Emotions are the biological response distinguished as profound innate feelings driven by the reaction to stimuli. Their infinitude and variability makes it difficult to categorize, and thus their credibility as a source of truth is controversial.
Hence, emotion is generally known to be essential in revealing hidden meanings of art, but a hindrance to truth in history. Regardless of different perceptions, we unconsciously or consciously use emotions in knowledge acquisition. Therefore, I think we can know when to trust our emotions in the pursuit of knowledge, but conditionally; when reason was used simultaneously..History is the present traces of the past, and thus clear and objective views of all the facts are needed for the accurate analysis of the evidence. If emotions interferes the historical research, it can distort our perceptions resulting confirmation bias – our tendency to reinforce what we already believe. For example, in 2013, 2 North Korean historians claimed that DPRK soldiers caused the Gwangju Democratization movement in 2008, South Korea, as participants were using the common weapon from DPRK in the pictures taken at that time. It is significant that emotions of historians – especially patriotism – has led an irrational decision through rationalization; justifying pre-existing prejudices.
North Korean historians got a lot of criticism and later admitted that they were subjective on the issue; they had to purposely suspend their emotion to view the events unbiased. Since emotions are immediate and short-sighted, it is evident that historians could trust those instinctive reactions in analyzing evidence while the reliability of emotions is low. This eventually obstructs from acquiring knowledge and lead to misinterpreted and biased concept of history. Therefore, we cannot know when to trust our emotions as the tendency to follow emotions is indisputable.However, emotion can stimulate our passion for the pursuit of historical information. For instance, indignation and patriotism has motivated south korean historians to conduct a further research against the north korean historians’ work to reveal the truth. The reason why emotion didn’t cloud rational judgement in this case was because another ways of knowing – reason – got involved. Since reason process the information more deliberately, it can help us to judge whether an emotional reaction makes sense in its context – or is in excess of the provocation.
Based on DPRK’s incident, south korean historians used their inductive reasoning to evaluate potential consequences of impulsive action and refrained from biased emotional coloring. Emotion also brought a deeper understanding for myself as deductive reasoning helped me to realize that medium of diary of Anne Frank requires empathy to understand her oppression and the fear of anti-semitism. Hence, although emotion in history causes fallacy such as emotional coloring and confirmation bias, we can know when to trust our emotion in the pursuit of knowledge if reasoning was used to understand the context; which helps us to use the positive and trustworthy side of emotion. Art is the area where the spectator can respond to knowledge through understanding the intentions and expressions of the artist within quality aesthetics by various interpretations.
However, emotion can easily manipulate our perceptions on values of artworks. For instance, a poet Choi Seungho contended that he couldn’t solve any test questions on his own poem because the textbook was interpreting the author’s purpose as ‘criticizing the citizens’ lack of resistance towards martial law’, which was incorrect. As art is solely communicated by expressions, we should scrutinize our personal emotion not to interfere in identifying artist’s intention. However, it is hard to be rational while justifying our own instinctive feelings, and thus we will enslaved by the untrustworthy idea driven by our emotion. For instance, the emotion contagion – tendency of emotion to spread – made few aforesaid interpretations of artists who experienced martial law to influence other artists, which eventually believed as the truth.
Emotion obscured from an objective analysis of art as it is uninformed, egocentric and unreliable; the interpretation of our own emotional state may unconsciously dependant on the contexts. Thus, such emotional persuasion hinders knowledge unintentionally. In contrast, emotional response that the artworks evoke helps us greatly in gaining a deeper knowledge. Art requires the audience not only to appreciate, but to feel it in order to gain insights to the artist’s message. For example, when I saw a paintings by Amedeo Modigliani, I simply thought they consisted of gloomy mood due to the pupil-less eyes. However, when I figure out that the artist wanted to understand his lover’s soul before drawing her pupils, I understood how he loved her eyes and wanted to express his love with strong brush strokes.
Therefore, I had to use critical thinking in order to fully appreciate its value through penetrating beyond the surface impressions. Since emotions are cognitively dependent, reasoning helps us to control our emotions on perceiving the artworks with different context; I could deductively reason that I require the backgrounds of the artist before I use emotions to understand the embedded, communicated ideas. Therefore, although emotion can cause persuasion and distort our perspectives on art in any form, we can know when to trust our emotion in the knowledge acquisition with reasoning; which helps us to judge when to use our feelings to have insights into artworks.