chapter  7
16 Pages

Reason, emotion, and the embodiment of power

WithDavid Parkin

The various dichotomies framing debates on rationality are revealing. Relativism may be opposed to rationality, but may also be opposed to universalism. The latter slides over into objectivity and so is contrasted with subjectivity. Subjectivity subsumes emotionalism, which itself is set up against reason. Thus, from rationality and relativism we move to reason and sentiment. Three issues arise from this muddle. One is the attempt to disentangle such apparent confusion. We can subdivide kinds of rationality into, for instance, cognitive and strategic (de Sousa 1980:129), or we can distinguish arch-rationalism from anarcho-rationalism (Hacking 1982: 51-66), recognizing that in all such cases a notion of objective truth is in some way implied and, with it, a potential universalism (for example, even if a society does not have a particular version of reality, it remains a possible option to be taken up from among those available to humanity (Gellner 1982: 187-88)). We can also subdivide types of relativism, such as conceptual, perceptual, moral, cognitive, and those of truth and reason (Hollis and Lukes 1982:6-20), and no doubt many more. I do not wish to add to this aspect of the debate, but rather to ask why it has arisen at all.