Visions, Myths and Grand Narratives


We have observed that what we think of as our voluntary behaviour is governed by concepts and beliefs, emotions and attitudes. These are, of course, not separate entities, for our beliefs affect our emotions and we tend to rationalise our emotions and attitudes in the form of beliefs. The genesis of, and relationship between, these factors must be left to our psychologists (and psychiatrists). However, it is relevant to note here that our neuroscientists can relate emotions and beliefs with electro-chemical activity of specific sections of the brain. For some philosophers and neuroscientists our emotions and beliefs, our cognitive processes, simply are this synaptic activity. Whatever we might make of these conjectures we can now observe that some emotions can be induced by direct electro-chemical intervention in this neuron activity.

What we think of as ‘rationality’ is an innate characteristic of human cognitive activity – although it might be sometimes difficult to recognise this property. Nevertheless, as we have seen, reason alone cannot lead us to values or ethical judgements. At the practical level we must take account of what we are – rational beings (for the most part) but with emotions and passions and that part of the human condition that sometimes seeks an experience of existence, an encounter with ‘reality’, which transcends the everyday. In an instrumentalist sense we must acknowledge the idea of emotional truths as well as analytic truths.