Explaining why feelings arent valid to determine truth

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Explaining why feelings arent valid to determine truth

Postby Superboy » 2011-03-30 04:05pm

I've been debating with a friend of mine about various beliefs and we keep hitting the same wall. She doesn't seem to understand why some methods are better for determining truth than other methods. When I ask her why she believes in a particular thing, she usually just says it feels right to her. I'm trying to explain why feelings aren't a valid way of determining truth, but I'm not quite sure how to go about it. She just keeps coming back with "you just say that because you're a science guy".

For instance, she believes in fate and says there are no such thing as coincidences. I try to explain the law of averages but she responds that "she doesn't buy into that". I'm not quite sure how to respond to that because her reasoning is that it "doesn't feel right to her" and she "feels there is more to it".

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Re: Explaining why feelings arent valid to determine truth

Postby SilverWingedSeraph » 2011-03-30 04:15pm

Ask her if she would trust someone who just "feels" that they can safely push her off a cliff, or just "feels" that radiation isn't that harmless. Feelings aren't worth shit when it comes to determining truth. The only way we can ever really know the truth about things is by testing things and examining the evidence. If your friend can't understand this then frankly they're beyond hope. "Feelers" are almost impossible to reason with.
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Re: Explaining why feelings arent valid to determine truth

Postby Bakustra » 2011-03-30 04:28pm

Superboy wrote:I've been debating with a friend of mine about various beliefs and we keep hitting the same wall. She doesn't seem to understand why some methods are better for determining truth than other methods. When I ask her why she believes in a particular thing, she usually just says it feels right to her. I'm trying to explain why feelings aren't a valid way of determining truth, but I'm not quite sure how to go about it. She just keeps coming back with "you just say that because you're a science guy".

For instance, she believes in fate and says there are no such thing as coincidences. I try to explain the law of averages but she responds that "she doesn't buy into that". I'm not quite sure how to respond to that because her reasoning is that it "doesn't feel right to her" and she "feels there is more to it".


I think that your methodology is flawed- the law of averages cannot disprove fate, as an example. Overall, you're extending logical principles too far, which is not particularly helpful. Rather, I would take the tack of showing where emotional reasoning falls on its face. One analogy would be medicine- cough syrup rarely has a pleasant taste, but it is more effective than sugar water at easing a sore throat or cough. So ask whether she would take a horrible-tasting medicine or a bottle of sugar water to deal with an illness, and then ask her why she would make the choice she did.
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Re: Explaining why feelings arent valid to determine truth

Postby Twoyboy » 2011-03-31 02:39am

Best way, find two people with very strong but opposing feelings on an issue. Ask her which one is right, after all, they both feel that they are correct.

You should be able to find two opposing people on homeopathy, nuclear power, etc. At the end, show her that you have no feeling on either issue, but use science to determine the merit of an idea.
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Re: Explaining why feelings arent valid to determine truth

Postby Zed » 2011-04-02 12:26pm

The problem is that in some cases, it can well be argued that feelings are valid to determine truth - it all depends on your theory of truth (because it's by no means clear what "truth" means - there are consensus theories of truth, correspondence theories of truth, etc) and on the conditions in which feelings might be valid to determine truth.

Now, admittedly, this is more of a problem for your general thesis that feelings aren't valid for determining truth, and not a problem for the situation with your friend, because what she's saying is bullshit.

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Re: Explaining why feelings arent valid to determine truth

Postby Batman » 2011-04-02 07:09pm

I'm sorry, but that's complete and utter hogwash. Something is either true or it is not.
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Re: Explaining why feelings arent valid to determine truth

Postby Zed » 2011-04-02 07:42pm

Batman wrote:I'm sorry, but that's complete and utter hogwash. Something is either true or it is not.

Read http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/truth, then get back to me.

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Re: Explaining why feelings arent valid to determine truth

Postby Batman » 2011-04-02 07:54pm

Which is relevant how, exactly? Truth is a pretty digital thing. Either something happened or it didn't. I either did something or I did not. I either said something or I did not. It may be not inconsiderably difficult to find out what IS the truth depending on circumstances, but that's about it.
'Next time I let Superman take charge, just hit me. Real hard.'
'You're a princess from a society of immortal warriors. I'm a rich kid with issues. Lots of issues.'
'No. No dating for the Batman. It might cut into your brooding time.'
'Tactically we have multiple objectives. So we need to split into teams.'-'Dibs on the Amazon!'
'Hey, we both have a Martian's phone number on our speed dial. I think I deserve the benefit of the doubt.'
'You know, for a guy with like 50 different kinds of vision, you sure are blind.'

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Re: Explaining why feelings arent valid to determine truth

Postby Zed » 2011-04-02 08:16pm

It's relevant because pragmatist theories of truth dispute the entire idea that "something is either true or it is not".

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Re: Explaining why feelings arent valid to determine truth

Postby Batman » 2011-04-02 08:30pm

I just hit you in the face. Deathstroke just shot you in the head. A safe just landed on you. Assuming all those events actually happened, what, exactly, is the ambiguity? Once I hit you in the face, is it not true I did so? Once Slade shot you, is it not true he did so? Once that safe crushed you, is it not true it did so?
'Next time I let Superman take charge, just hit me. Real hard.'
'You're a princess from a society of immortal warriors. I'm a rich kid with issues. Lots of issues.'
'No. No dating for the Batman. It might cut into your brooding time.'
'Tactically we have multiple objectives. So we need to split into teams.'-'Dibs on the Amazon!'
'Hey, we both have a Martian's phone number on our speed dial. I think I deserve the benefit of the doubt.'
'You know, for a guy with like 50 different kinds of vision, you sure are blind.'

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Re: Explaining why feelings arent valid to determine truth

Postby RazorOutlaw » 2011-04-05 08:03pm

I think what's at issue here isn't whether events are true or not but whether beliefs are true or not. At least, by looking specifically at the Pragmatist view of truth, they seem to only be talking about beliefs. And in terms of what Zed is talking about, he's suggesting that feelings can lead to some kind of truth.

Being crushed by a safe is a very clear kind of truth that I don't think anybody can dispute.
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Re: Explaining why feelings arent valid to determine truth

Postby Superboy » 2011-04-06 02:51am

I think that your methodology is flawed- the law of averages cannot disprove fate, as an example.


Don't get me wrong, I wasn't trying to disprove fate, merely explain why coincidences happen and that they don't need any supernatural explanation. The specific example was that I recently moved into an apartment building to find that a girl I used to go school with also lives there. The person I was "debating" believed this wasn't just a coincidence and that we were fated to get to know each other. I was trying to explain that, given the number of people I attended school with (thousands) and the relatively small number of apartment buildings in my city, there's no need for a fate explanation for this coincidence.

... find two people with very strong but opposing feelings on an issue. Ask her which one is right, after all, they both feel that they are correct.


I tried something similar, presenting her with this as a hypothetical scenario rather than actually finding the people. It brought the conversation to a screeching halt as she proclaimed that "they're both right to themselves!".

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Re: Explaining why feelings arent valid to determine truth

Postby someone_else » 2011-04-06 02:54pm

I'm trying to explain why feelings aren't a valid way of determining truth, but I'm not quite sure how to go about it. She just keeps coming back with "you just say that because you're a science guy".
Find things where her "gut feeling" would be utterly wrong in an easily-demonstrable situations. Possibly in hypotetical situations where her life would be at stake.

You can also cite one of the random poor morons that "feel" seatbelts aren't good for them and die in car crashes where other seat-belted people in the same car easily survive.

The goal is point out that what you "feel" true is more or less irrelevant and more often than not won't save you from suffering, damage and death. This maybe allows her to doubt of her approach and maybe will be more receptive to further discussion.

Although most people I know that call people "science guys" or similar aren't rational enough to change their mind without using marketing techniques (scamming them for their own good), so be prepared for a utter failure and more total nonsense as rebuttals. :wtf:

And leave her thoughts about fate out of this. Don't attack her whole view of the world at once, that has just the effect of making the other "raise shields" and stop listening.

It brought the conversation to a screeching halt as she proclaimed that "they're both right to themselves!".
With the method above, saving her backside by saying this childish shit isn't an option. :mrgreen:
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Re: Explaining why feelings arent valid to determine truth

Postby Chirios » 2011-04-26 07:28pm

Zed wrote:The problem is that in some cases, it can well be argued that feelings are valid to determine truth - it all depends on your theory of truth (because it's by no means clear what "truth" means - there are consensus theories of truth, correspondence theories of truth, etc) and on the conditions in which feelings might be valid to determine truth.

Now, admittedly, this is more of a problem for your general thesis that feelings aren't valid for determining truth, and not a problem for the situation with your friend, because what she's saying is bullshit.


The issue about what the definition of "true" is, is only an issue when you're talking about subjective truth, i.e, right and wrong, morals, intent etc. However everything that is unrelated to human emotion is objectively true or false, the colour of the sky at any particular time in a particular location or facts about sequences of events, for example. The problem with occurs when people equate things that are dependant on human emotion with things that have little to nothing to do with emotions, and then try and find a definition of "truth" that fits both situations.

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Re: Explaining why feelings arent valid to determine truth

Postby Akhlut » 2011-04-29 05:14pm

Superboy wrote:
... find two people with very strong but opposing feelings on an issue. Ask her which one is right, after all, they both feel that they are correct.


I tried something similar, presenting her with this as a hypothetical scenario rather than actually finding the people. It brought the conversation to a screeching halt as she proclaimed that "they're both right to themselves!".


Either 6 million Jews were burned in Nazi Germany's ovens or they weren't, both positions cannot be right at the same time.

Maybe that example will get through because of the impact Nazis are liable to make.
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Re: Explaining why feelings arent valid to determine truth

Postby Simon_Jester » 2011-04-29 05:34pm

Batman wrote:I'm sorry, but that's complete and utter hogwash. Something is either true or it is not.
The problem, though, is that once you get out of a rather narrow band of simple (and irrelevant problems), nearly every question normal people would care about enough to ask requires inductive reasoning to answer. Data sets are complicated, you cannot robotically examine and rule out every possibility because there are too damn many. There may be a huge amount of relevant information, most of which is only tenuously connected to the problem directly at hand- say, thousands of years of historical precedent, none of which is exactly like what you see before you but much of which is slightly like it.

Under those very common circumstances, yes intuition, gut instinct, and so forth do play a role. The biggest difference between an expert and a babbling idiot is that an expert has put in the time to train their instincts: they know enough to be able to fill in the blanks of what they don't know, or at least identify those blanks and work around them.

And yes, trained instinct is grossly superior to untrained instinct; there is a huge difference between a wild guess and an educated (domesticated?) guess. Which is where facts really do come into play.
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