Standing for Change: The Limits of Decisive Thought

Peter B. GiblettStarred Page By Peter B. Giblett, 6th Feb 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Philosophy>Logic

It is often said is that rational argument has more chance of success than emotional argument when supporting a particular viewpoint. Most of us though rely upon our emotions when arguing for or against an idea much more that we do rationale. This questions how we think and whether we should look for a more rational approach.


According to Eliezer S. Yudkowsky there are twelve virtues of rationality and these are:

These virtues need a little explanation, based on the focus from Yudkowsky's article:

  • Curiosity, the burning itch, or desire, to pursue the truth - here there is a need to firstly admit that you are ignorant on the matter and that you have the desire to change that.
  • Relinquishment, the need not to flinch from experiences that might destroy your existing beliefs.
  • Finding the Light, the instant you can see from which quarter the winds of evidence are blowing.
  • Evenness, if you do not believe the viewpoint ask the question “does the evidence force me to believe?”, this is all about the evidence presented.
  • Argument, the striving for honesty, for the sake of others and also yourself. it is important not to accept the words of another by default.
  • Empiricism, the idea that the roots of knowledge are in observation and its fruit is prediction, but you must keep your eye on the ball.
  • Simplicity, When you profess a huge belief with many details, each additional element is another chance for the belief to be wrongly understood.
  • Humility, to be human is to err, and even the great have to face humility at some point,
  • ... and almost its opposite, perfectionism
  • Precision, what is true for one person may not be true for another, but generally the narrowest statements slice deepest.
  • Scholarship and the ability to understand arguments from many fields that may come into play.
  • The void, the need for every step of your reasoning to cut through to the correct answer all in the same movement.

We all believe ourselves to be rational, thinking people, but there is a constant question we should be asking of ourselves, how rational are you? Part of the problem here is that we tend to be tied, emotionally to one position or another, almost intransigently, when we should be more open minded.

Emotional Thinking

Truth is that a large percentage of the time we are driven by our emotions, and this is not always a bad thing, but where it can become problematic is when they are deep seated emotions that we cling to and the truth is that all of us have such feelings to one extent or another. To deny this is actually an act of leaning on our emotions and their attachments for ideas that may actually be well past their sell-by date and clinging to such ideas is, sadly enough, almost part of human nature because we believe in those things we believe in and no test is required to change that, but should there be?

There has been much consideration that thinking emotionally can lead to shattered relationships, careers, and even finances, surely it is simply a case of getting your head in the right place? Our closest personal relationships are however based on emotions and these will be ever present in our lives, outside of those however we should be able to apply more logic and rationale, shouldn't we? Supposedly if you do that then everything else falls into place easily, yet emotions continue to be drivers for the majority of us, they govern how we interact with others and that may indeed become our week point, but it could also become our strength when used appropriately.

We must also consider the emotional baggage that we carry with us and how this can get in the way of new steps and the changes that must be made.

Emotion versus Rationale

We see ourselves as rational people and for the most part we are, usually this ceases the moment we encounter that challenges everything we either hold dear or know to be true and this is where our emotions take over, the thing challenging our status quo MUST be false because it goes against everything we hold as true, yet in life there is one fact we must understand and that is change is constant and there are times when we should examine and question our belief system, yet few of us do, or if we do then we do not question our core beliefs because to do so would make us seem weak.

We should be impressed most by rational argument but the truth is we are ultimately moved by emotions, emotions that are stronger than our own most particularly those that tug on our own heartstrings, the rational elements are needed as a part of the convincing argument, but it seems only a small part.

This is often a point where we need to step back a little and think, just a little bit more. Perhaps the basis of our beliefs needs to be reexamined from every angle possible, perhaps we have reached a point in our lives where there we have to replace the truth of what we know with another supposition that needs critical examination, perhaps we need a new eureka moment to drive us forwards, refreshed and renewed, sometimes standing on our laurels is the wrong thing to do and our personal truth needs a complete re-examination.

The Decision Point

It would be good to think that we are mostly influenced by rationale, logic, and carefully considered options when coming to a decision, but the truth is whether a decision is a personal matter or a business one emotions play a part in this process, take for example the choice between one product and another it is more than likely that one has touched our heartstrings where the other has not and the selection made is not always the logical one.

When asked business leaders do not always know why they made particular decisions, and if they cannot justify how they spent millions of dollars then it is possible to admit that the majority of decisions made have more to do with emotion rather than rationale and logic, and just think about this for a moment and ask yourself which of the recent decisions you have made were based more on an emotional gut-feel than upon facts and figures. This impacts not only our purchasing decisions, whether we buy Coke or Pepsi, but also to some extent how we select our political leaders. Often we make critical decisions on the wrong basis and without a moment's hesitation.

Other Pages...

The following are some other pages by Peter B Giblett that may be of interest:

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Argument, Arguments, Decision, Decision Making, Decision Points, Decisive Move, Emotion, Emotional Baggage, Emotional Expression, Emotional Thinking, Logic, Peter B Giblett, Rational, The Decision, Thought

Meet the author

author avatar Peter B. Giblett
Author of "Is your Business Ready? For the Social Media Revolution"

Social media consultant, with C-Level background.

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author avatar C.D. Moore
7th Feb 2013 (#)

I think a blend of head and heart is needed. Maybe a rational decision is not always an ethical one. In my personal life I let my innercompass (intuition) be my guide.
Interesting and well argued article. Thanks

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author avatar Ms. Ann
7th Feb 2013 (#)

Peter, loved this article. It is very provocative. Such reasonable thinking does not seem to be in vogue, at least on our political scene these days. Enjoyed it. Everyone seems to want to be "one up" on everybody else. Stupidity abounds; it makes one wonder how the rest of the world sees what motivates our thinking. Good work!

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author avatar Stella Mitchell
7th Feb 2013 (#)

Speaking from a woman's perspective Peter, I have to admit that emotions tend to play a greater part over rational , as I believe that is how we are programmed , to the greater extent . Of course it depends on the subject that is in question . Given your example of the Coke versus the Pepsi, that is a matter of preference of taste , but for my part , either would be acceptable if there was no choice . I don't think the same would apply though if I were opposed to a certain political candidate . I should like to think my stance would remain the same , and not be swayed by expedience.
Bless you for your interesting post.

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author avatar Delicia Powers
8th Feb 2013 (#)

very strong points, thanks Peter...

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author avatar Rania, Jamie & Reni
8th Feb 2013 (#)

My friend, Peter B. Giblett, an excellent article with expressive and logical points entwined in a process which makes the reader examine his/her rationals with a clearer thought process.

Uthrania Seila

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
8th Feb 2013 (#)

There are some brilliant comments here and part of the rationale for creating this article is about giving people tools that enable clearer thinking and to be able to support your viewpoint with clear arguments. Stella is right that with women emotions do play a greater part, but I believe that also to be true with men - we may not share the things that we are emotional about, but emotion undercuts many of the decisions we make, and often to our detriment.

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author avatar Retired
9th Feb 2013 (#)

A blend is better in my opinion but as I am a woman and can only speak for myself I know that sometimes the emotional side tends to rear up and be heard.

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