Do you think more with your heart or with your mind?

A student asked:

Do you think more with your heart or with your mind? Are you more an emotional person or a logical person?

It depends on the situation. I like to think that I am more rational than emotional. Though there are times where I am more emotional than rational.

That said, this way of thinking about it is a bit problematic. It’s known as a “false dichotomy,” where the situation is presented in an either/or manner. There is value in using one’s mind, and there is also value in using one’s heart. And the morally exemplary person is one who’s able to make decisions with both heart and mind in tandem with each other.

Growing up, I’ve always been too much on the rational side. But the problem with that is reason can tell you a thousand over things that you should be doing with your life. And while I can agree with all these things, I find myself at odds with some of them, precisely because I don’t actually want to do so many of these things. Not because I’m a selfish person, but it’s just not who I am. Reason is great, but it can be disconnected from many of the concrete particularities like who we are, what we like to do, what we want to do. These are regarded more as matters of the heart, which are in fact, just as important.

Without the heart, we can reason ourselves into doing a lot of things we hate. There is simply no joy to such an existence. And I know this because I used to do that a lot.

And of course, making decisions purely out of the heart, purely out of emotion, can be a recipe for disaster. Good intentions must be checked by reason, otherwise we can end up doing more harm than good to the people around us. And I’ve seen so many horrible incidents occur by volunteers of charity. Much heart, but no head. And so precious resources are wasted due to gross inefficiencies, many people are hurt in the process, and so on. These could have been easily avoided with systematic planning with reason, or even just using reason to analyse whether the actions are even worth taking in the first place.

I’ll admit that I am still far from the moral exemplar who is able to decide with both heart and mind aligned as one. I think we should strive towards that if we want to cause less headaches and heartaches for ourselves and others. I’m still trying my best in this regard.

Author: Jonathan Y. H. Sim

Jonathan Sim is an Instructor with the Department of Philosophy at the National University of Singapore. He is passionate about teaching and he continues to research fun and innovative ways of engaging students to learn effectively. He has been teaching general education modules to a diverse range of undergraduate students and adult learners at the University.

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