Do many people primarily think logically, rather than emotionally?

Readers may remember David Hume’s comment to the effect that reason is the slave of the passions. I suspect he may be right. In other words, we think to justify our feelings, or express our feelings, and that intensifies those feelings and makes the ideas and thinking seem even more real and confirmed.

Furthermore, logic is not a guarantor of truth. If the axioms your logic is based upon are incorrect, then no amount of logic will give you a correct answer or working political policy. Garbage in, Garbage out is a common computer programmer saying, and it seems true.

People probably accept the axioms they make deductions from, because those axioms are emotionally appealing, or help make the world make sense in a way that does not challenge them too much. If so, there is no real distinction between logic and emotion; the logic is being directed by the emotions.

How often do people seriously check whether their axioms are in fact true? Not often as far as I can tell.

As a general principle, I suspect humans cannot often deduce reality logically from axioms; not just because our axioms are probably wrong, but because reality is too complex. You have to discover reality, and that requires more than just logical deduction, it requires exploration, encounter with the world, and testing.

So my guess is that few people are rational and non-emotionally biased. On top of all this, I have not noticed that people of a right wing persuasion are particularly logical and not swayed by their emotions in general.

For example, most rightwing media I have seen or read, involves a lot of shouting, abuse, heavy sarcasm, put-downs, incoherence, contradiction and a dedicated cultivation of anger and hostility towards the opposition. There is much assertion of what appears incorrect common sense or, in other words, what is taken as obviously true often seems improbable to me, and rarely has it been tested adequately to say it is true. There is, more or less, no play to real reason, or exploration. It seems to be primarily about asserting that “We” are good, and that “The Enemy” (those who disagree with us) is evil. The same is true of many rightwing politicians and intellectuals.

I’ve also noticed, that people on the right tend to be very sensitive to left wing abuse of them, and don’t even notice the perennial haze of hostility in their own media. I presume something similar happens on the left, although its not as obvious to me.

As a result I would tend to hypothesize that people notice the emotional bias of those *not* on their side with greater ease than they notice the emotions of those on their own side, perhaps because they share those emotions, and emotional biases.

Another thing that suggests it is hard to think unemotionally or unbiasedly, is the difficulty of doing science.

While science is based on common thinking and exploratory methods, it seems uncommon as a practice. It does not flourish in many cultures for long, away from day to say survival issues.

Science is about checking up your ideas to see if they are correct. Pretty basic, you might think, but this habit appears unusual. Most people seem to search for confirmation of their ideas, not to explore where their ideas do not work.

Science also regularly involves other people checking your ideas to see if they are false, without that much hostility. It involves making predictions and changing ideas if those predictions do not come true. This seems very unusual. Outside of science we seek ways of explaining why our predictions do not work, and why we are still right despite those failures, and more to the point, we then do not test those explanations. If we have a persuasive idea outside of science, it often appears that we keep running with it, even as disasters seem to pile up, rather than exploring if it is correct….

While the ideas that Einstein deduced which led to Relativity theory where logical, it was the fact that they worked in the world, and passed tests, that made them significant, not the fact they were logical.

Nowadays, in politics, if scientists generally agree on something we don’t like, we just assume we know better than they do. Sometimes we might be right, but it is not an assumption that we should have much faith in because it probably comes from emotions, such as fear of “what if the science is right?”

My bet is that if anyone thinks they are arguing entirely from reason on a social issue (in particular), they are probably being swayed by propaganda, emotion and bad thinking.