Atheists often wave the banner of “reason” as if they are the only tribe who values reason. Yet many atheists are realizing that they don’t have a monopoly on reason. VJack at “Atheist Revolution” just posted “Irrational Atheist” confessing how theists and atheists alike share biases. My impression was that VJack use to be more of a “hyper-rationalist” (believing the unadulterated reason is possible and is the hallmark of atheists) but he appears to have softened up. Hyper-rationalism is mistaken because the common sense notion of “reason” which we inherited from the Greeks is wrong.
Every thought, even the ones we may call “reason”, are accompanied by emotional states — in fact, emotional states often precede and stimulate thought. We have all seen, heard or read people as they attempt to use logic and reason while they are raging angry. And anger, like fear, hatred, jealously, apathy and other emotions gleefully activate our brain’s bias switches — biases that all of us share. These biases turn reason into rationalization. Rationalization is probably the vast majority of what we are actually doing when we feel we are using reason.
Thus, when having a discussion, sometimes it is perhaps more useful to focus on our emotional states than on our logic. Emotions are what add value or weight to our ideas and our logic — we need to understand this critical principle. Thus, ironically, the emotion of equanimity may aid a reasonable dialogue much more than reason. Sometimes I wonder if cultivating emotions would be a more fruitful endeavor than cultivating reason. Again: the common sense notion of reason is mistaken — thinking is always accompanied by emotions. Cultivating our emotions may be the quickest way to further reasonable dialogue
- Of course I think cultivating logic and bias filters are also critically important.
- I am not idealizing any particular emotions. I realize that even supposedly negative emotions can be useful.
- Inseparable Thought-Emotion : Classifying emotions
- Emotions and Thought : A fun video
- The 12 Virtues of Rationality : Link to apost by Eliezer Yudkowsky where he lists lightness, evenness, relinquishment (emotional notions) are three of these.
- Vulnerability and Self-Disclosure : Techniques to allow emotions to be transparent in dialogue