… reason is, and ought to be the slave of the passions, and never pretend to any office than to serve and obey them.

David Hume

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Robert Coles, M.D., wrote an excellent article in Harvard Business Review (March-April 1987) entitled “Storytellers’ ethics.”

Coles, a child psychiatrist and endowed professor in three disciples at Harvard, used the study of fiction to humanize and awaken doctors, lawyers, educators and other professionals to moral existence, its experience and inspired behavior.

In his work, Coles distinguished smart from good, in effect – reason from spirit and emotion.  Like Hume, he understood that emotions are the master and reason – the slave.

In seeking to awaken moral imagination, Coles sought to provoke an emotional response in others.  Indeed, I would add that doing so is the only way a human person can acquire the experience of another – particularly their hurt or estrangement, and engage others and one another intimately.  Hence, the importance of storytelling through human history – and the importance of Christ’s use of parables to teach, awaken, and transform.

In his article Coles reminds us how novelists show us that we decline spiritually and emotionally when we compromise principles “on the road to rationalizations and self-justifications.”  Yes, Coles introduces us to novelists like Walker Percy, William Carlos Williams, F. Scott  Fitzgerald and Saul Bellow who validate the words of Scottish philosopher David Hume – himself, a treasure.

Likewise, Coles reminds us of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s observation that “Character is higher than intellect.”  To that end, he cautions that our narratives can never justifiably be “thinly disguised instruments of polemical assertions or condemnations.”

Are you listening Mr. and Ms. Modern Liberal?

To Coles narratives are to “encourage moral introspection of a personal and heartfelt kind.” Hence, the title of his article: “Storytellers’ ethics.”

It is fair to say our present Left “narrative” is polemical, that it fails to pass ethical muster.  Yes, that it is destroys the spiritual and emotional development of the individual person, community, and culture – and to the existence of freedom, and the preservation of our unique political union.

Ironically, the intellectual class, so comfortable in the bosom of the Left, has habitually extolled the value of reason above all and now places us in a “politically correct” corner. This despite that fact that science has confirmed both what Hume and novelists have said, to wit: emotional reactions (often “gut feelings”) are a prerequisite to reason, essential and superior to it.

Yes, science has moved us far beyond Platonic thinking in the regard.  The problem we face today is this: the modern liberal and the Leftists in politics, the media, entertainment, and academia have not kept pace with what we know scientifically is true today and has been known as Truth for a long, long time … in religion, theology, mythology and human history.

Until we dismiss the words of the uninformed – we will run the great risk of decline and extinction.   


Footnote – For a good read you might want to secure Descartes’ Error by Antonio Damasio.