16 October 2009

from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: Emotional Intelligence

Dear friends,

This week we are discussing Emotional Intelligence. I wrote a rather
short essay, but do apologise in advance for any typos and mistakes. I
wrote it this evening and did not really check it in detail.

Take care



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Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence is about an issue that is as old as the hills and
the mountains behind them. Basically EI can be reduced to the following
question: can we trust this stranger? And although EI is about us as
much as it is about other people is still about doing what is right when
the occasion arises. EI is also about predicting future human actions.

I used the following two references as background information.

1) Emotional Intelligence as a Predictor of Academic and/or Professional
Frank Romanelli, PharmD, Jeff Cain, MS, and Kelly M. Smith, PharmD
College of Pharmacy, University of Kentucky
American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education 2006; 70 (3) Article 69.
Submitted August 4, 2005; accepted October 6, 2005; published June 15, 2006.

2) Emotional intelligence. (2009, October 14). In Wikipedia, The Free
Encyclopedia. Retrieved 20:45, October 15, 2009, from

What I want to do is to identify what I think are some basic key issues
on the topic. Of course, the two references deal with the problems of EI
quite succinctly and clearly so I won't try to venture into what has
been said already.

One of the more serious issues about EI is precisely how to define it.
And although this is still a hot issue I think that the definition given
Romanelli is more than adequate for our purposes, and I quote it here in

In simpler terms, emotional
intelligence might be defined as the set of skills people
use to read, understand, and react effectively to emotional
signals sent by others and oneself. These are skills
such as empathy, problem-solving, optimism, and selfawareness
which allow people to reflect, react to, and
understand various environmental situations.

More about this later.

Although EI is considered as a psychology subject and that the term is
quite modern, EI is as I said in the introduction, an old problem and
therefore a philosophical issue as well. Emotions and human behaviour,
especially concerning normal and rational people are always the concern
of philosophy. The first question I would therefore ask, is whether it
makes sense to focus one aspect of human intelligence only. And is
emotional intelligence within the domain of intelligence or emotions?
And if it is emotions can we study EI by investigating EI in animals?

However, since EI is more popular as an applied methodology, especially
in the sphere of employment, it is only fair that we looked at this
aspect in more detail. One of the criticisms of applied EI is that the
companies who conduct EI tests keep their information in proprietary
databases. In effect, peer reviews and independent investigation of the
data is very limited, if done at all.

But if EI tests in a commercial setting are not peer reviewed can it be
claimed that this system is scientific and objective? Peer review is
indeed a foundation practice of what we understand to be the scientific
method. But if applied EI is not based on a valid scientific method what
claims can be made about the objectivity of any tests? In other words,
and this is a question for lawyers, are employers misinforming and/or
misrepresenting the facts when they give the impression to prospective
job applicants that EI tests are scientific and/or objective? And is
there an implied belief that the test is scientific and objective by
using such academic terminology as Emotional Intelligence? Don't forget
that EI is also an academic – scientific subject that is even more

Since EI is also used during selection processes we have to ask
ourselves how valid are any decisions based on EI given that a candidate
in a selection process would have already been through a natural
selection process which may or may not include objective and scientific
processes; for example the financial and social status of the family of
the candidate, cultural background, personal experience of life.

So, unlike say genetic testing, were the tests are performed on samples
of biological material from the candidate, emotional skills adequacy
have to be studied in the context of the environment (see the previous
paragraphy) of the candidate. Not only is this complex but would involve
other people and issues of confidentially and privileged information.

The definition above talks about emotional signals and of skills such as
empathy, problem-solving, optimism etc. But these are emotions and
skills that are value judgement neutral. In other words, we can
determine whether a person can empathise with others but it cannot say
whether he or she ought to be empathic is a given context. A murder can
empathise with a fellow murderer who is experiencing a hard time getting
used to prison life, but is this what we are talking about. So if
emotions and emotional skills are value judgement neutral how can these
be used to make value judgments, for example in selecting a person for a
leadership position?

Even such skills as problem solving can be poles apart. I will use a
real life example that happened this week in Britain.

Trafigura: A few tweets and freedom of speech is restored
* Robert Booth
* guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 13 October 2009 22.06 BST

Basically, Trafigura is multinational oil trading company and when the
Guardian and other media tried to report, in 2006, on its activity of
toxic waste disposal in the Ivory Coast the lawyers of the company
issued the Guardian with an injunction to stop it reporting on the case.

On Monday 12 October this week, the Labour MP, Paul Farrelly, tabled a
question in parliament regarding the activities of the company in the
Ivory Coast. When the Guardian tried to report this question the lawyers
once again issued an injunction to stop them from reporting the question
tabled in parliament.

This week two things happened. First, the House of Commons was outraged
since the media have absolute privilege in reporting parliament, a right
that was established since the Bill of Rights of 1688. And there is
nothing in Britain that is above parliament. The injunction was
withdrawn within a short time.

But irrespective of the power of the injunction, as soon as the Guardian
published a story saying it cannot report on a story that was happening
in parliament, the twitter community started investigating the problem.
By early evening everything the twitterati could find on the story was
published even though there was an injunction in force. Read the story
for the details.

For our purposes, we have a real life case where two parties used
different actions to solve a serious problem. One party used the force
of the law to issue an injunction against the media. And the other party
(twitterati) published the facts and the details anyway. And they did so
out of outrage at what was happening.

Maybe the Guardian story shows that normal and rational people have
enough capacity to act emotionally and intelligently when put in a
corner. However, I doubt if there is a method that would predict what
people would do when put in a corner.


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from Lawrence, Pub Philosophy Group, Sunday meeting: Emotional Intelligence

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