May 17, 2012

Politics, Religion, Emotion and Logic

Having been interested in political matters as well as spiritual, it gives me some interesting opportunities for observation. I am not saying that I'm unique and special in this area, but when I hang around with Biblical apologists, they do not seem to have much interest in politics, and vice versa. Things I have learned about logic and apologetics have applied to political rhetoric quite nicely.

There are a few things that I would like to explain to you, the viewing audience, to use during the rest of the American 2012 political season.

Learn some basics. I have some "Logic Lessons" (emphasizing informal logical fallacies) listed in the margin on this Weblog. Although they are focused on Christian apologetics and vituperative atheists have kindly supplied me with several excellent illustrations, the points made should translate to other areas, including politics. Also, there are links to other sites in those articles for further information on the logical fallacies. Even these should give you an excellent start, but you would do well to learn some basic laws of logic itself (such as noncontradiction, identity, excluded middle and that sort of thing). If you get ambitious, basic philosophy can be helpful.

We are not from the planet Vulcan. Yes, that's right, I'm going to appeal to Star Trek for an illustration. I had a difficult time suspending my disbelief that the Vulcans exchanged emotion for logic so thoroughly. It seemed that when they repressed their emotions constantly, it was a constant struggle to remain "logical" (to me, it was more clinical than anything else). In reality, we are emotional creatures. We have them, they are a gift from God, they enhance life. Further, we have our entrenched habits and worldviews. When emotions control us, then we have problems.

Sometimes, reasoning is quick. We have our experiences, memories, senses, learning, subconscious and so forth that can get us from Point A to Point K without seeming to make all the stops in between. A bloke hears a door close in the distance, pauses, someone else comes along and they may have collided if he had not stopped moving. He heard, remembered previous near-collisions, had a sense of timing and all that in a span of, say, two seconds. Edit: I forgot to add that I cannot instantly name every logical fallacy, and I do not expect that of others. (Especially when fallacies are compounded and blended!) But I can see when I'm being sold a bill of goods. This gives me reason to slow down and take a better look at what is being presented, if it is valid and so forth.

Strike a balance between intellectually analyzing things and our emotions. No need to act like a brute beast and let our emotions be in control. Nor should we become obsessed with our thought processes. Cut yourself some slack, because we cannot always think as clearly as we would like, and we will make mistakes.

Unfortunately, it seems that most people "think" with their emotions. In another article, I said that when people are attempting to persuade us to their viewpoint, they are often appealing to our emotions to some extent. Fine, that is a part of persuasion. We all do it.

But some types of people are willing to bypass logic and morality by attempting to manipulate emotions. This can take the form of the misotheist acting like a schoolboy who is angry over being disciplined by the headmaster and recruiting friends, "I hate 'im, you gotta hate 'im too!" Or when American leftists portray Republicans as evil people pushing an old lady in a wheelchair off a cliff. Both instances are ridiculous, but when people are caught up in hate and being fed empty rhetoric, this kind of thing discourages actual thought and is a play toward emotions.

I have watched and listened to political material and wanted to shout at the television, "Sean Hannity, you shouldn't let him get away with that...oops, another fallacy...Rush, you're not...wait, Mark Levin...he's giving you another red herring...stay on topic...Chris Plante, make him answer your question...arbitrary assertion, make her back it up...oh, nuts, now you're doing a fallacy, too..."

My idea is that if people took a step back ("got up on the hill") and saw the bigger picture, they could see the fallacies and appeals to emotion for what they are. Labels, unsubstantiated name-calling, derision, ridicule, bullying, loaded terminology added to bad reasoning can get someone motivated to be "on your side", but they did so without thinking things through.

I hope this simple overview can spark some thinking (and caution), especially in this manipulative political season.

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