Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on August 17, 2020
Wisdom of the Heart by Boston College Philosophy Professor Peter Kreeft is an outstanding book of philosophy which covers how the emotions relate to wisdom. There are several key points this book makes, as follows:
The main point is that the heart teaches the head about right and wrong, and about god. The love in the heart loves God and wisdom, so love makes you wise.
The mind is a way of knowing, but the heart also knows moral truths, being the location of conscience, and it is the location of the religious sense. The heart also recognizes beauty. Throughout history, all civilizations have had religions, and the source of religion was the heart sensing God and his goodness.
Humans have two types of emotions: basic emotions, like anger and fear, which we share with the animals, and rational emotions, which only humans have. We have many important, meaningful and valuable emotions that animals do not have: guilt, romantic love, appreciation, compassion, adoration, disgust, humor, melancholy, generalized boredom, regret, courage, deep happiness (as distinct from contentment), adoration, awe, wonder, forgiveness, joy, relief, gratitude, and pride, just to mention a few.
Emotions are the key to conscience, the will, intuitive understanding and personal identity.
The heart has two purposes which are not at odds, but are rather different: (1) feeling and emotion: can reduce us to action without thinking, but also drive us to compassion, empathy and gratitude. (2) Love: an act of the will, designed so we can love God and others. The heart can generate love, compassion, empathy and gratitude, but a disordered heart can lead us to act without thinking, which can result in disaster.
As Kreeft puts it: “It is the heart and its love that chooses ends, goals and purposes. It is the mind and its reason that chooses means or methods. Means are less important than ends because means are relative to ends.
Therefore, the heart is more important than the mind.” The heart is more important than the mind because the heart chooses the ends, goals and purposes whereas the mind chooses the means. The mind isn’t everything; the heart is more important, and sometimes the heart can see deeper.
The pursuit of truth should be a passionate, heartfelt endeavor. Since the heart is the source of the passions, and the source of love, it is critical for the heart to love truth and beauty and goodness. The heart naturally loves truth and beauty and goodness, but is often deceived as to what is true and what is good because of the presence of evil in the world, which disguises itself and being true and good.
True religion is a matter of the heart. Religion should be a passionate romance with God.
Everything that exists is beautiful. There is beauty all around you; you just have to look. That’s not only a beautiful thought, it’s also true. Loving something can make it beautiful, which is a wonderful power.
As Kreeft puts it: Beauty is also the most powerfully appealing, for we can easily defend ourselves against truth and against goodness - by rationalization, by ignoring, or by simple, stubborn, selfish pig-headedness. But there is no defense against beauty. Truth humbly knocks at your door with credentials - arguments - in its hand. Goodness makes demands but waits outside your door for you to freely open to it. But beauty seeps under all your doors and walls like water. Unlike truth and goodness, beauty is irresistible.
Beauty is the joint product of truth and goodness.
Love is a reason - a motive and an explanation that brings understanding. The heart knows things that the mind will never know.
Morality must be absolute and obligatory or it is not morality at all. The heart knows this.
Morality requires both justice, compassion and mercy.
To summarize, Wisdom of the Heart is an outstanding book that gives you wisdom, straight from the heart.