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From Inquiry: Critical Thinking Across the Disciplines, Winter, 1996. Linda Elder Emotional intelligence is a topic that is attracting a considerable amount of popular attention. Some of the discussion is, in my view, superficial and misleading. In this paper, I shall focus on the problems inherent in the manner in which the idea of emotional intelligence is being conceptualized and presented. I shall argue that it does make sense to speak of emotions as being, in some given context or other, “intelligent” or not, and, consequently, that it does make sense to speak of emotional intelligence. Once some preliminary distinctions are set out, I will focus on a conceptualization of the mind, its functions, and primary motivators, including a brief analysis of the relationship between thoughts, emotions and desires. I will then develop a critical analysis of the primary theoretical views of Goleman.
Its possession implies the use of reason or intellect in solving problems and directing conduct. It is “distinguished from other mental states, from cognition, volition, and awareness of physical sensation. Feeling refers to “any of the subjective reactions, pleasant or unpleasant” that one may experience in a situation. Given these understandings, how might “emotional intelligence” be provisionally conceptualized? Now let us consider how critical thinking fits into this picture. What is critical thinking and how might it relate to “the bringing of intelligence to bear on emotions? I shall argue that critical thinking cannot successfully direct our beliefs and actions unless it continually assesses not simply our cognitive abilities, but also our feeling or emotion states, as well as our implicit and explicit drives and agendas.
I shall argue, in other words, that critical thinking provides the crucial link between intelligence and emotions in the “emotionally intelligent” person. Critical thinking, I believe, is the only plausible vehicle by means of which we could bring intelligence to bear upon our emotional life. Through critical thinking, as I understand it, we acquire a means of assessing and upgrading our ability to judge well. In enables us to go into virtually any situation and to figure out the logic of whatever is happening in that situation.
It provides a way for us to learn from new experiences through the process of continual self-assessment. When searching for the ingredients necessary for a highly rational life, it is therefore crucial not to underestimate the role of the affective dimension of mind. To engage in high quality reasoning, one must have not only the cognitive ability to do so, but the drive to do so as well. One must feel the importance of doing so, and thus be driven to acquire command of the art of high quality reasoning. Given these foundational understandings, I will now provide a brief outline of my understanding of the mind and its functions.