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The politics of rationality : a critique

In this thesis, I challenge the validity of a pervasive conception of political action and decision-making that grounds both on the so-called “public use of reason”. The latter, underpinned by a notion of “pure” reason inherited from the Enlightenment and largely sustained by liberal theory, not only promotes a reductionist view of human rationality, but also implicitly leads us to disregard a critical aspect in contemporary politics: the political role of the emotions. The opportunity to exploit the emotions in order to pervert the democratic process follows from that disregard. Reading it in light of Schmitt and Agamben’s ideas on the state of exception, I examine the pervasiveness of emotional dynamics in contemporary western politics, illuminating phenomena such as democratic propaganda, the ongoing “war on terror”, and the persistent threat of global economic collapse. I subsequently posit that the rationalistic hubris of the politics of (limited) rationality opens the door for irrational politics, ultimately enabling the creation of a permanent state of exception through the manipulation of misguided emotional inclinations. In order to address this problem, I argue for an abandonment of the sterile reason-emotion dichotomy implicitly preserved by the current debate on the cognitive status of emotions. Instead, I propose an expanded model of human rationality, which incorporates emotion into processes such as decision-making, motivation, and action – thus arriving at the notion of emotional rationality. This enables me to consider the commonly overlooked possibility to educate emotions, and advance a conception of emotional education that relates them with the Aristotelian notion of phronesis. I conclude by arguing that a heightened political awareness of emotions and a conscious effort to educate them are necessary steps towards avoiding the undesirable political fate entailed by our present situation.
Date January 2016
CreatorsDe-Brito-Serra, Bruno Daniel
PublisherDurham University
Source SetsEthos UK
Detected LanguageEnglish
TypeElectronic Thesis or Dissertation

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