On Blog Arguments and Dumbfounding

First, a confession.

I'm not the best at responding to blog comments. For that I apologize. I'm not horrible, but I'm not as good at responding as I'd like to be.

There are two reasons about why this is the case.

The first has to do with the speed at which my blog moves and the kind of posts I write. Given that I try to post every weekday, the minute one post goes up I'm already hard at work on the next post. Consequently, any given day my attention is mainly on writing the next day's post. In my mind I'm always one day ahead of the blog. Yes, I do read all the comments. But more often than not when I have a moment I'm writing the next post rather than weighing in on the post live on the blog.

Happily, there is a strong contingent of regular readers here who ably add to and expand upon anything I write. More, when people ask questions ya'll jump in with answers. Everyday I'm grateful for how you collaborate and participate in the comments.

So that's the main reason I'm not as active in the comments as I'd like. The second reason has to do with the subject of this post. And it has to do with dumbfounding.

If you've read Unclean or The Authenticity of Faith you know I've been thinking a lot about how dumbfounding affects groups. For example, in a recent post I used dumbfounding to analyze why groups, like churches, get into fights about appropriate dress.

To review, dumbfounding (discovered by psychologist Jonathan Haidt) occurs when people make normative judgments based upon their feelings and then struggle to produce reasons for those judgments.

Dumbfounding takes its cue from the thought of David Hume who famously argued that "reason is the slave of the passions." The argument here is that emotions are primary. We feel before we think. Thinking, in this instance, is more about post hoc justification than a process of discernment.

This very different from how we think things should work. We tend to think our feelings follow our reasons. We like to think, when faced with a judgment we have to make, that we reason things out and then respond, emotionally and behaviorally. Deliberation and reasons come first followed by feelings and actions. We discern something to be bad and, in light of that discernment, feel moral outrage well up within us.

But it doesn't really work that way. According to Hume it's the other way around. Feelings come first. We feel the moral outrage and, in light of those feelings, go in search of reasons as to why. Thinking, in this instance, isn't producing our outrage but is being used to explain the existence of our feelings, to ourselves and our neighbors.

Here's the practical import of all this: Reasons aren't persuasive. Reasons are self-justifications.

And this explains why I struggle with certain comments on the blog (and on other blogs). Particularly comments disagreeing with me.

To be clear, I'm not saying that when people disagree with me they don't have good reasons or solid arguments. It's just that I don't find those arguments persuasive. Largely, and this is key, for a host of emotional reasons. Consequently, until I feel differently about things, until my affections change, exchanging self-justifications in the comments section of a blog isn't going to move the conversation forward. It's a dumbfounding situation.

We've all experienced this or seen it happen in blog conversations. Like many of you I've engaged in a lot of blog debates over the years and I've never seen two people who have disagreed sharply on an issue reach an agreement by the end of the exchange. And more often than not, rather than bringing people closer together these conversations tend to deteriorate. And why is that? It's because we are dumbfounded. Things get emotional because beneath all the verbal give and take there is a set strong feelings sitting close to the surface that regularly spills over.

So at the end of the day if you and I disagree strongly I'm not sure we have a whole lot to say to each other. I'm not trying to be dismissive in saying that. I'm making an empirical prediction.

Consider an example. Let's talk about our current President. Is he doing a good job? Imagine two people with strong feelings on the subject, someone who thinks he's doing a horrible job and someone who thinks he is doing a great job (or the best job anyone could do). Do we really think these two individuals can objectively exchange reasons and data that could convince the other?

No way.

And if that's the case, why bother arguing about it on a blog?

That said, I do think there are people on the fence. People with no firm opinions. Seekers. People who at a particular time in life, due to their life experiences, feel their affections changing. I'll respond to the questions of seekers. And you can sense this openness pretty quickly in a comment/er. By contrast, I will tend to leave outright disagreement alone.

Beyond the dumbfounding research, my choice here is informed by the work of William James, particularly his essay "The Will to Believe."

In the essay James talks about hypotheses (positions and arguments we might offer to each other in these blog debates) being, using a electrical metaphor, either live or dead options for us. James describing this:

Let us give the name of hypothesis to anything that may be proposed to our belief; and just as the electricians speak of live and dead wires, let us speak of any hypothesis as either live or dead. A live hypothesis is one which appeals as a real possibility to him to whom it is proposed. If I ask you to believe in the Mahdi, the notion makes no electric connection with your nature--it refuses to scintillate with any credibility at all. As an hypothesis it is completely dead. To an Arab, however (even if he be not one of the Mahdi's followers), the hypothesis is among the mind's possibilities: it is alive. This show the deadness and liveness in an hypothesis are not intrinsic properties, but relations to the individual thinker.
Our emotions are hugely implicated in how ideas become alive or dead to us. And you can sense in an argument the degree to which the other person is "live" to the position or argument you are offering. By contrast, when you sense the person is "dead" to the idea I'd say it's time to move on.

And to be confessional, what's good for the goose is good for the gander. I'll readily admit to being "dead" to a host of ideas. For example, I'm pretty "dead" to Calvinism. Nothing in it attracts me, emotionally or intellectually. Calvinism does not "scintillate with any credibility" in my heart or mind. So yes, I admit, I'm pretty hard to talk to or convince on that score.

But this isn't to say that I don't want dissent registered on the blog. Dissent reminds everyone that there are many sides to an issue. And that's important to prevent the creation of echo chambers.

And to be sure Hume wasn't 100% correct. Many of us make decisions based upon rational deliberation. More, these reasons are often used to battle our emotional and knee-jerk reactions. Ideas previously dead to us can come to life.

But then again, I still think this has more to do with emotional maturity than with anything else. Wisdom is learning to hold your feelings in abeyance to give yourself time to think, listen and learn. You can't think well if you can't control your emotions. Emotional self-control is a prerequisite to critical thinking.

At the end of the day, this is what I think about strong blog disagreements. I think we aren't really disagreeing. We just feel differently about things. About God. About government. About moral issues and hot-button topics (and emotions are why they are called hot). About all sorts of stuff.

You feel one way and I feel another way. And that about sums it up.

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52 thoughts on “On Blog Arguments and Dumbfounding”

  1. First comment really made me laugh!  I agree with you, Richard.  I didn't start from a position of agreement with much of what you write about.  I started with a position of being on the fence.  I got on the fence because of life circumstances that made me questions what I had accepted before.  I got there because of a basic gut feeling that something didn't square with positions I held.  I believe in evolution because of the paradigmatic shift that occurred in my own life...transitions that were taking place in my worldview (and later followed by my extensive reading of both biologists and theologians that read the Bible differently).  I mentioned to my wife the other day that the only way someone changes political and spiritual viewpoints is to have their worldview shaken or deeply disturbed in an emotional way. I believe in dumbfounding.

  2. Good "ground rules" here, Richard. I'm sure you need to speak to this in the college context. In my case, when I was working at an engineering school, it was challenging. Generally speaking, engineers tend to think in stark terms and don't always recognize how their emotions are in play. It's not that they aren't emotional, but they need an extra moment to understand their feelings.

    On another note, the best compliment I ever received about my blog was, "I really like your writing...even though I disagree with just about everything you say." :-)

  3. There is something about being nice. About people listening to you because they like or respect you. Again, the persuasion here is more affectional than intellectual.

  4. "I mentioned to my wife the other day that the only way someone changes
    political and spiritual viewpoints is to have their worldview shaken or
    deeply disturbed in an emotional way."

    Yes, I think that is exactly right.

  5. Very good post!  Anonymity is also a big factor here, since people tend, I feel, to be
    ruder than they would otherwise be in person.  That's the thing that
    bothers me most, since it usually ends any disagreement in bitterness.

    Many people in blog discussions hide behind "statistics" and "peer-reviewed studies" to bolster their POV.  Same issue with the "Bible thumpers".   What C. S. Lewis called "willful blindness".  It's as if they are saying to their dissenters -- "You are being emotional while I am being rational".  I liked your comment the other day about studies (established science) being "interesting", but not really persuasive on that particular topic.

    In the end it IS all about how the events in our own lives have unfolded and caused us to feel (and think!) the way we do, in just about everything.

  6. On the other blog I follow which is group published by a group of scientists, whenever the thread gets on climate change or God, the numbers can reach well into the hundreds. I run from those threads.....

  7. Dr. Beck, I think (or feel?!) that you are doing a wonderful job of posting and commenting in a very gracious and hospitable manner.  Even when the subject matter is controversial, a balanced, even-handed presentation is the norm here.  I feel much less defensive on this blog in reaction to your posts than I tend to feel on other blogs with more, shall we say, "provocative" posts.  I vowed to keep my distance from news or discussions about the campaign goings-on of this current election cycle, because it drives me nuts, frankly, and I'm not a masochist!

    On the cart-and-horse of feelings/emotions and thinking/rationalizations/justifications -- there are certain issues (injustice and oppression of powerless groups, for example) that, because I can deeply relate from first-hand experience and consequently have spent a good deal of my life thinking about, will quickly generate a strong emotional reaction in me.  If only I could channel all that energy into working to change the situation.  :-)  That's my ongoing prayer:  "Plug me in, God, where this energy can do some good."

    God bless you, Dr. Beck.  You're a good egg.  (Did you see 'Moneyball?')

  8. The answer to that one: "You're taking the Bible out of context."
     (Dana Carvey Church Lady holy hustle dance)
    Isn't that special?

  9. Yes, Mike.  When I first began blogging, as an "agnostic" who was reared in Calvinism, I assumed (my bad) that people of science (the professional life I had chosen) would be more "open minded".  I have been chagrined ever since at how many of these folks seem on a quest to "educate" all of us Neanderthals.  It gets somewhat depressing when I am asking what I feel are open and honest questions.

  10. A while back I was listening to a message by Dr. N.T. Wright and he was making a case for deep, reflective thinking.  He said that we often use the phrase "I feel" when we should say "I think".  I like what you're saying, and I think it's true, but that also means that many times when we say "I feel" a certain way about something--it is, in fact, a way of describing what we deeply think and also feel at the same time.  

    Great article.

  11. I just really appreciate what you do here, Richard, and the environment and the diverse, international community you've created and facilitate. I've learned so much here, from you and others here. Perhaps it doesn't get said often enough, but you are changing lives in a good way through this forum, sharing your thoughts, your expertise and your observations, and if anyone is looking simply be agreed with or to demean others who don't share their lens, there are plenty of churches suited to their lens where they can find that.
    God bless.

  12. What a great new word--dumbfounding--for a very obvious phenomenon...thanks! It does seem at times when discussing an issue that people treat their beliefs like children they've nurtured or a magnum opus they've created...their protective instincts kick in, making it hard to receive from others when it's not just a belief that's being threatened but their own history, intelligence, experience etc. Wish it was easier for us to be grounded and firm, yet not feel like a part of us will be lost should we discover there is a viewpoint we hold that needs some tinkering.

  13. I wonder how instructive
    is for these situations.  That is, when we encounter someone with an "error" (different views than ours) maybe our first instinct should be to listen for God in the "still, small voice" that can be heard by lakes.

    xkcd also produced the comic Richard posted at the top of the blog, if anyone was interested.

  14. " if anyone is looking simply to be agreed with or to demean others who don't share their lens, there are plenty of churches suited to their lens where they can find that."

    Spot on Patricia -- funny because it's true. But I can't seem to find ANY church which agrees with me.... so I stopped looking. I am now 10% richer, and Sundays are free for football and naps.

  15. Great post, but sorry, it just doesn't apply to me. I always think before I react... I think.

  16.  Ya Know , Richard this post brings up an opportunity to throw out a "word"that i feel sums up most all of our issues of  stagnation.
    which Regarding our faith in the Father, and SON BY way of the Son and  Spirit, keeps us walking in the mud along the path of the divine nature.

    we are all
    trapped  in a LIMINAL STATE of transition, whether that be ,
    my personal biased
    based on my
    peer biased
    which is pretty much set by  my(engagement) involvement  in Historical,Social, Political
     understanding of How anthropological theology(ontology) and  powers and principalities effect a process of the transformation in LOVE.

    to you and yours

  17. Beautifully said Chris, and so applicable to myself and many others. My worldview, and its resulting spiritual viewpoints, were shaken to the core. And that is exactly why I was forced to re-evaluate them, apply critical thinking, and reach my own conclusions.

  18. Dare I dip my toe in here if you are using hyperbole and I am reading literally?  I am saying "right on!", while at the same time feeling somewhat sad about my own loss of social (faith) connections over the years.  This is now coming to a head in my family as I administer my late father's Trust.  People "disowning" each other. Such acrimony, and it is all so unnecessary.  Right now (yet again!) you guys are my church.  Thanks so much.

  19. Very interesting. I'm glad you posted this.

    I have seen lots of what you write about, of course. Some people emotionally self-justifying (including myself). Others less emotionally invested, and being more open--the "seekers."

    But I also see a third dynamic on the internet. It's what keeps me coming to places like this. It's a real attempt to understand the non-understandable. It's a real attempt--not to "seek" and find a new answer, not to preach and get a new convert--but to find something, anything, that will make these strange "others" seem sane and human to us. And to find something, anything, that will help these strange "others" admit that we, ourselves, are sane and human.

    That's usually the space I occupy, and oddly enough, I do see these conversations move people. Not change their minds ("Oh, Obama really is evil!") but to have a light-bulb moment in which the liberal says to the conservative, "Oh, I see, socialism really is not a racist epithet toward a President you don't like, it's a real way of talking about how policies based on fairness and looking to Europe for their model may be policies with weaknesses as well as strengths." Where the conservative says to the liberal, not "Oh, Obama is right about everything," but "Oh, I see, you don't really think money grows on trees and poor people deserve ever-larger amounts of money, you just think you've found a way to provide a few basic services more fairly."

    This is the moment I live for. It's why I argue with you for Calvinists (even though hard-core Calvinism, in person, makes my skin crawl). I love the moment when we look beyond our emotions to recognize the humanity of the Other. Only, on this blog at least, I don't think the Other is always who we think it is. I don't think anyone here, for example, doubts the humanity of blacks, or of nonChristians, or of homosexuals. But I do think that some here doubt the humanity of Christian fundamentalists, of those who think our society is racially weighted against whites rather than for them, and of those who think homosexuality is a sin. So sometimes, on the Internet, we can try out the dangerous and emotionally scary task of trying to see whether these (or other positions) are worth respecting. Or not.

  20. Yes. Credibility is perhaps the biggest issue. One dynamic that always makes me laugh is when I spend days/ weeks trying to talk to a group about the limitations of biblicism, using all of the best examples and the nicest, kindest, most respectful approach I can muster, and their eyes glaze over as they say, "Typical liberal." But then someone they already respect as a real conservative Bible-thumper comes up and says the exact same thing, and they all cry out, "Amen!"

  21. Richard, this post really resonates with me, probably because I have often been so guilty of trying to argue people out of what I see as their "wrong" thoughts. What I really should be asking is not just, "What do you think?"... but especially, "Why do you FEEL this way?"

  22. Sam, yes. This is where I utilize the thinking presented by both Becker and Beck. The "idolatrous" ways of being are as widespread in religious community as they are in non-religious ones. A friend of mine who is working with a number of CERN groups is describing to me what's happening in physics communities over neutrinos moving faster than light: they're experiencing the throes of an impending dark night of the soul....

  23. And then there are folks like me who observe dumbfounded in perhaps a different way while the words go whizzing about above our heads even while we are standing on a chair. But we still feel the urge to put in our wholly-unrelated two cents ' worth because by golly this is America and I can and what I say is just as important as what anyone else says. God bless America! I go sit down now.

  24. As one who has been disowned, I know families are pretty screwy. Being disowned isn't all bad though. It frees you up from those who attack you and use you without a conscience to live your life among those who really know and love you.

    Ya'll are my church, too.  There's no org for me either, Jim.

  25. Big Bang Theory, "The Electric Can Opener Fluctuation"
    Sheldon gets his feelings hurt and runs home to his Mom in East Texas.

    Mary: Remember you were sitting in that very same spot that time you were having trouble with the neighborhood kids? Sheldon Cooper: They were just jealous of my intelligence and didn't know that's why they hated me. Mary: Oh, Shelly, they knew very well why they hated you.

    Sheldon Cooper: I'm going to stay here in Texas, teaching evolution to creationists. Mary: Watch your language, Sheldon. You know everyone is entitled to their opinion. Sheldon Cooper: Evolution is not an opinion, it's a fact. Mary: And that is your opinion. Sheldon Cooper: [to the others] I forgive you. Let's go back. [Leaves] Mary: Don't tell me prayer doesn't work

    I think comedy writers are psychologists who can point out these dynamics en masse and still make everyone laugh.

  26. So is there a caveat then in becoming so thinking-oriented or rational that in one's cool detachment, emotions are taboo or felt (ha) to be untrustworthy?  Unless head is connected to heart, we run the risk of becoming numb / desensitized to our own spiritual shake-ups and to the suffering of others.  I don't think emotions are necessarily a bad way to approach things; it's in the form of expression that the situation can go wrong.  We all judge, and we all have our biases; based on our conclusions, we make decisions and choices every day according to our personal values.  Sometimes the changes in our worldview come about by earth-shakingly disturbing experiences.  Other times, I think that transformation is painfully slow, even imperceptible at times.

  27. Brilliant words. It does kind of seem, though, like any decisions we make or positions we take are, either consciously or subconsciously, rooted in our emotional history and psychological patterns. I think my emotions definitely take control though....I believed 100% in penal substitutionary atonement for 13 years until I finally gave in to my true feelings, read a ton of George MacDonald and one Dr. Richard Beck, and now fall surely on the side of Christian Universal Reconciliation or whatever label we want to give it....I am still searching. Its all about Jesus, though, and it was my overwhelming feeling of dread and sadness in regards to the "burn in hell forever" notion that led my to this conclusion, which I know knowingly use scripture to rationalize.

    So in some ways I point at others and criticize their beliefs because they are based on a pre-determined mindset (opponents of gay rights, dressing up for church equated with holiness, penal substitutionary atonement, anti-tattoo talk, or whatever), but at the same time I find myself doing that same thing. It seems hard to work away from, but at the same time, I accept it because it is what sets my soul at rest. As an Adult Child of Alcoholics, and a person with great anxiety trouble, these restful thoughts are a great relief.

    I thank God for what you do Dr. Beck, your words are a blessing to me.

  28. Hello Brother Rirchard
    I have had these few thought that I got this morning,
    I will post it on Good Friday, on face book (I have friends who are Hindus etc.)
    I wanted to share with you also first.Why Good Friday?Some
    of you all might be wondering what all this fuss about a Friday is.
    After all it is just a Friday – Just another TGI Friday, right?
    would probably say- After all every religious experience and practices
    have many things in common right? Like for instance prayer, kissing your
    wonderful old grandma, fasting, alms-giving, helping your neighbor,
    making the world a little better, a little happier …I mean basically
    being a reasonable person, and not being a jerk right?Yes, my
    friend, I agree with you wholeheartedly. Every religion has some good to
    offer to the world, and the world is much, much better place with
    religion than without – I mean look at what Nazism did…look at what
    communism did…look at what capitalism did….heartless, ruthless.Then you might still want to press me for an answer……why prefix a weekday with ‘Good’, after all who is good except God, right?Precisely my friend.Let me tell you a true story- I will be brief, and truthful./////////
    God: if you don’t repent you will die (repeated over hundreds of times over hundreds of years)
    Silence for roughly 450-500 years.
    God became man – Jesus Christ – the God-Man
    God-Man: if you don’t repent you will die. (Repeated over 3 years or so)
    At the end
    God-Man on Good Friday: I have died for you my friend. It is finished.PS:
    that’s not the end of the story my friend, wait for a few more days
    and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.//////////////////
    Easter posting:
    The God-Man has risen.
    That’s why Christians call this Good news

    The intellectually foolish, obscenely gruesome, and agonizingly painful
    death on Friday and the glorious fact on Sunday is called the good news
    for us.Why? Go find out.

  29. This is slightly unrelated, but I love the word "dumbfound" mostly because that is a very accurate description of my life...so I decided to search the Fount of All Knowledge (not Google - Amazon!) and found this: 

    It actually looks like an interesting book (you can preview it and some of the prayers) as well as a noble enterprise (writing prayers down). 
    Thought the readers here and yourself might like this...

  30. Ummm, which translation would that be, Mike, the one with the OT Apocrypha or the NT Apocrypha? Or a bit of both? 

  31. Go ahead... dip your toe in. You are always welcome to do so.

    As to my using hyperbole or not, I was completely literal when I said that I am now 10% richer (actually much more so if you count being richer in my soul) and that Sundays are completely free. As to any churches agreeing with me... well, while there are certainly a few churches in this country that agree with Christian Universalism (which is a simple enough description of my theology), there are none in my area. And the funny thing is, even if there was I don't necessarily think that I would be attending very often, if at all. I feel no need anymore to have my beliefs validated by associating myself with any particular group or "tribe." I am perfectly happy and content knowing exactly what I believe. My own "truth" is enough for me. Truth is truth, and it is NOT determined by consensus.

    Though I really know very little about you Sam, we are certainly connected here. "Right on, bro."

  32. Amen. I seem to fit in much better on the "island of misfit toys" than I ever did as part of the "good ol' boys."

  33. Psychologist James Fowler's work on stages of faith makes that same point. Faith can be secular as well as religious/spiritual. "Faith" points to whatever it is in which we put our ultimate trust. It's our bedrock. Some people put ultimate trust in their view of some aspect of science; for some, a religious tradition; for others, the financial markets, or a good plastic surgeon to stave off aging, or their success in a career. And so on. 

    Interestingly, it seems to me, for a fair number of readers here, faith has been evolving from "belief"--as acceptance of 
    a set of  doctrines worded as factual statements--to faith as a trust that the God of love is with us as we find our Way. Other than Quaker meeting, I don't know of any church that worships that way. (Certainly not where I live.) God bless us every one. And especially you, Richard.

  34. I stopped watching network TV around 1985, when we first got cable.  However, recently we had to give it up, and I bought an indoor antenna.  I soon discovered "The Big Bang Theory".  Love it!!

    "Shelly Cooper, smelly pooper".  Really, though, he makes the show.  As his sister noted, "Mom always said that you were one of God's -- special little people!".

  35. To quote the mouseover text of the comic pictured, "And if I go to bed now, they'll still be wrong!"

  36. How's this for a belief that I have emotional reasons for holding:

    In the right conditions, people can change.

    I have to believe this, because my job is based on that 'fact'.  If I can't make the world a little fairer and kinder for the challenging, vulnerable child I'm working with, chances are no-one will.  So here are my top tips for bringing about change:

    - Learn to ask the right questions.  Step back, seek wisdom, reflect, show moral courage.
    - Create an emotional space within which it's safe to consider the possible.  Listen hard, create trust and empathy, then cash this in in the service of the most powerless person in the scenario.
    - Present evidence.  Even though this is fraught with dangers, people are much more likely to listen to this than my opinion.  Make sure you know your own values before you get the evidence.
    - Invite the other person to join you in collecting the evidence.  "I wonder what would happen if you...; I wonder how we could find out..."
    - Appeal to the best in people.  No-one gets up in the morning and decides to be intransigent, irrational, unethical or harmful.
    - Walk humbly.  The truth can stand up for itself.  Our job is to cooperate with it, to create the conditions for it to hold sway.  To love.

    I know this all sounds terribly worthy, but I do see change happen every now and then.  It makes me very grateful for my job.  The day I stop believing in the possible is the day I give it up.

  37. I remember that story: the wind tries to blow so hard it forces the jacket off, by which the man simply holds it on all the harder, and sun simply gently warms the man so much that he voluntarily removes his jacket himself.

    I've had those who get frustrated with me when I refuse to engage in what I see as a downward spiralling conversation. But I think sometimes it's best to walk away than "go there." Because in traditional theology, salvation depends on accepting the correct viewpoints (this constitutes "belief" in Jesus) and so there is no safety to consider any other viewpoint. To do so puts one's soul near the flames of hell, like a roasted marshmallow, and losing the capacity to believe properly. Fear is such a factor, both for one's own soul and for the other's. And the fearful one cannot imagine that, having come from being in his shoes, I really do get it. But my faith and trust in Christ, and God as He revealed Him,  has led me out of that theological conundrum.

  38. I had no idea that was what dumbfounded means. Thanks for the new info. I'm writing a new performance piece and the concept absolutely applies.

    I, too, have never seen a blog argument change anything. Similarly with live arguements. So I don't bother much with that anymore, either.

  39. There is a lot of wisdom here. Two thoughts: First, I think Linda Zagzebski may be right that emotional responses can and do operate as tools of discernment. It isn't "EITHER we use reason to discern the truth OR we simply have an emotional response and then look for reasons to rationalize our position." There's the third possibility that our emotions are discerning (or are an immediate outcome of some species of discernment that isn't quite the same as what goes under the heading of "reason"). But if this it true, then it is true only if our emotions emerge as a kind of response to holistic and sincere attention to that which is evoking the response. And this leads to my second thought: It seems that when people are emotionally invested in a position, what is most likely to lead to a change is not a rational argument but an experience or story or encounter that makes itself vividly present--that captures the attention--in a way that evokes a powerful emotional response. And this can be construed, I think, as our position changing because the "emotional discernment" process has new material with which to work, based on attention to more of what matters for discerning the truth.

  40. Agreed. Dissent (or any opinion, for that matter) has the potential to be an excellent critique/participant, which is why I'm bothered - sometimes even angered - by blogs that have the comments section 'turned off'. So, kudos on the comment section! :)

  41. Susan,

     As a sometimes "heady" male given to involuntary outbursts only at my wife's calm but charming and disarming daffiness (she has ADD and its crazy-making for me), I know intellectually and experientially that we are first of all social creatures ("not good for the 'human' to be alone").  It took me a good while to stop sticking my head in my head when I was overwhelmed, fearful or confused.  It seems to me that the best marriage any one person can have is to be married intellectually and affectively.    We also do a good bit of shaking up each other's world-view and disturbing one another emotionally.  Good friends do that as well.  Sarah and I have been married forty-seven years and are learning to intentionally help each other's mind and affections to be married.  I adore her for blessing me with her wisdom, courage, and love.  Still, I cannot fathom why she hates mayonnaise.  Must be her ADD.


  42. I don't have ADD.  But I can't stand mayonnaise.  And no one is going to change my mind on that.  I am dumbfounded when I try to understand why anyone likes mayonnaise.

  43. No such thing as a common household mom! What you and my wife have is actually listed in the DSMR-4 as Mayonnaise Averse Disorder or MAD for short.  If you have it you can get insurance reimbursement in the form of a coupon for mustard and ketchup. 

    Blessings on your uncommon, heroic efforts!

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