epistemology

Emotionalism > Rationalism

In my previous post about the information wasteland, I have made it clear that signalling is the most important character that attracts people’s attention. The medium of current information technology, which is the fragmented information overload itself, craves for drama and people who create drama. No gimmick, no fame. I for one have always followed this rule in my 6 years membership of the Toastmasters International, a public club that aims to improve participants’ public speaking and presentation skills. During my time with the Toastmasters International, one thing I would always do is to speak in a dramatic tone with wide range of body language and eye contacts. Over the time I have found out that no matter how irrelevant and non-sense my speech was about, people would always pay attention to me and recognize my performance even months after. They most likely couldn’t recall what I was talking about, but always remember some catchphrases I blurred and those laughs I brought to them with my sense of humor (dramatic performance). So in the end of the day, I easily got famous and favored by the crowd. Whenever I stand in front of the stage, people would pay extra attention to me with the expression to get ready for some nice entertainment once more.

Those gimmicks, as far as I can see, are not some novel invention of mine. It existed since the mankind learned how to communicate with each other even way before the maturity of our linguistic skills. It is natural that people dig the emotional signals and resonates with them. I am not saying it is a bad thing. We are driven to a decision by our emotions subconsciously, and that is a fact. Nonetheless, we have another intrinsic character that could help us for the decision-making independent of emotions: the ability to reason. Rationality is a discernible trait especially among high intelligent people, who are the real driving force for technological breakthrough and the societal governance. The widespread of printing press in the medieval era injected a strong boost for the growth of rational thinking among the populace all through Europe, with the help of books, a perfect medium detached with all forms of emotion in favor of emotionless logic thinking. That was truly an era of enlightenment. Both life science and social science experienced a rapid leap forward: universal education, modern democracy, industrial revolution, modern economics etc. Rational thinking for the first time supplanted emotions as the cornerstone of our decision-making principles.

When Neil Postman was talking about such things in his enlightening book “Amusing ourselves to death”, he overlooked one critical point, a point that could well explain the “proliferation of the show business via new information technology”. That is: we naturally prefer visual representation, emotional signalling over detached rational thinking and objective contextualization. Plenty of theories why we behave in this way (I have written an article to explain our visual representation), which I won’t probe further here. The point is the blossom of printing press era was the only meteor-alike exception in the long path of our human civilization history. It is not natural for most people to stick to some static objective paragraphs as our ultimate guidance. Once the technology advanced to a stage where we could develop a better information medium, we would just simply dash to that one almost instantaneously. Over 500 years of printing press dominance and its glory were easily overwritten by the introduction of mass media in less than 100 years.

Thanks to television, personal computer, internet, google, youtube, we have quickly reverted back to the most primitive stage of philosophy: emotionalism. Beg to differ? Turn on your television and see one image that isn’t intended to hypnotize you with emotional resonance: news coverage, advertising, TV opera etc. Even the most sacred and serious domain of human civilization, politics and religion, are no longer sacred and serious. “Democracy” is merely a fig leaf for the popularity contest based on emotional barometer – polls (Some are “bad” because they are “bad”, others “good” because they are “good”). Everyone is all of sudden a specialized theologist that see religion either as a superstitious gimmick or the supernatural power (Even the Islamic theology is a joke nowadays thanks to the rise of Jihad martyrs). Thanks to the dominance of some smart minority in this show business, minority in all social domains are now portrayed as simply the victims of the majority, regardless of what happens. Hence, minorities are always right and should be protected and worshiped as the blessed ones (we are not). This perfectly fits our emotional demand. Whenever a man defies a massive order. The first reaction from the public is always sympathy, followed by consequential supports. It doesn’t matter what and why the man was doing it. The theory part, the pseudo-rational thinking part, is largely marginalized and simplified with a few lines of a so-called expert on the TV or a pissed-off protester showing off his V-for-victory sign. We’d amplify the emotion and strongly abide the hunch, thanks to the information era. There are countless examples here, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, JFK, Che Guevara, Greenpeace, Arab Spring etc. … This is also the case of Ai Weiwei, an edgy post-modern artist in our home country that deems “politically active and heretic”. When people flock to pity him with great compassion against the old-evil CCP, few could calm their over-heated brain and contemplate: “what on earth is this fella doing for?” To me he tries to act like a hero but without any solid ideas or concrete dogmas. His “arts” are vulgar and explicit, and his “politic views” are immature and ambiguous.

Back to where I started in this article, the wisdom of intelligence has been downplayed in favor of emotional heroism today. All abstract thoughts are pushed back in the bottom of the library, a place that people barely visit. All leftism, rightism, communism, and even environmentalism, are merely a form of simple pictorial representation of different emotions nowadays, at least in the mainstream. True intelligentsia, the last remaining fraction of the printing press era (leftovers), are all labelled “reactionary” and squeezed in the margin of the society where nobody really cares. As long as the modern mass media sticks to the concept of the show business, there will never be a sober day for all of us. It’s not that we got retarded (we probably are thanks to the infusion of dumb people in the social welfare era), it is just we got hypnotized in this Brave New World – the prophesy of Huxley.

Information wasteland

Neil Postman once concluded in his marvelous book “Amusing Ourselves to Death“, that in the current world the media serves no purposes other than entertaining ourselves with information that is irrelevant, impotent, and incoherent to one’s actual life. He calls this age the age of show business, where rationality and logic are no longer the cornerstone of the public value. The rise of signaling and human psychology parallels with the abuse of human emotion in this information era. In another way of saying, people are losing interest in the detached, impersonal, and objective rationalism and embracing whatever that amuses and touches their heart the most rather their souls.

I couldn’t agree more. I have written a post sometime ago on why people prefer visual information over reading texts these days. The conclusion back then was that we are designed to process faster and bigger amount of information through a picture than a few lines of words. Overwhelmed by excessive information garbage, of course it is natural to select the easiest and the most straightforward way for the information intake. But seriously, why on earth do we need to know so much information garbage anyway? Current news reporting updates information faster than the speed of sound. There is literally little value to any sort of information that we are forced to receive nowadays that could be worth the attention longer than a week. And just asking yourself by knowing that life is the closest to hell in Congo or there was an earthquake hit Turkey, is there anything that would affect your daily life action?

Mostly not. The only purpose/value of such information to you is only: personal entertainment. You could use it to boost your smugness in a social event, impressing your date. That’s it. Probably in a month the only thing you’d remember is the country name of Turkey or Congo. Such news information at least have a sense of decency as it reports some “serious issues” around. Let me remind you that the most watched news on daily basis would always be the gossips of celebrity’s private lives and probably some stupid sneezing panda in the zoo. My friend spandrell recently opened a blog (popularity yet to be boosted), and he told me the hits reached an unbelievable height after he wrote a post about that Secular Liberal Feminist Vegetarian Individualist Egyptian pussy Aliaa Magda Elmahdy with a link to her naked pictures. The blog was immediately immersed with waves of horny web surfers that came from the google search (you’ve got to turn to 20X page to find his link on such “hot topic”). That tells you how depraved our information system is these days.

People lost the sense of abstract thinking and grow unprecedentedly impetuous towards intellectual curiosity. If you can’t read, back in the days, you are a stupid illiterate doomed to be trapped in peasantry; nowadays if you can’t read, you have “reading difficulties”, “short attention span”, but no worries, you are still fine – because you are not alone.

Using your hunch, your heart to feel the world looks way more appealing under the age of show business today. This may explain some of the reasons why we end up with such a lousy leftism as the predominant doctrine of our modern society. It’s way easier to use a photo of weeping starving African baby and a smiling Libyan rebel with AK-47 (or a picture of a 20-year-old Egyptian pussy) to convince people that there exists a utopia of freedom, democracy and equality.

Well you can’t really think beyond the picture about what and why on earth this happens, can you?

More people pretend and play-act. Few still think. Everyone suffocates in this information landfill and amuses ourselves to death. BNW coming!

Do you always need a picture to draw your attention for the reading?

Is there a logic behind every observation?

I have been pretty busy working on something that doesn’t really require much of intelligence in Germany these days. The work has pretty much taken over all my time, leaving no time to read and write. Speaking of my way of writing, I am not sure how many of the readers are willing to suffer to finish all those tediously verbose articles I wrote (I did try my best to construct my writings as concise as possible after all). But I do feel excited once someone has the curiosity and the virtue (patience of virtue) to read over my heretic bs and feel like tossing a piece of his/her mind on my face and declare my theses completely bogus.

I am not masochist, and certainly I get very annoyed at people’s hysterical emotional outcry and slogan yelling (examples here and here), but I am always curious to know how people think and respond to new or different ideas. The other day I was walking home from work with a friend mine, I started to intentionally steer the casual discussion into a serious polemic on the pursuit of individual happiness. With my great rhetoric skills (I started training myself in the debate team and public speaking clubs ever since those wild days a.k.a. college period), I managed to lead the conversation to the direction that 1. the western society is almost as fragile as an old hollow tree on the verge of being nibbled out by massive parasitic bugs, and therefore 2. to pursue one’s happiness to the fullest, one should be as selfish as possible to strive for highest level of satisfaction over his/her 50 years of consciousness (provided that he/she lived 70 years perfectly health and sound).

Of course such arguments are far away from being an impeccable contention if the debate were held in the written form. But it was solid enough to overwhelm in that verbal discussion. That friend of mine, a well-informed and concerned westerner who does have a sense of respect for logic and reasoning, was pushed to reiterate his arguments for his idealistic middle class country life mode over and over again and finally did admit the logic of my politically incorrect arguments, though reluctantly.

“What’s the point? How do you explain the happiness from helping others for nothing?” He dropped the defense for his contention and started to seek any cracks from my arguments for an unexpected ambush.

“Point? Everything has a point.” I stammered for a while trying to organize my reasoning defense.

“The world is not only about ‘point’, we are imperfect mortals with deficient emotions. Happiness is not about to reaching a point” He tried to probe further for retaliation. But it was a pretty lame operationalization and immediately inspired me how I should respond, “the point of a thing is that thing’s realistic logic explanation. Everything could be explained by logic. There’s no exception. Emotions are pre-programmed logic that we are not even conscious about most of the time. Say you have the emotional tendency of sympathizing other people, or animal etc. This stems from the fact that you value your own organic life, more precisely your DNA, or your own consciousness. In pre-historical times humans were not physically fit for survival on our own, we need to cooperate with others and sometimes this means to ‘selflessly’ help others to survive in a group. The DNA of your spices thus has a higher possibility to be passed down and also you will have a higher chance to survive with others’ help in return. The evolution in those uncivilized ages have pre-programmed this essential logic, the continuation of DNA, into the existence of human sympathy in our ‘imperfect mortal emotions’. So essentially you feel happy by helping others, like liberal leftists feel happy by helping the inferior breeds and granting them superior rights, is a direct extrapolation of satisfying a point. Figure out what your points are and only focus on satisfying them, then you will get happy. Likewise, exactly because it’s pointless to live happily ever after in the western cultural Marxism bubble, you ought to further review your pre-programmed logic to fit in the current environment for your best existence, that is, to optimize your well-beings for two things: your ‘delusive free will’ and ‘core value of organic life – preservation of your DNA’. You need to always use logic over emotional instinct on things that you don’t understand at first.”

What a bunch of confusing and abstract combination of words. I left two ways out for him at that moment: either he burst into a serious emotional condemnation or stay confused and muted to digest the reasoning logic. Fortunately he chose the latter one (part of the reason why I consider him as a good friend, for he is reasonable and could be convinced by rationality). But the odd thing is that when I almost convinced him “wrong is wrong for there’s nothing wrong” such paradoxical theory, I started to instantaneously doubt about the validity of the contention I just made up. So, is there a logic explanation behind every observation?

So there is at least one logic explanation for everything that was happening and not happening? Does that imply that everything in this world could be explained by rationality and reasoning? What about those seemingly irrational decisions made by “imperfect” people? Well, now that even emotion could be rationally explained as the process of pre-programmed rational choice, it should be possible to look for a logic explanation for lots of un-logic things that simply don’t make sense. Is that contradictory? Let’s see. I have always thought that leftism is largely established on the denial of objective facts and logic speculation. To deny the natural differences among different groups of people certainly does not follow the logic of objective facts and of course this would bring a lot of avoidable serious social problems for the western society. But ss there a rational logic behind the leftists’ explicit irrational preference and blunt denial of objectivity? One could argue that those who were significantly pushing this ideology into the mainstream modern society must be extremely intelligent and know exactly what they were doing (unlikely most of their blindly following pupils). Why did they fail to detect the evident contradictions in their beliefs and objective facts? For the time being I would emphasize on the role of emotion in clouding their judgments. Perhaps exactly because they felt too proud to get down to the ground for practical ideologies all the time. Instead, they feel naturally superior to the rest, especially to the inferior types all over the world (e.g. Africans, aborigines, Muslims etc.). One of the most predictable consequence of such admittance of superiority over those people is to naturally pity them. As I mentioned above the feeling of sympathy does make sense somehow, 10,000 years ago probably. And it has been unconditionally amplified or shall I say abused with the luxury to afford doing so in the modern civilization. It is not easy to think deep enough to look for a logic speculation on pre-defined irrational items such as emotions (I wouldn’t even remotely touch such speculations if not stimulated by that spontaneous debate). Hence it is indeed logic to conjecture that leftist ideologists concluded that human kindness is pure and divine (without probing further why emotion) and therefore the ultimate justification for every action that goes against cold-blooded objective facts (leftism). It’s a much upgraded version of “helping others to feel better for yourself”. So we shall say the key to those smart leftists’ stubbornness (stupid ones are not worth discussing here) in denying objective facts and logic is their failing to see the rationality behind human emotions and taking sympathy as a universal virtue for granted. In this way it explains the reason why they would create a whole new thesis that is heavily built on sentimental values, which could be easily absorbed and recognized as resonating ethics with quasi-religious worship by the majority people who live in luxurious society of excessive productivity (most people don’t even bother thinking this far, so they would just take whichever makes best sense with their pre-programmed logic). Then the next thing you know there are people shouting these slogans as the undisputable divinity to infidels…

Does that logically interpret why the mainstream modern civilization adapts such blatant fallacy as THE brainwashing belief in the education and mass media nowadays? If so, then there’s still a hope to revert such actions: one could certainly hope that when the ugly bitterness finally comes back to those affluent beings from their denial and devastation to the foundation of modern civilization, more people would be able to see the realistic calculation out of their emotional cloud and act accordingly…

Anyhow, once again I have written so much already for one article. I’d like to stop the explorative discussion right here. Just one last question, how do I even know my logic is closer to the reality than others? Everyone has his/her own cognitive bias. What logic makes the most sense? One could argue from the theory of Occam’s razor. It is always more feasible to explain logic from the viewpoint of pragmatism than the pursuit of the “truth”. I tend to add two more criteria in judging the precision of one’s logic: your logic is most likely to be more practical to the real situation if 1. you are more well-informed than others (both the range of information and the depth of information), and 2. you are more open-minded to use reasoning to subjects you are not familiar with (favor objective facts over subjective emotional response).