Victor Pross Posted January 13, 2007 Share Posted January 13, 2007 (edited) Intellectual debate: The Good, the Bad, and the UglyBy Victor Pross“By free-thinking, I mean the use of the understanding in endeavoring to find out the meaning of any proposition whatsoever, in considering the nature of the evidence for or against it, and in judging of it according to the seeming force or weakness of the evidence.”--Anthony Collins ***It has been said that “Man is a rational animal” -- and this is a fact. He can also be said to be an emotional animal. This is often to the good. Without emotions our lives would be drab and boring. The emotions compliment our triumphs and defeats, and they add meaning to our lives. Properly understood and rationally harnessed, they are the source of our greatest moments. Without reason, we are merely animals. Without emotions, we are automatons. Happily, Objectivists know that there is no dichotomy between reason and emotion. Now I don’t need to belabor the role of emotions in man’s life to a largely Objectivist audience. So this post will not address the Objectivist position of reason and emotions and their relationship to each other.Having said that, I wish to put to the reader the following: despite reasoned arguments, the emotions often get in the way. You read me right. They blind us from seeing clearly and from thinking objectively. Our emotions can trick us. Because of them, we may accept as true that which is not true and we may be lead astray to regard as relevant that which is not irrelevant. Now, I am not contradicting myself here: reason and emotions are not metaphysically antagonistic. The key word here is “metaphysics”—in that: it’s not in the nature of man that he must either follow reason or emotion. But I am saying that we are able—by choice or error—to take our emotions 'primary' and construct upon them our conclusions or perspective of a given topic. This is true of many people and, dare I say it, it is no less true of Objectivists. I am not necessarily speaking here of rationalizations, although that can be a hindrance to truth. Sometimes it's the simple fact of our being too irritated and not at all happy that someone else has bested us in an argument (even if we now are in hold of a new truth over a falsehood.) A glance at many of the posts at OL will substantiate my claim. It is evident that there are many Objectivists who are not entirely “on the same page.” Sometimes I see a new article posted “for discussion” to find it being tackled with open praise--to being expanded upon—to sometimes see the topic collapse into bitter disputes and snide attacks on the person who either posted the article, or upon the persons who have the unmitigated gull to agree with it!Then sometimes I see a total split from reasonableness, when following a certain thread, to find a break from the topic to personal attacks. This is hardly rational. It can even break down the spirit. We can view emotions from a different vantage point: what to do so as not to pique the emotions of others and so as not to turn a neutral, if not benign, party into a hostile one—and, what to recognize so that others will not take advantage of our emotions in order to deceive. (I’m speaking more generally here, and I’m not saying this is characteristic of Objectivists.) Sensitivity is the key word in dealing with others. I say this, but I have been guilty in my life for failing to practice it. It's on such occasions that I dislike myself for it.It seems that Objectivists have failed to appreciate this: just because there is no dichotomy between reason and emotion—does not mean that we should forget that others HAVE emotions. This is obvious, but it is frequently forgotten or ignored. Our emotions are delicate. We all have weak spots; we are vulnerable somewhere. There is an old adage: The truth hurts. This does not mean that the “truth is our enemy”---it merely means that sometimes…well, the truth hurts. Here are some of the specific ways that emotions can interfere with reasoned discussion: We—Objectivists included—become personally involved; we regard as a personal attack an idea or attitude that differs from one of our own ideas or attitudes; we feel that, because something we say is challenged, we are personally being challenged. Even Objectivists can be put on the defensive by making dogmatic statements such as, “You don’t know what you are talking about” to much worse. This is not rational, but the error can be subtle enough that we overlook this insight.We become sarcastic or patronizing or hostile. We use language that is evaluative without defending or documenting those evaluations. We use loaded words, words that have strong emotional connotations.Instead of addressing ourselves to the issue, we aim our remarks at the other person: at his weak spots, his personality or his style of presentation. We also commit the following intellectual sins: * We make jokes at the expense of the other person. * We do not listen carefully to the other person; we select what suits our purpose*We reject what does not suit our purpose.* We refuse to admit that the other person may have an occasional valid point and that there may be at least some truth in what is being stated. ** ** **To conclude: If you take heed of anything I have said in this post, I’m convinced that OL will become a greater value and benefit to all of her participants. Let’s try to remember that the truth is the final arbiter and our objective is to KNOW THE TRUTH. This is not about and painting the other guy in a corner. Let the search for wisdon be your desire and standard. **edit: Readers, what ideas do you have to make OL a better place in which to gain wisdom and to socialize in the process? Speak up. Edited January 13, 2007 by Victor Pross Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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