Have you ever wondered why Gene Roddenberry made James T. Kirk the captain of the Enterprise and not Mr. Spock? Wouldn’t someone less susceptible to their emotions make better decisions and therefore be a better leader?
Some people, sure think so.
Thanks to a French philosopher named René Descartes and some bros like Plato and Emmanuel Kant, roughly 400 years of science has poo pooed the role of emotions in a person’s true being. These rationalists believe that to obtain optimal results, you gotta kill the feelings.
Turns out nothing could be wronger.
“I zink, zerefore I am!” –René Descartes
Antonio Damasio, a neuroscientist who literally wrote the book on #DescartesError, calls the belief that the best decision-making process is unencumbered by emotion, “high-reason view.” He also says it’s hooey, though in more scientific terms.
Damasio’s evidence can be summarized by the story of “Elliot,” a patient whose life went to hell in a hand basket because a tumor ate away the part of his brain that creates emotions.
Elliot should have been rationalists’ shining example. The removal of his frontal lobe had turned him into a real life Vulcan, intelligent but free from emotional interference. Instead, Elliot went from being a solid, salt-of-the-earth guy to suddenly incapable of making decisions. Even small ones. He could thoroughly list the pros and cons for each choice, but he couldn’t figure out which of the criteria were more important to him. He didn’t know if he felt more like eating pizza or burgers. He also couldn’t finish work projects, maintain a marriage, or realize he was being duped by a con-man.
“I actually can’t decide if you should live long OR prosper.” –Mr. Spock
So unless you’ve had your frontal lobe removed like Elliot, you can’t separate your feelings from thoughts no matter how much you worship science and reason.
It was a nice idea, but like haircuts that try to separate the business from the party it just don’t work.
Knowing about #DescartesError is integral in understanding how your brain works because it can help you become wise. The Ancient Greeks weren’t wrong about everything.
Forget stuffing your emotions, pretending they don’t exist. (I’m looking at you, Mr. Spock!) If you want to command the Enterprise and lead us to a better society you’re going to need all of your humanity. This is step one.
Want to read more about your feeelings? Try this: