Have you ever argued with a friend about politics and noticed them getting angrier and angrier the more you question their assumptions and beliefs? Congratulations, you’ve proven your logical dominance—assuming your tone was civil and neutral—but you’ve just damaged a relationship and your point didn’t get across. It was absolutely nothing you did; the opposition came into the argument with their heart on fire and emotions blazing, assuming their fiery emotions would sway you, but if they had their heart on ice and their brain active they would be swayed by your point.
Emotions are a blessing and a curse. Emotions drive everything we do whether we know it or not, but when emotions are left to run free during moments when rationality is supposed to be prominent, nothing logical or rational can get done; and this fact can be seen most evidently during arguments.
Both sides of the political spectrum are guilty of allowing their ideology to set their heart ablaze and distort their reasoning abilities. I won’t go into specific examples because all you need to do is take a glance at Facebook or Twitter and see both sides bickering endlessly; one side refusing to address the other logically or rationally and the centrists normally committing the “Middle of The Road Fallacy” where one demonstrates the “reasonableness” of one’s own standpoint not on its own merits, but solely or mainly by presenting it as the only “moderate” path among two or more obviously unacceptable extreme alternatives.
The result of this constant use of emotional arguments is the death of rationality and logical progress. Nothing will get done when people are too busy trying to scream and shout their way to the top instead of climbing using the rules of logic. When emotions run society we see horrendous mob-think and historical tragedies, such as Stalinist Russia or Hitler’s Germany. We still have people who believe that the two given examples are viable political structures, but they more than likely were swayed by an emotional event or the emotional appeal of the two.
This isn’t to say that emotions don’t have their place, they absolutely do, just not in an argument or when making decisions. Most of the most memorable moments of life are when our emotions are at their most joyous or their most melancholy, and without moments life would be rather dull; even I must admit that. While true progress is fueled by emotion, it’s not lead by emotion.
Immanuel Kant described Enlightenment in his essay entitled “What Is Enlightenment” as “man’s emergence from his self-imposed nonage. Nonage is the inability to use one’s own understanding without another’s guidance. This nonage is self-imposed if its cause lies not in lack of understanding but in indecision and lack of courage to use one’s own mind without another’s guidance. Dare to know! (Sapere aude.) “Have the courage to use your own understanding,” is, therefore, the motto of the enlightenment.”
The Enlightenment era, even with all of its racial and political flaws, is still one of the most important moments in history, and even Kant attests to the fact that it was lead by understanding and reason.
Open your mind. Face the harsh facts you don’t want to face; free yourself from your emotionally driven ideology, and maybe, just maybe, you can become enlightened and progress society further.
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