Original Research - Special Collection: Structural subjects, Church History and Systematic Theology

Emotion and the affective turn: Towards an integration of cognition and affect in real life experience

Cornel W. du Toit
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 70, No 1 | a2692 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v70i1.2692 | © 2014 Cornel W. du Toit | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 16 April 2014 | Published: 20 November 2014

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Cornel W. du Toit, Research Institute for Theology and Religion, University of South Africa, South Africa


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Abstract

Emotion is caused by many factors, some of which are evolutionary, neurological, chemical, environmental, societal, personal and religious. Mostly, however, we are oblivious of the causal factors, many of which may function on a biological level or subconsciously, although the emotional effect is experienced physically and consciously. Emotions change as the trigger mechanisms in the cultural context change. This usually happens unnoticed over long periods. Internet databases have now made it possible to study the use of emotive words; this point is discussed. Of particular interest is the interaction between emotion and reason. Models that reduce emotion to the physical level are scrutinised critically. Reason is not emotionless and emotion is not always irrational. The close interrelationship of emotion and reason often makes it difficult to distinguish accurately between the two. The so-called affective turn takes cognisance of cultural, social, religious and other environmental factors; this broader approach clarifies the importance of affect’s role in rationality. One way of viewing emotion and affect is to look at the accompanying language; here the role of metaphor and narrative is pertinent. The traditional elevation of reason above emotion is examined critically as part of the affective turn that broadens the meaning and scope of emotions. I focus on the role of emotion in religion and factors that influence it, and explore the accent of affect in new spiritualities.


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