Note: This is not another Feeler bash thread.
The question that I am concerned with is whether or not it is desirable for people to believe in things that are not supported by an argument. Theorem of Feel leads us to feel justified in doing so. The first section is concerned with a discussion of Logic, the reader who is concerned with the practical implications of the theorem of Feel is advised to skip it.
I. What Modus Feel is
To make my point more clear, consider the following diagrams. Symbolic Logic and Mathematical Logic offer several acceptable rules of inference. Arguments that abide by such rules are regarded as valid, arguments that do not abide are regarded as invalid. A valid argument is one where the conclusion is entailed by the premises. In simpler form, what this means is that the conclusion is supported by the premises, hence if the premises are true, the conclusion must also be. Logic, unlike science is not concerned with factual accuracy, it is merely focused on the chain of reasoning. If the chain of reasoning is legitimate and we do have accurate information, then following the chain of reasoning prescribed by Logic should lead to a true conclusion. The simplest way of looking at this is as follows; there are good reasons for us to make some of the conclusions that we make, yet for other conclusions, there are no such reasons, as they are simply 'unfounded'. Logic is concerned with establishing and listing the legitimate chains of reasoning for all possible ventures of thought.
If one discovers a chain of reasoning that is legitimate, it can rightly be regarded as a Theorem of Symbolic or Mathematical Logic. Hence, he is free to give the Theorem any name he desires. For example, Augustus De Morgan (1806-1871) Augustus De Morgan - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia discovered that the expression of (not A and not B) is equivalent to not (A or B). Or is used in an inclusive sense, in other words when it is stated that A or B is true, it is implied that at least one is true. To get a clear understanding of this notion, imagine a waitress asking you if you would like coffee or tea, a response that you would like to have both certainly would be relevant to her question. She certainly would not suggest to you that when she asked you if you want one or the other that you must have one and not the other. On that note, (one or the other) is not the same expression as (one and not the other). Hence, in the case of DeMorgan's theorem what we have is as follows not (A or B) is equivalent to not A and not B.
As previously established, not (A or B) means that it is not the case that at least one of the two (A or B) must be true. This amount to the claim that both A and B are false.
Hence, this is a theorem of Symbolic Logic.
Lets consider other theorems such as Modus Ponens, or Modus Tollens. According to Modus Ponens, if A then B, A is true, therefore B must be true.
Modus Tollens, if A then B, not B, therefore not A.
The following are instances of Modus Feel: If A then B, A, therefore Z.
If A then B, not (A and B), therefore B.
A or B, Z, therefore not A and not B.
II. How Modus Feel is practiced.
In other words, the conclusion is always true irrespectively of the premises. How could this be? The simplest answer one can think of is the force akin to magic. There is no need for a reason, on fiat we assume that the conclusion is true and to hell with the reasoning process.
I am certainly not concerned with whether or not Modus Feel is an acceptable rule of logical inference, but with whether or not we should encourage this kind of reasoning.
In other words, is it desirable for ordinary people to reason in a deductively valid manner, or is it better that they simply think however they would like to. Which rules of reasoning are to be preferred? The Modus Feel ones or those that entail deductively valid answers?
Those who espouse Modus Feel often argue that all rules of logical inference are arbitrary. If A then B, A, therefore B is not any more tenable than If A then B, A, therefore Z. This view is captured in the following famous quotation or a renowned social critic "Logic is the art of going wrong with confidence. "
Joseph Wood Krutch ( Joseph Wood Krutch - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia )
It has an appeal to those who wish to feel they have the answers without conducting a careful analysis of whether or not they truly do. Logical Reasoning to such thinkers is merely another rhetorical tool. It has no objective merit, it is simply something that feels convincing to some people. It is on the same level as alchemy, black magic, preaching of religious revelation or political propaganda. This is exactly the notion that has been reflected in the following quotations.
"Logic: an instrument used for bolstering a prejudice."
"It is always better to say right out what you think without trying to prove anything much: for all our proofs are only variations of our opinions, and the contrary-minded listen neither to one nor the other."
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)
"Most of our so-called reasoning consists in finding arguments for going on believing as we already do. "
James Harvey Robinson
"Logic is neither a science nor an art, but a dodge. " Benjamin Jowett
What is the underlying theme among all of these statements. They seem to think that Logic is not a tool for understanding the world but a tool for affirmation of our prejudices and foisting them upon others.
How would a proponent of such a theory go about defending it? The obvious challenge that he must answer is if it is truly the case that all uses of logic are merely attempts at persuasion and not at acquisition of the truth, would it not be the case that such a statement about logic is also another attempt at persuasion? He may reply that Logic is merely an attempt at persuasion, but what he is using is not logic. It is merely an appeal to an intuition and he somehow knows that his intuition is a true one. Very well, I would respond, explain to me how such an intuition is used, so I can rely on that intuition to get knowledge for myself. He would refuse as what I am asking him to do is to engage in logic. Simply put, he would dismiss any request to explain his views in a way that is objectively understood as logic which amounts to either self-deception or deception of others. It is mere casuistry in the eyes of such a mystic. I would then proceed to dismiss him as a mere quack. But he would importune me to listen to him, would finally propose to explain his views. He would then say that he has a feeling that God exists, or that Black Magic exists and his feeling never strayed him wrong. I would then ask him to describe what such a feeling is, and identify such a feeling within myself.
After having done this, I will introspect myself and discover that I associate that same exact feeling with the conclusion that is the opposite of his. The mystic would attribute this to my own obstinacy and obstreperousness, sheer defiance of the truth. He may even quote the Biblical verse regarding how the fool in his heart says there is no God. Hence, the reason why I do not believe in what he believes in has nothing to do with the truthfulness or the falsity of the matter he believes in, but because there is something wrong with me. Quite handily, some religious zealots believe in Predestination. Some have been chosen by God to be saved and others have been chosen to be damned. Apparently since I do not believe, I must have been chosen to be damned.
Believing is simply an ability to think that things are true, despite the fact that you do not believe that it is possible for anything to be true. It is, at the bottom a mere prejudice.
III. Plausibility of Modus and Theorem of Feel
This view is certainly untenable, because it it self-contradictory. For the very least the mystic asserts that it is true that he has a certain feeling that compels him to believe in some things, yet this is impossible to reconcile with the thesis that there is no truth. The mystic maintains that his feeling is truth preserving and argues that mine is not simply because I am wicked and he is righteous, yet offers no supporting evidence for this assertion. It is arbitrary in the strictest sense of the word.
IV. Utility of the Modus and Theorem of Feel
As aforementioned, Modus Feel can not be an inference of logical thought, nor can the theorem of Feel be used to contribute to the body of scientific knowledge. However, despite this, I am not yet prepared to regard mysticism and feeling as a pretense for an epistemic vehicle as completely unacceptable. There is a distinction between what is true and what is good. It is far from clear that knowing the truth is good for all people.
It is a fact of our biology that we are born with certain instincts which are intensified significantly throughout the course of our lives. One of such instincts is the wish to feel good. Even the most ardent of massochists will admit that they feel that pain is good and that is the reason why they welcome it into their lives.
We all would like to believe that we are wise, competent, compassionate as well as have a bright future. Unfortunately, intellectually honest discourse leads us to hold a contrary view regarding ourselves. It is true that many are able to live with the realization that their future is less bright than they would like for it to be or that they are not as intelligent as they wish were, the bottom line is, they accept their own shortcomings and still manage to be happy. This is by no means an easy process. Many do arrive at some of such realizations, yet they do so with great damage to their self-esteem. Accepting one's own short-comings without losing self-respect is something that very few are able to accomplish. For the very least, even the most self-disciplined people wish to have a reason to believe that their future will be pleasant. They may well have accepted that they are not intelligent or not compassionate, and so on, yet despite this, they think their life may be enjoyable. Hence, it may be very useful for them to be intellectually dishonest and turn to superstition in order to arrive at such a conviction. They may well endorse the belief in karma and by spurious means assume that their karma is a good one. In addition to this, it would be far from ill-advised for such persons to endorse superstitious beliefs to the effect of their grandmother practices magic and she can guarantee their happiness in the long run. It is not happening at the present moment, may not happen in ten years, but their absolute faith in their grandmother's abilities will doubtlessly convince them their time will come. Eventually the person in question may become disillusioned with his grandmother, however powerful she may be, she is not all powerful. There is a need for a back up plan, how about God? God obviously likes the grandson or the granddaughter of the person in question and he is all powerful, he will certainly guarantee his happiness because of this. How will he do this? He will grant eternal life. This way the person in question will have every reason to continue hoping. He could well live with the conviction that his time will never come in this world, but eventually it will! To his mind, this assertion is irrefutable because it must happen at a place and a time where noone could observe this, perhaps even in a different world that is unintelligible to us. When it is pointed out that if the world is unintelligible, he cannot talk about it meaningfully, and therefore there is no substantial reason to hope that his time will truly come. Yet, he will appeal to the theorem of feel to shrugg of this challenge and convince himself to believe in whatever he would like to.
Who are the most successful practitioners of the 'Feel' method, and what are the consequences of their work? Politicians, preachers, lawyers, leaders of military units, self-help authors, social workers? Certainly these people have inspired thousands of individuals to surrender their lives for a vain cause, a la Hitler. Yet, preachers, social workers and self-help authors have changed many lives for the better by intellectually dishonest means. They often have done this by putting forth rationally untenable proofs for how special their clients are and how much they deserve to have a good life and therefore are bound to get what they deserve eventually. Or quite simply, they may have convinced even the most hopeless of individuals to endorse a false belief that they are not hopeless and as result have given them confidence to better their lives.
The Feel method is a craft, it is morally neutral. It can be used to manipulate people to their benefit or to their deteriment, or it could also be used by its practitioners to deceive themselves and delude their followers into doing so themselves. The use of it could be completely innocent and self deceiving or it could be used in a carefully calculated manner to deceive others, it could be altruistic (as in the case of a social worker in question) or self-serving (as in the case of Hitler).
The question is, what kind of practioners are we more likely to find out of all the persons who use the 'Feel' method? More importantly, what are the consequences of their work likely to be? I suggest that by evaluation of these consequences we should decide whether the Feel method is congenial or not, and accordingly if the use of it should be encouraged or discouraged.