Passional, not Rational Beings
Posted: 23 December 2004 09:58 PM   [ Ignore ]  
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A common thread of this forum thus far is the gratitude felt for the book and for Sam initiating this dialogue; I agree on both. I've got a question that I have been thinking about lately- isn't it true that as human beings navigate through the furniture of the world we do so by means of emotion and metaphor. Tha's the reason why religion is so contentious- that as believers make their grunts and ritual noises they do so driven by emotion. Does anyone else agree that human beings are passional (emotion drivien) beings and only rational by force of will? This has implications for extending this project and creating a society where cruelty to others is the worst thing we can think of.

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Posted: 24 December 2004 02:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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[quote author=“erato”]Does anyone else agree that human beings are passional (emotion drivien) beings and only rational by force of will?

What a horrible, disturbing notion . . . unfortunately I think it has a lot of merit. But in my experience there does seem to be a great deal of variance. The more passional, it seems, the more friendly (as in open) the mind is to faith, and vice-versa.

I have a strong tendency to correlate this with intellecutal responsibility and integrity. If your mind is highly subject to the whims of passion (undisciplined) then it’s “conclusions” aren’t very credible—more a matter of how you feel than whatever the issue at hand may be. Your critical mind can be easily hijacked by your emotions (to borrow from Frank Herbert; [Passion] is the mindkiller—and fear certainly seems to be the worst offender).

If, on the other hand, you have more control over how integrated your emotions are in your thinking and you have the sense of responsiblity for seeking what’s true and real over what feels good, you can be much more reliably critical in your reasoning—your critical faculties have far more integrity (more compliance with reality).

Faith heavily favors and encourages the former state (“I just know [X] is true.” or “I just know God is real.” or whatever). It kind of has to in order to convince “buyers” to subjugate their normal critical faculties (a survival trait—in fact it’s arguably our only particularly effective one) so they won’t be embarrassed to “choose” to believe something utterly unwarranted, much less use that “belief” as the foundation for their worldview.

Faith is the mechanism believers must use to bind their minds from functioning naturally and thus rejecting unwarranted (nonsensical) postulates, and certainly the notion of basing their understanding of reality upon them.

As Sam put it, “Faith . . . will not stoop to reason when it has no good reasons. If a little supportive evidence emerges, however, the faithful prove as attentive to data as the damned.” Intellectual integrity doesn’t allow for such a disingenuous, selective application of critical thinking, which is why faith is fundamentally contrary to intellectual integrity.

How you feel is irrelevent to what is. That would seem to be obvious, even axiomatic. In fact it seems rather unhealthy and self-centered (childish) to see the world any other way. But it can also be pretty scary (enter fear). Faith can come to your rescue and create the illusion that it’s not only okay, but virtuous to be so narcissistic—as long as your passions can overrule your intellect, anyway. Faith is the real mindkiller—maybe the only thing that competes with fear, if only by shear volume.

I think the notion that humans are (generally . . . overwhelmingly?) passional may be the core pathology behind faith. To overcome faith one also has to overcome fear.

Byron

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“We say, ‘Love your brother…’ We don’t say it really, but… Well we don’t literally say it. We don’t really, literally mean it. No, we don’t believe it either, but… But that message should be clear.”—David St. Hubbins

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Posted: 24 December 2004 01:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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So which is it?: 

Are humans more passional, that is, reticent to use intellect (i.e. lazy) or are they scared of the specter of their passion (fear)? 

Fear or laziness, the two human universals, yet they may stem from the same root.

What say you?

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Posted: 28 December 2004 02:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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The driving force behind most people’s behavior is fear…fear of not paying the bills, fear of living in the wrong neighborhood, fear of not wearing the right clothes, fear that someone else will get more than they have, fear of not being loved, fear of being themselves, fear that they won’t get what they want in this life so they must believe in another where they are allowed the things they only have time to dream about.  If, however, people spent time looking for and accepting their passion, perhaps faith in religion would turn into faith in themselves, thereby releasing them of fear altogether.

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Posted: 29 December 2004 01:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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Introspection can show us exactly where our passions are simply self-serving and where they are based in reality. Fear of that self knowledge is one of the greatest of human fears. It is as natural for a human being to be curious, rational, and intellectually rigorous as to be passionate, but fear often drives us away from the truths found through rational thinking, as they so frequently offer us no comfort.

Some of us simply must have comfort. Others prefer the observed truths, however painful they may appear.

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Posted: 03 January 2005 10:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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Fear is a driving force as are the other emotions.

It seems most people do their best to smother their emotions; especially anxiety and fear.

People turn away from subjects they do not want to think about because they are afraid of wrecking their belief system, if they even have one. Most people identify the beliefs they have with themselves, it is what makes them what they are. This is unfortunate.

I like to think of emotion as a clue from our subconscious minds that something in our environment is out of wack. Emotion creates intuition into our environmental situation that are conscious minds are unable to express.

The senses are: sight, touch, hearing, seeing, feeling and equilibrium, but we have another way to ‘sense’ the world or our environment - emotions and intuition are a seventh sense.

We must allow our emotions to wash over us and experience them for they are an integral part of ourselves.

Tear down the WALL!

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Posted: 03 January 2005 01:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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lawrence…you are absolutely right…I wasn’t sure I’d ever say that.

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Posted: 03 January 2005 02:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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[quote author=“passion”]lawrence…you are absolutely right…I wasn’t sure I’d ever say that.

I love you. Ecstacy from action is the best!

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Posted: 04 January 2005 01:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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We must allow our emotions to wash over us and experience them for they are an integral part of ourselves.

This is true. The same can be said of our powers of reasoning and the ability to understand. The ability to see all parts of the truth about ourselves and not deny them (i.e., to face the facts) but use them constructively is likewise one of our faculties, and one of the least used.

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Posted: 07 January 2005 06:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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There’s plenty of rationality and irrationality in both camps. Only the few trained thinkers can claim to have sorted out the mess, and still they may be wrong. As an atheist, I know plenty of atheists that have arrived at their beliefs relying on half-truths, false dichotomies and all manner of fallacies. Having said that…I think the choice to shut off your mind in exchange for a perceived pleasure IS a completely rational choice, and if this what certain religious people do, I can’t fault them. I seek what I think is truth because it gives me pleasure to do so. Intellectual honesty fulfills me emotionally for some reason, in the same way it fulfilled Carl Sagan, Walter Kaufman, and maybe Sam Harris. To choose rationality over a conviluted faith is still ultimately a “passional” decision. Emotion is primary to all of our choices.

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Posted: 07 January 2005 12:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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[quote author=“herenow”]I think the choice to shut off your mind in exchange for a perceived pleasure IS a completely rational choice, and if this what certain religious people do, I can’t fault them. I seek what I think is truth because it gives me pleasure to do so.  Emotion is primary to all of our choices.

Shutting off your mind is a rational choice and it probably occurs when confusion and turmoil become overwhelming.

The trick is to know when it is necessary to turn it back on again.

For many this switch does not work on command.

Seeking the truth is an admirable and virtuous path to follow. Absolute truth may not exist.

When something gains our attention it most likely does so because we can relate to some element of truth that ‘calls to us’.

All choices have an element of emotion in that as we begin to make a choice we look at different possible scenarios resulting from our action and ask ourselves ‘Does this feel right?’

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Posted: 06 February 2005 02:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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Buddhism teaches that ignorance is an negative emotion. Most beliefs are formed from ignorance rather than from analysis and mental processess. Beliefs are powerful eh? Action based on ignorance is powerful. Mental processes can be convoluted and often tainted by emotional needs. I feel that most beings are simply unconscious and are driven by forces within them that gravitate to a fix. It is uncomfortable to become conscious and requires discipline that most are willing to apply or unable to apply.

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