Blaise Pascal once penned these famous words, “The heart has its reasons that reason knows nothing of… We know the truth not only by reason but by the heart.” And yet, throughout Western history, the heart and it various synonyms, such as the passions, emotions, etc. have been set apart and against the “cold” and “hard” calculus of reason. The Stoics were immensely suspicions of the passions. The Enlightenment put up an artificial barrier between reason and emotions. The common dichotomy between objectivity and subjectivity is often a veil form of the distinction between the rational head and the emotional heart. However, if philosophers like Pascal and recent scientists, such as Antonio Damasio, have good reasons to suggest that emotions are integral to and partners with reasoning, why is it then that the West drew the conclusion that the heart and reason were antithetical to each other?
On factor is that, phenomenological, reasoning and affect appear to be different phenomenons. My conscious aware about reasoning is largely disconnected from my awareness of my desires, the interoceptive awareness of my body, etc. Meanwhile, our awareness of emotions, desires, etc. engage the body as a whole in addition to our thoughts. Given the way the intellectual tradition of the West has relied upon the analytic usage of binary categories in which the two categories are considered fundamental opposites and thus share little to nothing in common, it became intuitive to distinction emotion as the absence of reasoning. Nevertheless, the reality is that emotions and reasoning go hand in hand neurologically and physiologically, even if the intellectually enculturated conscious awareness of the West has had a hard time connecting the two together.
However, this is not a satisfactory explanation in my book. Rather, I want to suggest that the heart and reason were treated as distinct because of a fundamental orientation that has existed in the intellectual tradition of the West: the will to power. One may sense echoes of Nietzsche, but I want to suggest what Nietzsche was attuned to his definition of humanity was more so to a deeply unconscious, yet pervasive orientation of Western philosophy and motivations about knowledge: to construct the world according to our ideal image.
Why would this orientation create the division between mind and heart? Simply put, the world does not so easily succumb to our wishes and wants. It provides resistance of various forms and can remain quite unpredictable. Life doesn’t go according to our plans. When we have a specific purpose or goal in mind, this can become quite frustrating. In some cases, it leave us deflated and feeling ready to give up. In that case, then, if one wants to continue form the people and the environments around themselves according to one’s dreams, one has to begin to disconnect the conscious purposes one seeks to realize and the various emotions that can be evoked when one’s purposes frustrated. The separation of our ‘rational’ understanding of the way things are and should be from the ‘affective’ heart is a psychological and even biological necessity if one wants to continue to strive to form the world according to the image in one’s mind.
The result of this orientation to will to power is that our knowledge about the world is largely condition to the ways things are in this moment and what we wish to make it to be. We divide reason between reality and norms because the will to power makes salient the regular dissonance between our goals, hopes, expectations, norms with our understanding of reality. In other words, the fact-value distinction emerges as a prevalent form of intellectual analysis due to the way the will to power makes the resistance to power salient.
Furthermore, as the will to power continues to seek the realization of its ‘rational’ goals, it continuously looks for increasingly reliable knowledge that it can effectively use to achieve its ends. As a result, there is a latent push to reach for perfection latent within the will to power. Anything that is not clearly observable, analyzable, and understandable is useless to the will to power, if not even a threat if those things are present as roadblocks to one’s goals. As a result, the will to power prioritizes knowledge about those things which are readily clear and distinct over the irreducibly complex and mysterious. This leads, ultimately, to the devaluation, if not even the rejection of God and various hard to observe and define parts of life.
How different is the will to love from the will to power.
The passion for the well-being of the beloved provides the reasons for which one acts. The sharing of deep love can not be separate into the fact-value distinction, but they are seamlessly joined together as one. The will to love recognizes what is most vital principle about the other is not in what is seen but in what can not readily seen and often expressed indirectly. As much as there are things we can say about love, in the end, the will to love can never entirely take away the mystery of love.
In love, the heart gives reasons for our reason.
It isn’t that we either live out the will to love or the will to power. We can live out both. But what, however, is the will that drives you the most? Is it the will to power, that is tempted to treats the objects of one’s love as objects in service to one’s rational goals? Or, does the will to love motivate use to the will to power for the goals of the well-being of the other?