In pandemic times, the phrase “follow the science” has become commonplace, often uttered as though science is something wholly objective. Sayings like, “Facts don’t care about your feelings,” or, “We must solve this problem with reason, not emotion,” further suggest division between thinking and feeling.
Donovan Schaefer, assistant professor of religious studies in Penn’s School of Arts & Sciences, says this is the wrong approach. In his new book, “Wild Experiment: Feeling Science and Secularism after Darwin”, Schaefer posits that thinking and feeling are intertwined. The book explores the particular philosophical and historical tradition that created these “false” constructs and introduces the model of “cogency theory” to describe how cognition is felt.
Cogency theory understands knowledge production as a process in which thinking and feeling are one, and where knowledge production is often animated by pleasure. Schaefer writes in the book’s introduction that “math, science, history, philosophy, and all other forms of formalized knowledge-making are scaled-up versions of [a] micro-level delight in the subtle click of things coming together.”
“Scientists, historians, philosophers, scholars, and so on, feel the life of the mind,” says Schaefer. “They are energized by it and find joy within it. Their passion often drives their knowledge-making.” On the other hand, Schaefer says that the emotions inherent in thinking can also lead to faulty reasoning, which is why believing that thinking and feeling are separate, or creating knowledge without paying mind to emotions, can be dangerous business.
“The way we work our way through a situation is always guided by feeling,” Schaefer says. “We are misleading ourselves to think otherwise. In fact, that's precisely how we disguise our own partial interests and perspectives, by saying that what we have is reason and what other people have is feeling.”
This story is by Katelyn Silva. Read more at OMNIA.