Prejudiced Against Emotion?

TOK invites us to ask about what we know, what we believe, the differences between knowledge and belief, and how we can determine whether we are justified in thinking that we know something, or justified in believing something.

In that spirit, I have a question about TOK itself: is the course inherently biased against emotion, in favour of reason?

Many obvious reflections encourage us to trust reason over emotion. We live in a world dominated by science and technology, products of humankind’s power to think rationally. We look past to pre-scientific ages in which ignorance and emotion led to superstitions and false beliefs. All of this must be acknowledged.


Have we gone too far in our judgments against emotion? Is it the case that reason is always the best way to determine truth? Or are there times and situations in which emotion is a better guide than reason?

The age we live in is not only scientific, but also patriarchal, and I wonder whether patriarchy reinforces our prejudice against emotion. The two founding peoples of Western civilization, the ancient Greeks and Hebrews, were both patriarchal cultures worshipping supreme gods depicted as fathers. The dominant cultures, states, and religions of the East have also been patriarchal. Matriarchy has been stamped out, or marginalized in very small cultural minorities. In our gender stereotypes, reason is masculine, emotion feminine, and since the masculine is dominant in our governments, religions, and economies, is it not possible that just as we devalue women in politics, in religion, and in business, we also devalue emotion?

In a scientific, matriarchal culture, would emotion have more credibility than we usually give it?

In the spirit of TOK, I don’t know. It would be interesting, I think, to hear what women scientists have to say about these questions.

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Not all black and white; the most interesting bits are gray.