"Facts don't care about your feelings."

  • Also, Don, from the end of the letter to Pythocles, there is that pesky word "feelings" again! ;-)


    Quote

    And most of all give yourself up to the study of the beginnings and of infinity and of the things akin to them, and also of the criteria of truth and of the feelings, and of the purpose for which we reason out these things.


    For these points when they are thoroughly studied will most easily enable you to understand the causes of the details.


    But those who have not thoroughly taken these things to heart could not rightly study them in themselves, nor have they made their own the reason for observing them.

  • I'm listening to an audiobook called The Rise and Fall of Alexandria on my commute. I found something there worth adding here regarding the topic of 'reason'.


    Pythagoras, as a philosopher and also a mathematician, seemed to believe that pure reason could be a bridge between mathematical fact and philosophical truth. It all had to do with the number 10.


    If you plot one number in a given space, you have a point. If you plot 2 numbers, you have two points—therefore a line. Three points are needed to make a surface (or plane)—a triangle. Add a forth point, and you have a pyramid—that is, a solid.


    The Pythagoreans reasoned that these four attributes were the ground of mathematics, that by adding them up you have the perfect number—1+2+3+4=10. Since the facts of cosmology are the reflections of pure geometric truth, the number 10 is the key to cosmology. From Encyclopedia Britannica:


    Quote

    The Pythagoreans recognized the existence of nine heavenly bodies: Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and the so-called Central Fire. So important was the number 10 in their view of cosmology that they believed there was a tenth body, Counter-Earth, perpetually hidden from us by the Sun.

    These 10 bodies were arranged in concentric celestial spheres. How wonderfully reasoned!


    And, of course, total bullshit. (Who is laughing at Epicurus' Sun now!?)


    Neither reason nor logic can ever be canonical, because in both cases you have to start with premises. Those premises might be conjectural, in which case the conclusion cannot be called knowledge; or they might be themselves conclusions of prior reasoning, in which case they are only as good as the original inputs; or they might be knowledge in themselves, derived canonically.


    But reason can never be the starting point. It requires something to operate on. The belief that we can reason our way from nothing to anything is one of the central flaws of so much ancient philosophy.


    As for the original quote, here's a tiny thought experiment:


    Pompeii: "How did you beat me? My army had more foot, more cavalry, more supplies, better ground..."


    Caesar: "And my army had the morale. Feelings don't care about your facts."

  • Apparently I've just been waiting for the right time and place to fume about that little dictum...Let's do it internet style!


    10 Things I Hate about that Quote


    With a countdown for dramatic effect!

    10. It defines neither of its terms.

    9. It has no descriptive power.

    8. No real inferences can be made from it.

    7. It often falsely implies in its speaker's argument a thorough review of ALL relevant facts.

    6. And often falsely infers in the opponent's position an exclusively emotional appeal.

    5. It's embarrassingly juvenile.

    4. All while presuming to an unwarranted maturity.

    3. It carries not a single drop of irony.

    2. It is cheap, shabby and unbearably smug.

    1. And, finally, it asks us to deny everything human in ourselves.

  • JJElbert yes! And let me add-- it rests on a false dichotomy between facts and feelings. A person who says this believes facts are objective, universally known to be true, when all perceptions are made from the POV of a subject (although often compared to reported perceptions of other subjects). There exists no known universal POV. The way we know our perceptions are "factual" (even if we don't realize it) is by their reliability/predictability. We learn this from infancy, by repeated observations.


    So both sensory perceptions (data) and the reliability conclusions we draw from them are made by subjects, and feelings are felt by subjects. It's true we don't smell with our ears, nor do we hear with our feelings, and _that_ is what the quote is trying, clumsily, to get at, while bashing feelings.


    Some people do try to draw perceptual conclusions with their feelings-- they want something to be true, which doesn't make it true. Maybe they want it to be true that a hurricane isn't going to get their house, so they don't evacuate, for instance. But their feelings of not wanting the hurricane forecast to be accurate are just as real as the hurricane!

  • But reason can never be the starting point. It requires something to operate on. The belief that we can reason our way from nothing to anything is one of the central flaws of so much ancient philosophy.


    Apparently I've just been waiting for the right time and place to fume about that little dictum


    Those are great observations! Glad the 10 planets were aligned to cause you to let loose with those comments! ;-)