Thinkers vs. Feelers

Column by Mark Davis.

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Thoughts without content are empty, intuitions without concepts are blind.” ~ Immanuel Kant

There is a tendency these days in public discourse concerning political matters to promote the ideal of an ongoing conflict between the broad, all-encompassing "left vs. right" and/or "liberal vs. conservative" categories with the conflict being analogized with military camps and team sports. Lately, due to the seeming politicization of every aspect of life, this tendency has invaded all realms of public discourse. It is largely the product of an elite agenda that seeks to purposely sow discord and conflict (i.e., divide and rule). However, the relevant conflict is really between thinkers and feelers. There are thinkers both left and right and feelers both liberal and conservative.

Thinkers make decisions based on objective standards, principles and justice such that fairness is considered a function of everybody being treated the same. Feelers make decisions based on subjective standards, emotions and personal concerns such that fairness is considered a function of everybody being treated differently depending on their circumstances. Feelers have no solid principles which are seen as unfair because they often lead to disproportionate results in various circumstances. Thinkers prefer clarity to harmony and believe that truth-seeking inherently involves some conflict.

Everybody has a mind and a heart, and reconciling our thoughts with our feelings is a perpetual balancing act throughout life. In these ebbs and flows of life, the most pertinent questions pertaining to quality of life are (1) which (mind or heart) are we primarily ruled by as individuals and (2) which (thinking or feeling) collectively leads to the most peaceful and prosperous society? I submit that a person primarily ruled by their mind is more peaceful and prosperous in life than a person who is primarily ruled by their heart; and correspondingly, a society that holds thinking in higher esteem than feelings will be more sustainable, peaceful and prosperous.

The Age of Reason (a/k/a The Enlightenment) was the social manifestation of men seeking to distinguish right from wrong in an objective manner, which resulted in thinkers becoming more highly regarded (rational) while feelers were relegated to secondary status (irrational). Reason gave birth to personal liberty as a mature ideal as it also relegated emotional appeals to the immature practice of those incapable of reasoning. Feelers have always outnumbered thinkers, but enough feelers came to respect thinkers who demonstrably improved living conditions by spreading the ideals of personal liberty, private property and free-markets (peaceful exchange).

Up until about the 18th Century, the legitimacy of ideas, especially those pertaining to institutional authority, were largely based on tradition and orthodoxy. A revival of the study of philosophy spurred by the new printing press that spread the words of ancient thinkers like Aristotle, Socrates, Plato, Cicero, Pythagoras and others inspired thinkers like Descartes, Locke, Hume, Da Vinci, Smith and many others. These great thinkers revived the intellectual disciplines of logic and ethics which led to basing the legitimacy of ideas on rational thought, the scientific method and the results of open debate by men seeking objective truths. Traditional doctrines and religious dogmas thus came under intense scrutiny and social upheaval followed as more and more men discovered the ideals of individual liberty and freedom of expression.

These revolutionary times affected a broad range of fields, issues and matters of concern to thinkers and feelers. There were many thinkers who wanted to conserve traditional authorities and beliefs, just as there were many feelers who got caught up in the revolutionary mood of the times. When one has everything to lose and nothing to gain from social change, then it may appear rational to conclude that social change is a bad thing; while when one has nothing to lose and everything to gain from social change, then it may appear judicious to conclude that social change is a good thing no matter the potential negative consequences. Therefore, subjective truths can cloud the path to objective truths even for people who consider themselves thinkers, and sometimes traditions created and maintained for good reason should not be rejected simply because they are dogmatic in nature. The thing is, we must have a general understanding of how to resolve these conflicts in a peaceful manner such that respect for those conclusions can establish legitimacy in society, especially where our collective institutions are concerned.

For the past 300 or so years, the thinkers have been held in high esteem such that individual liberty was the most important core ideal from which our freedoms flowed, such as natural rights, private property, free speech and freedom of association. To be sure, some thinkers oversold such related ideals as democracy, egalitarianism, socialism and other schemes to put thinkers in charge of telling everybody what to do. Some thinkers became too clever by half in their self-righteous zeal to improve humanity, but that was usually because of sloppy thinking which no longer respected and adhered to the principles of logic and ethics. That is, too many feelers posing as thinkers, like what has become prevalent today in modern institutions of higher learning, media and government. These intellectual adolescents ruled by their feelings and protected by the façade of official authority are undermining centuries of progress towards enlightenment. Their use of identity-politics and group-think has led to dogmatic decrees and doctrines backed by violence.

Today, largely as a result of how so many prominent quasi-thinkers (e.g. professors, journalists, scientists, TV talking heads and politicians) have become so sloppy in their thinking, more and more feelers are coming to believe that thinkers no longer improve society. Indeed, many feelers have come to believe that thinkers are “exploiting” them and are due a comeuppance. Reason has lost its luster in the immature minds of those who truly believe that the level of intensity with which they make their claims (how much they “care”) in lieu of actual arguments is the determining criteria for what is “right.” Thus reason, debate, logic, mathematics, objective standards and all the tools thinkers use, including personal liberty and freedom of speech, are evil. The response to real thinkers using reason, rational thought and logical arguments in defense of thinking through problems rationally is commonly a collection of fallacious arguments dominated by the most childish one of all: name-calling (ad hominem). The use of other logical fallacies such as arguments from authority, ignorance, and exclusion as well as emotional appeals, circular arguments and moral equivalency are also still popular in public discourse by feelers.

The 1960s saying of “If it feels good, do it,” was shortened in the late 1980s to the shoe commercial line of “Just do it.” This anti-thinking meme stems from the counter-culture philosophy of Alistair Crowley in the early 1900s that was then picked up and spread by Cultural Marxists. Their purpose was and still is overthrowing Western Civilization (i.e., the white male patriarchy) in order to create the New Socialist Man that will build Utopia in its ashes. It’s hard not to notice that the primary question asked by commentators of participants in nearly all situations today pertaining to sports, entertainment, politics, crisis situations, and just everyday life tends to be, “How do you feel about (it)?” and not “What do you think about (it)?”. Thus, the principles that form the basis of our civilization have been perverted by feelers (often posing as thinkers) to the point that feelings are now held in higher esteem than thinking by most people. This is a recipe for social collapse.

In the end, it all comes down to time-preference. People and societies that are dominated by feelings will tend to have a higher (short-term) time-preference and people and societies that are dominated by thinking will tend to have a lower (long-term) time-preference. I submit that people (individually and in aggregate) more willing to purposely sacrifice effort and energy today in order to accrue more future benefits will act more peacefully and become more prosperous than those that are less willing to sacrifice effort and energy today to accrue future benefits. This can be summed up as those that decide to “work hard and save” vs. those that decide to “just do it.” We are defined by our individual actions that are the result of our personal choices, not by which group we chose to identify with.

So, where do we go from here? Feelers continue to use illegitimate arguments based on their feelings of self-righteous victimhood, so their name-calling increasingly falls on deaf ears such that they are purposely escalating the legitimacy of violence out of frustration. As the reasoning and logical arguments of thinkers increasingly fall on deaf ears, and they recognize the increasing threat of violence from feelers, it will come to a point where the use of violence is the only logical course of defense. I think that reason will prevail, but I have a feeling it won’t. God help us.

P.S. - Kudos to the many mature modern thinkers, like Jim Bovard who inspired this article, for their courage in promoting the ideals thinkers hold dear in the face of unrelenting attacks by feelers. Feelers will end up coming further unhinged from reality and finally eating their own, so thinkers just need to survive the chaos that the feelers are purposely creating. Our civilization depends on it.

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Mark Davis's picture
Columns on STR: 64

Mark Davis is a husband, father and real estate analyst/investor enjoying the freedoms we still have in Longwood, Florida.


D. Saul Weiner's picture

Today's SJW's are an extreme case of feelings trumping reason, but most people have fallen into this pattern.

The norm for some time has been rationalization taking the place of reason. Politicians and citizens relying upon economists who provide reasons for all sorts of detrimental interventions. Citizens who rely upon authority figures who tell them that everyone must be vaccinated; they think that they are relying upon reason (such as doing their part to maintain herd immunity or abiding by a risk/benefit analysis) while they are really just giving into fearmongering.

That is really the bottom line. Are you making your decision or recommendation based on reason or are you merely justifying it based on something which has the semblance of reason? 

Mark Davis's picture

You nailed it, Saul. I think there may be more feelers today posing as thinkers than actual thinkers.

Samarami's picture

As with most of your articles, Mark, this one caused me to think. Really. No pun intended.

For years I remember the drivel, "Trust Your Gut". And, there are times one might have no more to go on than gut feelings about an issue or matter. But even in that instance the thinker tends to use previous evidence and confirmed information and knowledge on which to make her decision. "The odds", etc etc.

But you did well in drawing that on out. As I see it, most "political" discussions are 95% "feelings". Same with "libertarian theory". I really do not know how the world will appear once all those psychopaths who make up "government" decide to resign and seek honest work. I do know we've all been totally saturated with the "matrix" that is collectivism. It is almost impossible to genuinely think through exactly how certain issues will resolve themselves once world-wide freedom and liberty are realities.

In a sense, you might say that I have faith that freedom is going to work. Well. Better than I could have imagined.

I fervently hope to live to see that day. Sam

Mark Davis's picture

You are definitely one of the thinkers, Sam. As you know, it can be demonstrated that freedom works for those that are able to accept responsibility for their actions, but there's the rub for feelers who like to make endless excuses for their choosing to avoid that responsibility.

Samarami's picture

Oh -- one more thing. I also fervently hope that those of us "libertarians" will come to think rather than feel regarding slight disagreements pertaining to definitions, etc.

I can see no reason, ever, for any of us to rag on others of us when the price of freedom is currently so high. There is no reason for STR participants to feel "chased away" by opinions or other dogma -- before their miracle happens.

I still remember and often quote your "Be Free" article of many years back:

    "I suggest that if an individual really wants to be free then they should begin to act free themselves; that is, choose to be free..."