This week I couldn’t resist focusing on emotions and truth. These two issues boiled to the surface due to the recent heated debates concerning fake news, whatever that means, and the harm which is done by those producing it; that is those who sacrifice the truth in order to make a point and or a buck. The main focus now seems to be on the fake news, which is produced for and distributed on the internet. Many of us tuned out and killed our TVs years ago due to this issue and it has now resurfaced on the internet. Of course, it is easier to produce and distribute this noise on the internet, but I argue that talk radio and television have been quite successful with this fake news “business” model for decades now. Echo chambers are not a new phenomenon, although the term being used to describe how digital social communities reinforce false stories and spread this harmful noise is a new way to describe it, or at least it’s new to me.
So now my point, how to produce content for the internet without sacrificing the truth and unintentionally feeding some echo chamber. This made me stop and consider my upcoming digital story assignment. I reflected on my intended topic and soon realized that it would be difficult to produce this digital story without bias. This topic might lead me to omit certain facts that could slant the story, even if this were not my intention. Hence, my reflection forced me to select a different topic, one that I could build a digital story around without succumbing to the urge to alter, or omit certain facts. A new topic and story that I can share without attempting to persuade my audience and instead just engage them. And my new topic will hopefully permit this while allowing me to keep the truth close at hand, and yet I wish to reach out and touch my audience with a gentle appeal to their emotions. And this I will allow myself, as a good story should appeal to pathos but must “not” sacrifice ethos and logos in doing so.
I have encountered a handful of philosophers that are able to weave together a narrative, or should I say story, without sacrificing the truth, or logic, and at the same time sharing their ethics. I consider emotions critically important to the way we sense the world and since I have been reading and experiencing the emotional aspect of digital storytelling, and intend to incorporate a gentle appeal to emotions in my story, I thought I might consider how emotions inform knowledge.
I again turned my focus to philosophy, including storytelling and emotions in my search terms and in this way encountered Maria Popova’s blog Brain Pickings, and her reflections on the contemporary American philosopher Martha Nussbaum’s book “Upheavals of Thought: The Intelligence of Emotions.” Popova dives right in and offers the following in support of Nussbaum’s central thesis:
The power of ‘the Eye of the Heart,’ which produces insight, is vastly superior to the power of thought, which produces opinions,” the great British economic theorist and philosopher E.F. Schumacher wrote in his 1973 meditation on how we know what we know. He was responding to the Persian poet and philosopher Rumi who, seven centuries earlier, extolled “the eye of the heart” as seventy-fold more seeing than the “sensible eyes” of the intellect. To the intellectually ambitious, this might sound like a squishy notion — or a line best left to The Little Prince. But as contemporary scientists continue to shed light on how our emotions affect our susceptibility to disease, it is becoming increasingly clear that our emotional lives are equipped with a special and non-negligible kind of bodily and cognitive intelligence.
She then offers the following from Nussbaum (2001) who writes, “Emotions are not just the fuel that powers the psychological mechanism of a reasoning creature, they are parts, highly complex and messy parts, of this creature’s reasoning itself.”
If Popova and Nussbaum are correct, which I believe they are, and I produce a digital story that is grounded in truth with a gentle emotional appeal I may not only engage my audience but actually help them see the truth of my story using their emotions intelligently, coupled with reason. This, versus the dishonest raw emotional appeals that we are so often assaulted with, appeals that require echo chambers to sustain it, and also require the audience to abandon their reason and all too often their humanity in order to embrace it.
The audience I intend to address is very capable of serious critical thinking, and I don’t wish to persuade them of anything but instead offer them my perspective and experience with an issue, while focusing and holding their attention for a few minutes and encouraging them to evaluate the information I provide with their emotional intelligence.
Nussbaum, M. C. (2001). Upheavals of thought: The intelligence of emotions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Popova, B. M. (2015, November 23). The Intelligence of Emotions: Philosopher Martha Nussbaum on How Storytelling Rewires Us and Why Befriending Our Neediness Is Essential for Happiness. Retrieved November 16, 2016, from https://www.brainpickings.org/2015/11/23/martha-nussbaum-upheavals-of-thought-neediness/