Reflections

To sum up: if you (generalized you) have not thought through why you believe something, it may well be difficult (although not impossible) for you to explain your reasoning — especially if the belief is not based on logic. Also, if you hold conclusions based only on emotion, you will most likely find it extremely difficult to change your mind should you be confronted with facts which contradict the personally stabilizing beliefs you hold.

So to perhaps answer my own question above, the incompetent logician cannot use the "code phrase" I've offered them for one sad, simple reason: they are not competent logicians, but believe they are. Therefore someone insisting they really think logically, rather than simply emoting — or else withdraw from the discussion — is attacking their sense of self-worth. After all, "backing down" in any fashion indicates they might possibly be wrong and, therefore, bad people.

"In your day-to-day life you will encounter many examples of fallacious reasoning. And it's fun — and sometimes even useful — to point to an argument and say, 'Aha! That argument commits the fallacy of false dilemma.'

It may be fun, but it is not very useful. Nor is it very enlightened.

The names of the fallacies are for identification purposes only. They are not supposed to be flung around like argumentative broadswords. It is not sufficient to state that an opponent has committed such-and-such a fallacy. And it is not very polite."

from the excellent Steven's Guide to the Logical Fallacies

So how to reflect this emotionalistic extreme to clarify the logician extreme? That's rather easy, since we have an example in the media: the Vulcan from Star Trek. Just as a lack of logic can create self-damaging emotional excess, so can a lack of emotion create self-damaging intellectual excess.

An example of this is using the tools of logical argument (such as a familiarity with the logical fallacies) without regard for how others feel. Sneering at someone for what you think is an illogical belief, and flatly refusing to consider you might have invested your own self-worth in an almost religious conviction of your own eternal rightness, is not healthy either, after all.

Yes, I've seen this, and it is always rather sad. The individuals in question had no idea why they had to go find a new group of people to hang out with every two years or so — or even why everyone in their old group was so "inconsiderate" as to not want to talk to them any more. After all, they themselves were right! The other people were, quite simply, always wrong, and inconsiderately refused to acknowledge this when the 'truth' was scornfully pointed out to them.

I have to thank those excessively logic-oriented individuals for one important lesson they taught me: never stop caring about how the other person feels while we argue, even if I do not understand — especially if I do not understand! Using the tools of logic to belittle is no better than using emotional manipulation.

After arguing with a lot of weird and interesting people over the years, it's become my personal belief an intellectually healthy, flexible, and emotionally strong person requires a balance of emotion and logic — and not an excess, or stunting of, one or the other.

Pipe dreams

I've been asked why I worry about this so much. Some people find intellectual debate unpleasantly confrontational, so why don't I quit indulging in quite so much reflection and attempting to work out the reasoning behind my beliefs? To me this is much like asking why I don't just stop thinking entirely, since it might bother some people. Why on earth would I want to lose the joy of intellectual stimulation, in an effort to appease the lowest common denominator?

It would be wonderful, I think, if people spent a bit more time on self-reflection and logic. I can see how that would be a bad thing for the entire political and advertising industries, but I admit to not being exactly heartbroken at the possibility of their demise. For that matter, why on earth would I want to encourage people to not think, when I know what a help in living well it is? Wouldn't that be greedy and self-centered of me, to not share something which gives me such pleasure?

Calmness in the face of the unexpected, understanding of one's inner self, easy recognition of irrationality, self-confidence in a variety of environments, ethical steadiness when challenged, mental grace and agility — I believe all these spring naturally from having rationally and logically worked out one's internal beliefs. It's not immediately easy, but don't most good things in life require a little initial effort? With some applied consistency and determination, I think it can really make a difference.

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