02 October 2010
This item is by Wilf Gaunt.
In Lone Frank's book 'Mindfield,' she describes how, in conversation with the (superstar) neuroeconomists Colin Camerer and George Loewenstein, they reformulated Plato's old metaphore: comparing the human mind to a chariot drawn by two horses, one representing reason, the other emotion. This is true enough they said, with the important difference that reason should be represented by a pony, and emotion by an elephant.
The book then goes on to point out that reason cannot be put into practice without the involvement of emotion: emotion being the primary driving force of our system, inherited through evolutionary time, and reason being a more recent, subordinate application. Autism can be defined as a malfunction of the connection between the reasoning part of the brain and the origins of our emotions. No matter how high the IQ of an autistic person, their attempts to apply the results of their reasoning fall apart because of the non-involvement of emotion.
It struck me, reading this, that the lack of emotion involved in the production, and attempted application of, Secular-Humanist philosophy generally, puts us firmly in the autistic category; and probably explains our inability to appeal to the statistically observed wider audience in society, which we should have working actively with us to forward our aims. As for trying to convert people from the emotional comfort zones of their religions, forget it.
When asked about his use of the current popular music of his times in his services, the founder of the Salvation Army, William Booth, famously replied: 'Why should the Devil have all the best tunes?' He obviously understood the value of raised emotional levels in putting across his message. Goebbels successfully deployed every emotional weapon at his disposal (film, music, pageant, language) to forward the Nazi message: even knowing the outcome, Hitler's speeches are still frighteningly, hypnotically persuasive. President Kennedy praised the way Churchill had mobilised the English language during WW2: he should also have stressed the emotional uplift of that language, which I well remember as a child.
Without emotion, even the best ideas are dead things; with emotion, even nonsense can become king.