Saturday, May 21, 2016

More Than A Feeling

I thinkfeel therefore I am.

Not long after World War II C.S. Lewis created a magical world called Narnia. In one of his works a young girl named Lucy claims to have visited there. Naturally, her siblings are incredulous. So, they bring the matter to the Professor in whose home they are staying.

“Logic!" said the Professor half to himself. "Why don't they teach logic at these schools? There are only three possibilities. Either your sister is telling lies, or she is mad, or she is telling the truth. You know she doesn't tell lies and it is obvious that she is not mad. For the moment then and unless any further evidence turns up, we must assume that she is telling the truth.”1

What fun fiction the Chronicles of Narnia are! 

But here Lewis addresses a very real problem: the sliding standards of public education. Needless to say, I don’t think things have improved.

Nowadays, it seems schools (generally speaking) are more concerned with student testing than student thinking.

Inevitably, anti-intellectual education results in a populace geared towards the emotional, not the rational. That is, anti-intellectual education produces cultures that are feeling—not thought—oriented. 

Maya Angelou observed, “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

It sounds nice but if you think about it, the implications of forgetting everything but feelings are rather disturbing.   

Also, consider this. Because we tend to speak in terms of “I feel” instead of “I think,” contemplative, rational discourse is fading.

We allow feelings to replace thought processes altogether, so that what looks outwardly like a reasoned discussion is actually an exchange of unreasoned emotions, in which all participants claim the high moral ground because when they say, “I feel strongly we should do this,” they are telling the truth: they do feel strongly, so they will feel hurt and “rejected” if people don’t agree with them. Thus reasoned discourse is abandoned in favor of the politics of the playground. . . . Without reasons, all we are left with is emotional blackmail . . . the implied juvenile threat of having a tantrum unless everyone else gives in.2

Tantrums aren’t only for Facebook, dear reader. Fit-throwing is commonplace. This is more than an embarrassing inconvenience. Non-thinking, feelings oriented people who lack the capacity for reasonable, respectful dialogue are vulnerable to all sorts of manipulation.

To whom should propaganda be addressed? To the scientifically trained intelligentsia or to the less educated masses? It must be addressed always and exclusively to the masses. . . . The whole art [of propaganda] consists . . . in attracting the attention of the crowd, and not in educating those who are already educated or who are striving after education and knowledge, its effect for the most part must be aimed at the emotions and only to a very limited degree at the so-called intellect. . . . Consequently, the greater the mass it is intended to reach, the lower its purely intellectual level will have to be.3 (emphasis mine)

 Ideas have consequences. So do feelings.

1C.S. Lewis, "The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe," p. 52

2N.T. Wright, "After You Believe," p.p. 155,156

3Adolph Hitler, "Mein Kampf," p.p. 179, 180

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