It would appear that reason, and for that matter mathematics, is not the abstract and beautifully pure form of knowledge that we might at first deem it to be. This results due to the fact that all human thought processes must be based on sensory experience. Consider how the world around us shapes and models our views, how the dimensions of time and space constrict our vocabulary and hence our thought patterns (we cannot so much as talk of things outside of space and time). All knowledge the human mind possesses is obtained through our sensory experience. Even reason is based upon observation and hence empirical knowledge. Consider a child born deaf, dumb and blind without the capacity to feel the world through touch. Its mind would merely be a blank canvas awaiting influence and impression from the external world. It would have no knowledge of rationality, mathematics or the like. Rationality, then, is merely the purification of the convoluted muddle that is the human thought, filtered down to a precise and clear cut standard for conscious beings to use.
Genuine emotion, however, is also based upon the human thought process, it seems usually to work from a subconscious basis and (from the views of Dawkins and the like) an adaptation developed through natural selection which allows the mind to make decisions based upon a form of herd morality and hence causes the organism to behave in a way which will be beneficial to the entire species (much like morality in fact). This is shown by the fact that we do not choose to have genuine emotional reactions to things in any circumstance, any emotion that we force ourselves to feel is not genuine. Therefore emotion is independent of the conscious thinking mind and is, instead, a process of the subconscious which runs in the background to our everyday though and, to a large extent, shapes and influences it. However, this may sound like irrationality primarily because it is independent of reason in the up front and direct sense that we choose to carry it out. But I might remind the reader of our definition of emotional response and that it is a reaction developed over thousands of years by natural selection to allow the overall prospering of the herd. Emotion, therefore, is a branch of rationality that the human awareness does not actively partake in but feels the results. The example below may help illustrate this:
Firstly, a man decides that, for his own purposes, to disregard what little morality he has (he is therefore in some way mentally incomplete and damaged) and launch a nuclear warhead at a country whose primary ethnicity he hates with a raging passion. It has already been widely publicised that this man has killed thousands of this ethnic race and will not stop until they have all been eradicated. Another man, who is of the utmost good in terms of his morality, now has the chance to kill this genocidal mad man before he can bring about any more deaths. It is most likely that the good man will do what needs to be done to avoid the loss of millions of innocent lives as long as he does not belong to any deontological faith or morality, in other words he is free from the influence of religion and formulated moral arguments in general (even the one who would permit him to carry out the action). The good man can see that the greatest good for the herd would achieved by killing the mad man before he launches the weapon. In other words, his emotional sense of obligation of love for his fellow humans has been formulated by the subconscious mind by rationality into the permitting of an action he might otherwise deem immoral. This good man might even hate the mad man for what he has done, emotion, therefore, is derived form a rational mechanism of the subconscious mind, that emotion we feel for a person can differ to what we feel for them if they do something that goes against the common good of the herd.
Armed with this idea of emotion we straight away notice that such a concept can be linked to the idea of rationality in the sense that it is based upon a method of reason and consideration of facts with the intention of arriving at a conclusion about whether or not a decision made by an organism is beneficial to species. It is a form of rationality in itself used by the subconscious mind. Emotion for individuals rooted in the real world, therefore, must be rational unless there is something fundamentally wrong with the human being in question.
But what of fictitious characters, surely, I hear you say, the same logic is not applicable to them. Well, true reader, but that does not make we cannot take a different approach. The French Philosopher Rene Descartes suggested in his meditations that the only thing one could be sure of was his or her own existence. Cogito ergo sum. I think therefore I am. The idea was that our senses could (and might) have the habit of deceiving us so that we would not know an illusion from reality. Descartes suggested this with his usual philosophical elegance:
“I shall suppose…that some malicious demon of the utmost power and cunning has employed all of his energies in order to deceive me.”
If this is the case then perhaps there is no difference between the real world and the one created by the brain purely through imagination. Another example may help to illustrate this. The American philosopher Hilary Putnam in his book Reason, Truth, and History put forward the brain vat though experiment. He suggested that if there existed a hypothetical brain, removed from its body and placed in a vat with all the necessary nutrients for survival and was wired up to cables which acted as a synthetic nervous system which delivered illusionary sensory information to the mind, the brain would process this information as though it were reality and hence the minds perceptions and experiences would be the same as any other persons. The mind is therefore ultimately what determines all that is accepted as reality and all that is not in a human. Something need not be real so much that it exists in what we would define as the physical universe, all that is needed is something extremely similar to reality that mimics it in all its being.
It therefore is of no consequence to the mind if something is grounded in reality or is some utterly abstract, platonic idea. In terms of emotion all that matters is the believability, or credibility, of a fictional character for us to have genuine feelings or emotions for him, her or it. We are emotional towards a believable character since the brain regards it as a real being in the physical world and hence a subconscious, rational herd morality mechanism is triggered in our minds which accounts for our feelings towards the character despite not existing in reality. To this extent, and with our definition of rationality we can safely say that it is truly rational to have genuine emotions for such a character. This arises because our definition of rationality is one not of pure and mathematical qualities but one based on our own sensory experience and the workings of the brain; it is therefore the case that, because emotional reactions to individuals results from a process of rationality in the subconscious mind that weighs up actions and reactions in relation to the good of the species.
There exists, therefore, a directly proportional link between the credibility of a fictional character and our rational, emotional response which is subjective to the individual situation. Emotion is rooted in rationally and emotion for imaginary characters can trigger the same response in humans as real people. Such a proposition truly suggests that the reality that we see is false and incomplete or overcomplicated in some way and hence truly begs the question of whether or not we are truly aware of the happenings in the physical world around us. What really lies outside of the veil of perception that is the deceitful mind? Perhaps we shall know, or perhaps not. But, if even our reason is imperfect and tainted, who knows what is watching us in the greater reality. Perhaps those fictitious characters that are supposedly products of our mind truly exist and laugh as they watch us fumble about in the darkness and nativity of our primitive minds…