Truth vs Emotions

Truth is what is real and factual. Application of logic yields new facts, new understanding of truth.

But logic breaks where emotions rule.

We see this easily in betting games. The term “pot committed” comes from poker. A person’s reasoning and logic goes out the window when he has committed so much money in the pot that he disregards his actual chances of winning and keeps throwing money into an already losing proposition.

We see this in science where a scientist can become so emotionally committed to a theory that no amound of contrary facts will sway him. Witness the late Fred Hoyle and his commitment to his Steady State theory. Regardless of how much evidence pointed to a Big Bang or similar theory, he kept on insisting that the universe was in a steady state.

We see this so often than in politics. People get so committed to a certain ideology that their intellect has taken a permanent leave of absence.

And of course religion. Forget the facts, the Earth is 6000 years old. Because an old book says so.

Science owns the realm of facts and truth. Politics and religion should be confined to areas where certainty is elusive – like what solutions to apply to global warming or praying for a loved one’s life. But when science comes up with a definite answer to how we should mitigate climate change, politics should step aside and let the factual solution be applied. And when the doctor with scientific certainty prescribes the medicine that will save your wife’s life, you can still pray – but you should not reject the medicine. Only when there are uncertainties regarding the medicine, then it boils down to judgement, ideology, religion or hunch. But when there is certainty, let facts and logic prevail.

Facebook discussions are rampant with emotions and virtually devoid of logic. And the way you can see this is the incessant display of logical fallacies; Straw Man, Argumentum Ad Hominem, No True Scotsman, Appeal to Authority or other Red Herrings. And the way you handle it is to keep calm, remain on the subject, observe the facts, listen carefully and stay with logic.

Logic: The science or art of exact reasoning, or of pure and formal thought, or of the laws according to which the processes of pure thinking should be conducted; the science of the formation and application of general notions; the science of generalization, judgment, classification, reasoning, and systematic arrangement; the science of correct reasoning. [1913 Webster]

17 thoughts on “Truth vs Emotions

  1. If I had back all the time I’ve spent battling hysterical people on social media, I’d be a much, much younger man.

    Alanzo

  2. I am unable to reconcile Time and Eternity. This causes me emotional distress. I sense/perceive emotions, but sometimes I don’t know if they are mine or anothers. However, they seem quite real to me.

    1. Val, for what it’s worth, here’s a passage I recently read from the book *Buddhism, a Way of Life and Thought* by Nancy Wilson Ross. The passage seems to be speaking to a paradox [in Mahayana Buddhism] similar to the one you mentioned about Time and Eternity:

      “The Bodhisattva, wise and compassionate, is a being who has passed beyond on all ‘discrimination,’ has freed himself forever from all thoughts of ‘I,’ ‘mine,’ ‘yours’; in other words, he no longer has any sense of separateness.

      “Here there arises a seeming paradox that might be called the ‘problem’ of Bodhisattva, a problem that appears to involve an insurmountable contradiction. How can one conquer the belief in a separate individuality, with its attendant restrictive sense of ‘self’ and ‘other,’ and yet remain acutely aware of both ‘self’ and ‘other’?

      1. Oops, I meant to include this additional paragraph which follows the above:

        “This apparent paradox does not, however, bother Asian philosophers as much as it does their fellows in the West, who, having been bred in the Aristotelian tradition, consider the rational mind Man’s highest and most valued faculty, even going so far as to make this ‘mind’ the very center of personal identity. Buddhist philosophers do not shrink from paradox and contradiction. On the contrary, not only do they accept them easily, as a part of life’s inexplicability, they even appear to delight in them. Certainly when Buddhism reaches the development in China known as Ch’an, and in Japan as Zen, the very notion of paradox is a basic platform of the teaching, seen as an inevitable concomitant of the fluid and uncertain human condition.”

        1. Hey marildi – That’s the best book ever on Buddhism. I found it in my small town library last year and hoarded it for six months. I’d read a few pages and then had to set the book down and contemplate what was being said. Nonstop wins. She includes many interesting and humorous episodes from Buddhist lore. It’s now available in paperback from Amazon for about ten bucks.

          Here’s a paradox or koan:

          “What is isn’t and what isn’t is”

          Regarding time and eternity, science says “this universe” will last another trillion years or something before it freezes or burns up. Naturally, some inquiring minds want to know what comes next or what came before. Maybe the above paradox solves it? (Don’t take me seriously – laughter – just conversation on a blog)

          1. Hey, Richard, you’re the reason I got this book. 🙂

            You commented favorably about it on one of the blog threads recently, so I looked it up on Amazon and decided to order it. I’ve only read about 30 pages so far, but I already agree with you that this is a great book. I was planning to get back to you after I read more, but here we are…

            Since you and I have had discussions about nonduality, one thing I wanted to ask you was whether you were surprised to read that Buddhism (according to Ms. Ross) is considered a nonduality teaching. I somehow thought that it was but had never seen it stated anywhere.

            As for time and eternity, and the duration of the universe, I’ve read that the Buddha was able to recall the cycles of several consecutive universes (six of them, I think it was). That seems intuitively right: One ends and another begins – for eternity.

            Regarding that koan, I don’t know if you got it right but at least you came up with some kind of an answer. Any I’ve read have always left me blank!

        2. Thanks marildi. I actually pretty much don’t read books about philosophy any more. I’ve got a lot of books and now sometimes trying to find good homes for them. See my reply to Richard’s post below. But also, in reply to Geir’s OP, I think this: There is another sense in which the word “emotion” can reflect a truer reality than that of “facts”. The Heart of a person is that person’s source of reality and of facts. It is the source of affinity, love, which is instantaneous and apart from facts of time and place. I have experienced this repeatedly in my life. When I meet a person like that, out of the blue I feel a delight like running into an old friend I had thought was lost and gone forever. Sometimes it’s a young woman and that really rubs my nose in the Time thing, as I am too old to do anything about it. Time is the result of closed space and identity.

          1. “But also, in reply to Geir’s OP, I think this: There is another sense in which the word ‘emotion’ can reflect a truer reality than that of ‘facts’. The Heart of a person is that person’s source of reality and of facts. It is the source of affinity, love, which is instantaneous and apart from facts of time and place. I have experienced this repeatedly in my life.”

            Looks to me like the reason you don’t read books about philosophy anymore is that you’re at a point where reality or “facts” can be learned directly, through direct experience of it/them – including the experience of unconditional love.

            “When I meet a person like that, out of the blue I feel a delight like running into an old friend I had thought was lost and gone forever. Sometimes it’s a young woman and that really rubs my nose in the Time thing, as I am too old to do anything about it. Time is the result of closed space and identity.”

            That’s poignant. Some might also call it philosophical, but whatever… 🙂

  3. Many years ago a samadhi type experience came upon me from the clear blue sky and that paradox came up and I had it solved! I got it! Of course, as they say, you can’t grip water and it slipped away – haha

    I’ve been rereading Ross’ book and I just came across this:

    “Not only was the Buddha consistent in his lack of interest in matters of monkish dress and abode, he was also disinclined to engage in learned argumentation on such debatable and essentially unsolvable matters as the nature of divinity, first causes, life after death and similar topics. [….]

    In the Buddha’s view, intellectual exchanges, which can never be more than theoretical, were mere pedagogy, a waste of vital energy.”

    Reading that caused me to put the book down again and do some contemplating – lol

    1. Nice post Richard. I have come to the same conclusion myself. The problem is, there really is nothing to be done or thought or said about it, that would make any difference. Time and Eternity cannot be reconciled, only confronted. Time is essentially loss. The terrible thing about being human is that physically we age, but the emotional heart of a person does not. Aging is the progressive loss of abilities. What can be done? All one can do is mourn when it is appropriate to do so.

  4. Here’s a story from Zen Buddhist lore from Ross’ book. Regarding reading philosophical books I jump around and don’t read cover to cover. The same thing with watching nondualism videos or reading entries in Wikipedia about philosophical topics, preferring to just get an overview. Some things “indicate” right away and if they don’t I just pass over it and maybe it will cross reference somewhere and become clear later. Maybe I’m a dilettante.

    “R. H. Blyth has written in his anthology *Oriental Humour* ‘It’s possible to read the Bible without a smile and the Koran without a chuckle; no one has died laughing while reading Buddhist sutras. But Zen writing abounds in anecdotes that stimulate the diaphragm.’ ”

    […]

    “A monk came to the Master Ma Tsu for help in solving the koan he had been given: ‘What is the meaning of Bodhidharma’s coming to China?’ The Master suggested that before proceeding with the problem the monk should make him a low bow. As he was dutifully prostrating himself, Ma Tsu, the great Master, applied his foot to the monk’s posterior. The unexpected kick resolved the murky irresolution in which the monk had been floundering for some time. When he felt the impact of his teacher’s foot, he is said to have ‘attained immediate enlightenment.’ Subsequently he said to everyone he met, ‘Since I received that kick from Ma Tsu I haven’t been able to stop laughing.’ ”

    I’m not sure if Buddha included koans in his teaching which came later in Zen teaching in the “Many branched tree of Buddhism” as Ross refers to it. I’d say Zen is a large part of nondualism which resonates with me but certainly not everyone.

    P.S. marildi – You “turned me on” to nondualism so I’ll take a pat on the back for turning you on to Ross’ book. 🙂

    1. You defintely deserve a pat on the back. In fact, you deserve a kick in the posterior. 😀

      Seriously, maybe we’ve each contributed to the other’s eventual “kick in the posterior” – metaphorically speaking, that is, at least where I’m concerned. I resonate with the paths that emphasize understanding – which happens to be the first of the Buddhist Eightfold Path: “Right views, or understanding.”

      Tying this in with the blog post, I would say the statement that “Science owns the realm of facts and truth” might be misleading in that it is limited to the physical universe. I’m sure Geir himself has had experiences of gaining direct knowledge of various truths and as a result has certainty about them.

      So the point is that when we hear or read something, we can look to see if it’s a “finger pointing to the moon.” This little book you recommended seems to be a good source of such pointing fingers. 🙂

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