, but I would also call them blessed for the honor in which they are held.
 For all people, even their torturers, marveled at their courage and endurance, and they became the cause of the downfall of tyranny over their nation. By their endurance they conquered the tyrant, and thus their native land was purified through them.
 I shall shortly have an opportunity to speak of this; but, as my custom is, I shall begin by stating my main principle, and then I shall turn to their story, giving glory to the all-wise God.
Our inquiry, accordingly, is whether reason is sovereign over the emotions.
 We shall decide just what reason is and what emotion is, how many kinds of emotions there are, and whether reason rules over all these.
 Now reason is the mind that with sound logic prefers the life of wisdom.
 Wisdom, next, is the knowledge of divine and human matters and the causes of these.
 This, in turn, is education in the law, by which we learn divine matters reverently and human affairs to our advantage.
 Now the kinds of wisdom are rational judgment, justice, courage, and self-control.
 Rational judgment is supreme over all of these, since by means of it reason rules over the emotions.
 The two most comprehensive types of the emotions are pleasure and pain; and each of these is by nature concerned with both body and soul.
 The emotions of both pleasure and pain have many consequences.
 Thus desire precedes pleasure and delight follows it.
 Fear precedes pain and sorrow comes after.
 Anger, as a man will see if he reflects on this experience, is an emotion embracing pleasure and pain.
 In pleasure there exists even a malevolent tendency, which is the most complex of all the emotions.
 In the soul it is boastfulness, covetousness, thirst for honor, rivalry, and malice;
 in the body, indiscriminate eating, gluttony, and solitary gormandizing.
Just as pleasure and pain are two plants growing from the body and the soul, so there are many offshoots of these plants,
 each of which the master cultivator, reason, weeds and prunes and ties up and waters and thoroughly irrigates, and so tames the jungle of habits and emotions.
 For reason is the guide of the virtues, but over the emotions it is sovereign.
Observe now first of all that rational judgment is sovereign over the emotions by virtue of the restraining power of self-control.
 Self-control, then, is dominance over the desires.
 Some desires are mental, others are physical, and reason obviously rules over both.
 Otherwise how is it that when we are attracted to forbidden foods we abstain from the pleasure to be had from them? Is it not because reason is able to rule over appetites? I for one think so.
 Therefore when we crave seafood and fowl and animals and all sorts of foods that are forbidden to us by the law, we abstain because of domination by reason.
 For the emotions of the appetites are restrained, checked by the temperate mind, and all the impulses of the body are bridled by reason.
And why is it amazing that the desires of the mind for the enjoyment of beauty are rendered powerless?
 It is for this reason, certainly, that the temperate Joseph is praised, because by mental effort he overcame sexual desire.
 For when he was young and in his prime for intercourse, by his reason he nullified the frenzy of the passions.
 Not only is reason proved to rule over the frenzied urge of sexual desire, but also over every desire.
 Thus the law says, "You shall not covet your neighbor's wife...or anything that is your neighbor's."
 In fact, since the law has told us not to covet, I could prove to you all the more that reason is able to control desires.
Just so it is with the emotions that hinder one from justice.
 Otherwise how could it be that someone who is habitually a solitary gormandizer, a glutton, or even a drunkard can learn a better way, unless reason is clearly lord of the emotions?
 Thus, as soon as a man adopts a way of life in accordance with the law, even though he is a lover of money, he is forced to act contrary to his natural ways and to lend without interest to the needy and to cancel the debt when the seventh year arrives.
 If one is greedy, he is ruled by the law through his reason so that he neither gleans his harvest nor gathers the last grapes from the vineyard.
In all other matters we can recognize that reason rules the emotions.
 For the law prevails even over affection for parents, so that virtue is not abandoned for their sakes.
 It is superior to love for one's wife, so that one rebukes her when she breaks the law.
 It takes precedence over love for children, so that one punishes them for misdeeds.
 It is sovereign over the relationship of friends, so that one rebukes friends when they act wickedly.
 Do not consider it paradoxical when reason, through the law, can prevail even over enmity. The fruit trees of the enemy are not cut down, but one preserves the property of enemies from the destroyers and helps raise up what has fallen.
It is evident that reason rules even the more violent emotions: lust for power, vainglory, boasting, arrogance, and malice.
 For the temperate mind repels all these malicious emotions, just as it repels anger -- for it is sovereign over even this.
 When Moses was angry with Dathan and Abiram he did nothing against them in anger, but controlled his anger by reason.
 For, as I have said, the temperate mind is able to get the better of the emotions, to correct some, and to render others powerless.
 Why else did Jacob, our most wise father, censure the households of Simeon and Levi for their irrational slaughter of the entire tribe of the Shechemites, saying, "Cursed be their anger"?
 For if reason could not control anger, he would not have spoken thus.
 Now when God fashioned man, he planted in him emotions and inclinations,
 but at the same time he enthroned the mind among the senses as a sacred governor over them all.
 To the mind he gave the law; and one who lives subject to this will rule a kingdom that is temperate, just, good, and courageous.
How is it then, one might say, that if reason is master of the emotions, it does not control forgetfulness and ignorance?
 This notion is entirely ridiculous; for it is evident that reason rules not over its own emotions, but over those of the body.
 No one of us can eradicate that kind of desire, but reason can provide a way for us not to be enslaved by desire.
 No one of us can eradicate anger from the mind, but reason can help to deal with anger.
 No one of us can eradicate malice, but reason can fight at our side so that we are not overcome by malice.
 For reason does not uproot the emotions but is their antagonist. "
for the rest of the book (and thus the rest of the argument), please read at this website: http://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/r/rsv/rsv-idx?type=DIV1&byte=4496061
Tradition versus awareness
Consider the case of Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow. This was a 13-year-old Somali girl who was raped by three men. Her father complained to the “authorities”, and the “authorities” sentenced Aisha to be stoned to death for adultery: which sentence was duly carried out.
Now, if you are a person who has always believed for religious reasons that sex out of wedlock is adultery, and that adultery must be punished, as prescribed, by stoning to death, then you might say:
She had sex out of wedlock, therefore she is an adulterer, therefore she should be killed by stoning. Such is the belief I have been taught”.
On the other hand, you might say:
“Wait a minute! Yes, she had sex out of wedlock, but she didn’t intend to. She was raped!”
In some oriental cultures, it seems that the mere fact of sex is enough to convict even a child, but it may well be that you, the believer, might consider the matter and say:
(a) rape is a form of assault; it is an attack on a person, and in the case of a girl-child who is powerless to resist three adult men there is no way that she could avoid sexual intercourse even if she believed the same as I do;
(b) it matters that a person is forced to commit a crime, rather than enacting it of her own free will.
So although your assumed religious beliefs say “she had sex out of wedlock, she is an adulterer, she should be punished”, your sense of justice says “No! she is not guilty. We should rather condemn the men who raped her. They are the real criminals!”
So are we seriously going to set acquired beliefs against our sense of justice? Remember that a child has been judicially killed because of those acquired beliefs.
The question is: we have acquired beliefs about this or that (e.g. the will of God), and we have reasonable beliefs about what is just : which set of beliefs is more likely to be true? How should we consider the matter? Do we put traditional teachings about God first, or the moral claims of Aisha?
Now consider: "God hates gays", and set this against the question: "what harm do gays do"? - can you honestly point to any harm done by any person BECAUSE they were gay? Think about it.
It is impossible for our hearts to decide
Firstly the term 'heart' and 'head' are ambiguous and should be specified. I shall interpret 'heart' to mean that thins which contains our emotions i.e. fear, love, hatred etc. i shall not deem the term 'heart' to refer to the actual physical heart which has no relevance to the concept of decision that is a heart only pumps blood around the body it cannot think in any way. I shall interpret the term 'head' to refer to our brains and our minds i.e. where our thoughts and mental processes take place.
Imagine a man on a train, he sees a packet of crisps on the floor. He is faced with a choice. He could either do something with the packet of crisps that is he could eat it, throw it in the bin, play catch with it etc. or he could just leave it alone. How does this man come to either of the two choices, how does he decide what to do. Does he have a special emotional feeling to such a situation , does he feel love, fear, hatred or revenge for the packet of crisps? If not, how can he solely make a decision with his heart. He uses reason, logic and a thinking process, he may think that the crisps were not his so he should leave it alone or may think himself hungry and consume the crisps or may think that energy wasted on doing anything with crisps is wasteful thus he leaves it alone.
One could argue that in a situation lets say when the man has to choose between a peasant and his wife, the man may have a emotional attachment for his wife so he decides to choose his wife. However this is too simplistic, we choose between people for other factors i.e. health, reproduction (sexual attraction exists in the body not heart), finance, entertainment most people consider these things and the man may not choose the peasant because she is diseased and poor. Therefore we cannot solely decide on our hearts. However it is impossible to do so. We become aware of situations and choices through our perception and our brains, our hearts cannot on its own become aware of situations , its only a box of emotions. Also how can our hearts process the choices, it has no method or system for doing so. We ultimately decide with our heads i.e. our minds and brains.
It should be noted that be accepting this hypothesis situations like the man and crisps can be explained and thus all situations of choice can be explained by our mental thinking process not just our emotions. Also it should be noted that even emotions themselves exist in the mind/ memory/ brain either as information in neurones, memories of experiences or biological instincts.
Therefore 'We can't decide with out hearts, only with our heads' thus we have no 'should' and we cannot try to choose between the heart or our heads for decisions because by doing so we are using our heads to decide on such a thing.
What do you think?