Passion and Reason

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Jared Alesi's picture
Passion and Reason

Believe it or not, I do think there is a place for emotion in rational debate. I know that many here are of the mind that emotional bias can corrupt the conclusions of debate and skew narratives, and I agree to a certain extent. But I do believe that there is a time and a place that emotional intelligence is as important as rational intelligence.

Let us say for the sake of example that there is a mass shooting. In this shooting, let us say that 10 people were killed, not including the gunman. Now at the same time, let us also say that while the shooting was happening, ten other people simultaneously died in different ways for different reasons that were not murder.

(I'm sure plenty of you know where this is going but bear with me.)

Which of these things is more urgent or important? The ten people who were murdered or the ten people who died from accidental causes or illnesses or what have you?

Logically, we should say they are equal because the death count is the same! But I think everyone knows which one is worse, because murder is an intentional thing, and it requires malevolent intent. It's inherently emotional for all involved. You can pretend that a mass shooting and a medical error are the same on paper because the same amount of body bags get filled, because it's nothing more than hiding from the fact that there are widespread problems of violence that aren't being fixed. You know it, the victims knew it, and the survivors know it.

A murder is an emotional act, and death is an emotional subject. Whether or not we pretend that any death has no emotional toll is irrelevant because the truth is that humans are emotionally driven and empathetic by nature. Nobody witnesses murder firsthand and doesn't at least flinch. Some deaths are inevitable because humans die. It's what they're built for. But there really isn't much of an excuse for mass murder, because not only is it unnecessary but it's also a malevolent act. And it's an act that can be prevented, should the proper measures be taken.

Don't hide behind pure logic and rationality. It can't always help. Sometimes you need to acknowledge the emotional weight of information and act accordingly. If we were playing a numbers game with human lives we would be losing, and right now that's exactly what's happening.

*Side note: don't bring politics into this thread. This is purely a thread about the emotional side of debate and how it can be important. I don't have the energy to read any half-baked bullshit from either side about gun control, terrorism, white supremacy, or Donald Trump, etc. And this is not a request.

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David Killens's picture
Emotions are what motivate

Emotions are what motivate and drive us, but it is rational and calm logic that finds the solutions.

boomer47's picture


It is the need for dispassionate thinking which ensures that the victims of crimes don't get to set the punishments.

Jared Alesi's picture
Yes, I agree that victims don

Yes, I agree that victims don't get to enact punishments. I'm simply saying that when the time comes to make a decision, whether or not we act should also be based on the emotional impact of actions in certain situations.

The reason I used this particular example was because emotional information is important here, but I never claimed that it is so in all situations or for all types of decisions. You wouldn't consider the emotional toll of using green paper instead of white for a job application, you would make the decision rationally. But when you decide if something can be done to prevent mass murder or instead decide that mass murder is inconsequential simply because the numbers are small, then using purely logic would be a disservice to the victims and survivors of the crime.

Cognostic's picture
RE: , "Logically, we should

RE: , "Logically, we should say they are equal because the death count is the same!"

Logically, they are all equal. They all require immediate medical care just prior to death and then they are all dead. How are they not equal? The actual death itself is separate from the situation. As the situation changes so do emotional states. Emotional states are based on our expectations regarding the situation; death being the result of the situation. The death of a child is generally seen as more emotional than the death of an elder person. DEATH is not the issue. It is the time, method and age of the person who died that is at issue. We kill our suffering dogs. Euthanasia is gaining in popularity. DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) bracelets are worn by the infirmed. These deaths are seen as a blessing and an end to the pain and suffering of the situation.

If we are playing a numbers game, dead is the normal state of human existence. There are billions more people who are currently dead. The living are an insignificant minority who soon will all be dead.

Sheldon's picture
"Logically, we should say

"Logically, we should say they are equal because the death count is the same! "

Hmm, not sure this is true. There are sound logical reasons why murder is more preventable than disease and natural deaths, and why it is more tragic, starting with the the fact it is a willful act by a human. The money spent designing making and selling guns could be used to fund medical research and this would result in less suffering theoretically. No emotion is required for that conclusion surely, though admittedly empathy would be needed in order to care about suffering in the first place. We don't need it to reason our way through the issue though. If people are willing to commit murder, we might not always be able to stop them but surely its rational to limit their access to firearms that make it easier and the effects more deadly with the potential for greater loss of life and therefore increased suffering? I can pretty remove all emotion from that reasoning process and it remains sound. Though again you would have to care about the suffering of others in the first place.

Jared Alesi's picture
This pretty sums up my

This pretty sums up my position pretty succinctly I think, thank you for being able to articulate it better than I could.

Cognostic's picture
Death is biological. Murder

Death is biological. Murder is an act. It is the act that we take issue with not death. If you are a drug addict, a murder victim, or the recipient of a traumatic event, when you go to the emergency room, death is treated in the same way. If it is not, all staff and doctors are liable for malpractice. (Admittedly, extra effort can be seen when treating small kids. Society accepts this. But it is not death that is the presenting problem. Everything dies. It is the social context and our interpretation of the social context that dictated our emotional response. In the end, the person is dead and we have no other option but to accept it. The road to acceptance can be long and hard for some but it is the only thing waiting for those in denial, those in anger, those bargaining with god, and those depressed. At the end of the journey there is only "ACCEPTANCE." (Kuba Ross)

Jared Alesi's picture
I think you're missing my

I think you're missing my point. It is of course obvious that death is death no matter how it happens. The entire point of this is to accept that, on the purely rational level, all death us the same. The distinction for murder or terrorism is that those acts are intentional and malevolent, but also preventable if the proper action is taken. There's a big difference between witnessing a murder at the hands of a gunman and witnessing an old man die in the hospital from a terminal illness. There's no blame for an illness, and no one set out to harm someone who dies of cancer. A murder is different because there is blame and there is intent.

The whole point of this is to say that we shouldn't chock up all deaths as one and the same because it would be all too easy to fall into a rut of apathy. When we stop caring about things like violence we become desensitized and are more reluctant to act. Something needs to be done about the drastic rise of mass shootings, but things aren't being done because the perception of these events for too many people is just a statistic. They don't see a mass shooting for the violent and terrible act that it is, they see a body count and then stop thinking about it because plenty if other things have bigger body counts.

rat spit's picture
I predict that in 120 years

I predict that in 120 years everyone on Earth today WILL BE DEAD!!! DEAD I TELL YOU!!! This is a prophecy from God Himself. Praise be to Allah. He has shown me the FUTURE! I dare anyone contradict this prophecy. Allah proves his existence with this prophecy and I am his messenger!!!

NewSkeptic's picture


I'd say you are wrong. Life spans are expanding and in 120 years there will be at least a few people from today still living, not even including Ted William's frozen head,

Tin-Man's picture
@Rat Spit

@Rat Spit

Yeah, Ratty, I have to agree with New Skeptic on this one. As usual, Allah did not take into account the potential advances in medical technology over the next few decades. Maybe his prediction should have been 150 to 160 years just to give himself a little leeway. But that is the problem with those "omniscient" types, I suppose. They think they know everything... *rolling eyes*...

Cognostic's picture
@Ratty: Congratulations on

@Ratty: Congratulations on half of a valid observation.

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