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Reason, Emotion, and Exploratory Discussion

One of the ways in which the IF discussion process is most distinctive is in how it deals with emotion.

Rather than imposing a dichotomy between “emotion” and “reason” and then raising one above the other, the IF process treats them as interactive partners in generating exploratory discussion itself.  (If there is any “subordinating” going on in the IF process–whether of emotion or reason–it is to exploratory discussion itself.)  

One of the benefits of this feature of the IF discussion process is that discussions are kept from boiling over and degenerating into shout fests.  Another is that the IF process validates the importance not just of thinking, but also of feeling.  More specifically, I think the IF process fully admits that human emotions are:

  • part of our hardwiring
  • of consequence in and of themselves
  • a kind of motor or fuel for our thinking (“We reason deeply when we first forcibly feel.” –Mary Wollstonecroft)
  • threaded through or interactive with much of our thinking, our moral thinking in particular.

For all of these reasons, I think there is real wisdom in a process that, far from clamping down on or attempting to ban emotions, allows and even encourages participants to explore them.  As reasonably as they feel they can, of course.