Monday, September 6, 2010

Heart has its reasons, which reason knows nothing of.

I was having a casual discussion with friends today during our lunch as they gulped in beer and I drank Pepsi (strictly sticking to my “I don’t drink” policy :) ). Soon, the discussion took a U-turn and we started discussing religion, beliefs, how we perceive things and whether (why/ why not) we should/ can (shouldn’t/ couldn’t) compare situations which make us what we are. This somehow reminded me of a quote “Heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of” by Blaise Pascal. Mathematician, physicist, religious philosopher, and inventor of the first digital calculator, Blaise Pascal lived in the time when Copernicus' discovery - that the earth moves round the sun - had made fallen human beings insignificant factors in the new order of the world. Facing the immensity of the universe, Pascal felt horror - "The eternal silence of these infinite spaces terrifies me." Pascal, often tormented by religious doubt, took the question “Why are we here?” with the utmost seriousness and quoted:

Heart has its reasons, which reason knows nothing of.

As far as my understanding of the quote goes, the word "reason" serves two different purposes: in its first occurrence, the word "reason" implies an intention; while the second usage of "reason", implies rational thinking.
The idea that we can be ignorant of our own reasons is deeply puzzling. However, we may attribute certain reasons to the heart versus the mind conflict, but the central conviction remains the same: we may be moved by reasons without consciously thinking of them as reasons. For example: I might dislike someone whom I've met recently. However, I don't know why I dislike this person as I don't know him well enough; also, the person has not said or done anything wrong; and yet I suspect that there is a reason for my behaviour. Firstly, it is possible that this person actually has done something wrong — like giving a menacing look in my direction, and I have noted this behavior unconsciously. If I become aware of this behavior, I would recognize it as a reason for my dislike. Second, it is possible that this person merely looks like someone else whom I disliked and I have extended my feelings from one instance to the other. If I become conscious of the latter possibility, I would recognize it as unreasonable. It can be thus inferred, that in the first case, I am simply unaware of my reasons; while in the second case, I am affected by considerations that I do not regard as reasons at all.

Emotions are influenced by one's existence and his scope of knowledge. A change in either of those things changes the emotional response to the situations of life. In any situation, while taking a decision, we use our mind (reason) and our heart (Emotions or consciousness). It is our reasoning which directly determines the context of which emotions come into play, and why. This makes people determined and strongly motivated to achieve their goal and passionately follow their feelings without being bothered about how others perceive them, something which helps them deal with negative criticism: Remember, “A is A” – Aristotle’s law of identity :).

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