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A Little Emotion Goes a Reasonably Long Way

Among the most distinctive features of the IF discussion process is how it deals with emotion.  Rather than treating emotion as the “opposite” of “reason” and subordinating one to the other, the IF process sees reason and emotion as interactive.  (If there’s any subordinating going on, it’s to the goal of exploration itself.)

Validating emotions means, among other things, that they are viewed as:

  • part of humans’ hardwiring
  • basic to our identities and experience
  • a valuable motor powering thinking–and discussion (“We reason deeply when we first forcibly feel.” –Mary Wollstonecroft)
  • threaded through or interactive with most or all of our thought processes, especially those that deal, as public policy does, with moral questions

The benefits of according emotions the respect they’re due are big.  The first is that, rather than trying to ban or outlaw emotions, IF discussions allow participants to explore them.  The second follows from the first: emotions that are being explored openly tend not to boil over.  Discussions stay not only honest and fruitful, but civil. 

It’s ironic, really: by accepting the reality of our emotional “side,” IF’s process ends up helping to produce discussions that are more “reasonable.”  Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that because the IF process sees reason and emotion as interactive, it allows real exploration–at least as much as participants reasonably feel like engaging in.

One of the big benefits of this feature of the IF discussion process is that, ironically perhaps, it tends to put a serious damper on emotions’ tendency to