Evolution, culture, and the irrationality of the emotions

In D. Evans & Pierre Cruse (eds.), Emotion, Evolution, and Rationality. Oxford University Press (2004)
Abstract
For about 2500 years, from Plato’s time until the closing decades of the 20th century, the dominant view was that the emotions are quite distinct from the processes of rational thinking and decision making, and are often a major impediment to those processes. But in recent years this orthodoxy has been challenged in a number of ways. Damasio (1994) has made a forceful case that the traditional view, which he has dubbed _Descartes’ Error_, is quite wrong, because emotions play a fundamental role in rational decision making. When the systems underlying the emotions don’t function properly, Damasio maintains, rational decision-making breaks down. Other theorists, most notably Robert Frank (1988), have argued that if we view the emotions through the longer lens of evolutionary theory, we can see that much of what looked to be irrational in the emotions is actually part of an effective strategy for achieving agents’ goals and maximizing their reproductive success. In the wake of this and other recent work, the pendulum of received opinion has swung in the other direction. The emotions are now increasingly regarded as inherently rational, as Frank maintains, and as important components of other rational processes
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