Dennis Beach, Philosophy
Political polarization is a subject that is frequently discussed today. Tied up with the notion of polarization is a sense that reactions to political events are too emotional and intense, not guided by reason or justified beliefs. One could say the emotional judgments “extend past the evidence” (Kennedy) in certain cases. Using Martha Nussbaum’s theory of emotion posited in her landmark text, "Upheavals of Thought: The Intelligence of Emotions," which claims emotions are cognitive judgments about the state of external objects which have value for our eudaimonistic scheme (our sense of well-being), this essay extends Kennedy’s (2013) analysis of physicians suspending judgment while diagnosing medical illnesses to suspending judgment regarding political/news events. Following Kennedy’s lead, I argue that suspending judgment when following political/news events is beneficial because it:
1. Leads to further inquiry to find the truth, a methodological virtue.
2. Fosters epistemic humility, an epistemic virtue, especially for media/journalists.
3. Establishes a relationship of respect with the “news target,” an ethical virtue (495).
By the fruit of these three virtues, I argue that suspending judgments of emotion would improve public discourse and help renew trust in American media/journalism.
Stokman, David, "Emotions, Political Polarization, and Martha Nussbaum's Theory of Emotion" (2019). Celebrating Scholarship and Creativity Day. 77.