How do we deal with the “I feel argument”

socratesIn the present culture it seems that how people feel and how vigorously they pronounce it gives their argument merit. For example, I may feel as if I was born in the wrong era, especially when I fire up the internet each morning to see what new cultural barrier is being breached in the name of “progress”. This however does not mean that I was truly born in the wrong era and that everyone that comes in contact with me must act as if it is the 1950’s. Perhaps this is a a very obscure example but I am sure your get the point, just input your own cultural controversy.

Is this a valid argument though? We need to start asking ourselves this question because the modern educational system has abandoned the teaching of logic and reasoning. This being the case we are now experiencing the result of people in our culture no longer seeming to be able to differentiate between what feelings are valid and which are irrational and do not match reality. This is also the case because of a steady diet of Post Modern Relativism in our culture. This corrupt form of philosophy would have us believe that there is no aspect of reality that is objectively true. What is true is determined by the individual and so the obvious expression of this would be feelings or opinions as valid argument. This is particularly the case when it comes to morality in which the relativist would say that what is true for you and what is true for them, are both true, regardless of their opposition to each other. This obviously works well in a classroom as an intellectual exercise however, quickly becomes invalid when faced with what we know about reality. For example a moral relativists can believe that morals are completely open to personal opinion however, if their car is stolen, they will quickly be faced with the reality that stealing is objective wrong regardless of what the person stealing their car believes.

So in light of a cultural which lacks training in logic and reason, and believes that morals are relative, we find ourselves speaking with people appealing to how they feel as justification to a moral position. So the question becomes, is this a valid way to think and form a worldview or belief of any kind? Should we consider how strongly someone “feels” about something to be true when deciding on the truth of the matter in question? The answer is decidedly no.

The reason is that this is a fallacious argument known as an appeal to emotion. Although an appeal to emotion is valid to motivate us to action, it is an inappropriate way to convince someone to believe something. An example of this would be a math student attempting to convince his/her teacher that the answer they arrived at is correct even though the teacher can see that the mathematical proof is wrong. If the math student felt they had an understanding of the material and strongly felt that the teacher was wrong because they are using classical math or that they are old fashioned would the student be right? Of course not, none of us would take the position that the student is correct because they feel correct with regard to math, this is because the culture still believes in the objective nature of math. The difference inside moral cultural beliefs is that some of the society no longer believes that some things like morals are objectively right or wrong. In the absence of training in rational thought and knowing the difference between objective and subjective truth, they substitute the only thing they have been taught to rely on, their emotions.

So what to do? In a culture wrought with emotional arguments with morality at the center of many of them, I think one of the best approaches can be to teach the person about logic and rational thought. As Christians I think we would be far better served in getting classical thought back into the public education system than to continue to fight for Intelligent Design, but that is another blog post. Sometimes when a moral argument gets dropped at your feet, bring the discussion back to something less infused with emotion but at the root of the misunderstanding. Sometimes I like to catch someone off guard when they ask me “what do you think about ….” Instead of defusing the bomb I will ask them, “do you know what Socrates said about truth? This may lead you down a more fruitful path then trading blows about specific moral issues that you won’t agree upon anyway.

Jassen Blutosocrates


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