"I think what you're feeling is wrong!"

(Which is better than saying "I feel what you're thinking is wrong!")

Glenn Reynolds dislikes the use of "feel" as a synonym for "think."

I feel the same way. Which is to say that I don't like it either. Likes and dislikes are not a thinking thing; they are a feeling thing. In that previous post, I mentioned homosexuals who feel that they were "born that way" and who therefore (they feel) "have no choice."

Such a statement, like most feelings, is not logical. There is no way I can argue logically with someone who feels he was born that way. Thoughts are logical, and feelings are not. Thus, whether there is some scientific evidence of prenatal factors which might produce a homosexual tendency in some people, its existence really isn't necessary for someone to simply "feel" that he was born that way -- or who "feels" that he belongs in a separate group called "homosexual" or "gay."

Sexual attraction, of course, is a feeling. One does not think a feeling.

The real danger in all of this, of course, is that some people allow their feelings to control their thoughts, and others believe that feelings should control thoughts. I don't care how strongly anyone feels; that has nothing to do with logic and should not.

Mob "thinking" is often a feeling thing.

One way this muddying of the distinction between thought and feeling plays itself out in our present-day world is with the increasing tendency to prohibit anything -- including the expression of logical thoughts -- which are alleged to cause hurt feelings. A recent example is the brouhaha over "Hitler wine" -- as opposed to "Stalin Wine." (Via Howard Stern.) There is no reason in logic why a bottle of wine with Stalin on the label should not be just as offensive as the same bottle with Hitler. Yet the former would be allowed to be sold on ebay -- but not the latter. It's all about feelings. Hitler on a wine bottle evokes stronger feelings than does Stalin.

Feelings brought Hitler into power, too.

Stalin was more thoughtful, but he knew how to harness and exploit feelings. (My favorite Stalin quote: "Revenge is a dish best served cold.")

Feeling is a good way to avoid thought. There have been plenty of times I have thought I was right -- but others have tried their damnedest to make me feel wrong. That is because feelings can be manipulated far more easily than can rational thought.

A key element of brainwashing and psychological warfare involves the manipulation of feelings through various tactics, with the confusion of thoughts and feelings being a primary purpose.

Logic saved my life. That does not mean I cannot feel, but I do know that allowing feelings to control one's life can make life very precarious. Feelings can be mistaken, and as they are often moods, they come and go like the weather. They cannot be tested and cannot be relied on the way thought can.

There is no logical basis for saying that all feelings are equally valid, though. Frankly, I think the statement is not a thought, but a feeling about a feeling -- and an unfounded, unprovable feeling at that. True, feelings are not subject to rational debate -- but that does not give them more weight than rational debate. If anything, it gives them less.

Anyone who thinks all feelings are equal should stop feeling and try thinking.

I think some of the colloquial usage of "feeling" as a synonym for "thought" results from a polite desire to let people off the hook -- often in the hope of, if not winning arguments, then allowing one's adversary a polite way to retreat. This is because there can be no argument over feelings. If someone has a feeling -- particularly a "gut feeling" -- it's often easier to just let him "feel" it.

Politics is so driven by feelings that in many cases people are wholly unable to supply rational arguments for their beliefs. Beliefs, of course, are a gray area in between thought and feeling, and their origin is thus extremely difficult to pin down with any precision. Anti-pornography activists who feel that pornography is evil will compile reams of statistics purporting to "prove" their feelings, and then in an almost magical process their feelings are lifted into the realm of belief, with many imagining themselves to be engaging in rational thought. Statistics, of course, are hard, cold, facts. But in the hands of someone with strong feelings about something, they can be used as "proof" for feelings! (Something I worry that the blogger I discussed in that last post may be doing too....)

History shows that "proven" feelings can be very dangerous. That doesn't mean all of them are, mind you! It is possible for feelings to lead to correct thinking. However, reason is superior, because reason is thought. You can call this a belief on my part (and maybe even a feeling), but it was logical thought -- not feeling -- which saved my life.

It's also called reason over emotion.

Irrationalism (which emotion and feeling are) have their place and I do not deny their importance. But to allow them to run amok by declaring them to be as legitimate as thought itself, well, you might as well say hatred is superior to reason.

This guy said so.

posted by Eric on 12.09.03 at 08:34 AM


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference "I think what you're feeling is wrong!":

» Thunk? from One Fine Jay
Not to nitpick, Eric, but revenge being a dish best served cold was cooked by the Chinese. Stalin, I think, knew about this and quoted them anyway. [Read More]
Tracked on December 9, 2003 2:12 PM
» Reminds me of something a friend once said from Say Uncle
Eric opines about Instapundit's consternation over using the phraseI feel vs. I think. A friend of mine (who briefly wrote for this blog) opined once... [Read More]
Tracked on December 9, 2003 2:37 PM


Passion and reason are both necessary, reason (thought) to guide us, passion (feeling) to motivate us. I don't believe that basic value-premises (e.g., "sex is good") can be derived from reason. They come from one's experience, one's intuition, one's inner being. (I think this is a difference between a Nietzschean and a Randian.) I have deep respect for honest "gut" feelings honestly acknowledged. I oppose the repressive rationalizations of certain philosophers and theologians.

I can respect the man who says: "I'm in love with that man. He is so manly!" and also the man who says: "Ugh! The mere thought of another man makes me puke." However, I will fight the man who takes the latter feeling and makes it into a universal moral code which all men must obey, saying: "It is a sin to lust after another man."

I respect the man -- or woman -- who says: "I'm in love with that woman. She is so beautiful!" and also the man who says: "Ugh! A woman! Give me a man instead." However, I will fight the man who takes the latter and says: "Women are the sluts and serpents of Satan. It is a sin to lust after a woman." and also, even more, the man who feels the former but, in the name of duty to God, society, or state, represses it, kills his own sense of beauty, and says: "It is a sin to lust after a woman. It is a sin for a woman to lust after a woman." It is a sin to kill your own sense of beauty, a sin against your own self.

That is how I feel. And that is what I think, that is what I conclude based on my premises, my experiences, and my observations. That is where I stand.

Steven Malcolm Anderson   ·  December 9, 2003 2:27 PM

I should also add that I find that those who feel most deeply are precisely those who think most clearly, e.g., Ayn Rand, G. K. Chesterton. The emotion driving totalitarians, such as those you referenced, is envy (which Ayn Rand identified as "hatred of the good for being the good").

Steven Malcolm Anderson   ·  December 9, 2003 2:52 PM

Here is where some Objectivist should quote Ayn Rand describing emotions as "lightning calculators" whcih often give us the right answers although they should still be checked against reason.

Allan Beatty   ·  December 9, 2003 8:56 PM

April 2011
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
          1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30


Search the Site


Classics To Go

Classical Values PDA Link


Recent Entries


Site Credits