“In this regard Wojtyla notes that an experience of values that comes about through feelings must always be subordinated to the truth.” (61)
How true is this? Certainly, feelings can color our experiences to a great degree and even sway our preferences and our decisions. However, our feelings are fleeting and change based on a whole slew of factors, some of which are of no more weight than whether or not I’ve had something to eat in the past several hours. And that’s not a good basis for decision-making. Truth, if it is indeed truth, cannot change. One of my favorite arguments to bring up when people start complaining that this or that is “behind the times” in the Catholic church. For example, if it is wrong to kill children in the womb because their life is just as sacred as those people who have already been born, then it could not be the case that all of a sudden it becomes okay to kill them just because society has deemed this not just a tolerable thing, but actually a preference to the “imposition” of an unwanted pregnancy. So too with many other things do we have to really think about what it is that we are deciding and make choices based on what we know and not on what we feel.
“Feelings are intentionally directed to values, but to rely solely on feelings to lead means to surrender self-determination.” (65)
At the moment, this speaks to me as representative of taking the easy way out. It is always so much easier for me to make a decision or a choice based on some arbitrary value, rather than on any trait of actual substance. An example here would be choosing — oh, say a car — based on how cute it looks or what color it is, rather than on something more important like fuel economy. A lot of this, particularly for me is a combination of mental laziness, coupled with the sense that I am too busy to do the necessary research, or that the choice isn’t that big of a deal. It becomes very easy to fall into a pattern of non-thinking in this manner, and have it extend into all aspects of my life, so that I’m not even making informed, carefully thought out decisions at the voting polls or in my day-to-day interactions with other people.
“In their proper place feelings greatly enrich the human person.” (65)
Not to say that feelings are not important! When rooted in an environment of truth, feelings enhance our experiences and help us to communicate and have empathy with others. They can help knit us together as the Body of Christ in our compassion and understanding.