So, last night Alayna and I watched the movie Inside Out, which is an excellent addition to the Pixar collection if you haven’t seen it. The movie had me thinking about emotions, and specifically the way the emotions impact our reasoning and moral outlook. One of the things that the movie showed well is that our emotions grow as we grow, and balancing them effectively can be very difficult. There have been various approaches to emotion ranging from some modern ethical outlooks that glorify emotion and set it over against reason, essentially arguing that man’s reason is cold, stilted, and draconian while his emotions bring light and life to an otherwise dark world. Contrast this with an Aristotelian outlook that essentially argues that the emotions are childish obstacles to achieving true fulfillment and satisfaction in life and you will have a fair sense of the range of views in modern moral thought. However, there have been several attempts in the history of moral thought to develop a more balanced understanding of the interplay between emotion and reason, and Thomism presents, in my opinion, one of the best of these. In the thought of Thomas Aquinas emotions are fundamental to life. They do form, in many ways, the core of who we are. The passions express our innate desires and aversions, likes and dislikes, fears, hopes, dreams, and ambitions. However, they are also generally wild, reckless, often at odds with one another, and always vying for control. On one reading Thomistic virtue ethics is simply a method for training the emotions to interact in a balanced and effective way: to get angry when one should and to the degree that one should, and the same with sorrow, desire, disgust, hope, etc. Aquinas pairs the emotions and show how they can stand at odds with one another, anger against fear, joy against sorrow, hope against despair, etc. Then he presents his virtues, each keyed to control one side of these paired emotions. For instance, Fortitude is the virtue of the irascible part as it stands against depressive emotions, and thus Fortitude is rightly aligned to control fear, sorrow, despair, etc. On the other had, temperance is the virtue of that stands against the opposite side of these emotions with relation to our inner world, and thus keeps anger, hope, etc from overreaching their hand and leading the individual into destruction. Similarly, Justice balances the emotions in the social sphere, and Prudence is the virtue of knowing just how far is far enough in any given situation. So, here is your question for the day: what are the emotions and how do they interact with one another well and/or poorly? Pixar’s Inside Out is an example of one answer to this question that was turned into a two hour movie. So, give it some thought and share your answer with us.
Remember, you should answer this question in the form of a 1000 word story.