Rationality/dispassion

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Rationality and dispassion are often assumed to be linked, leading to fallacious assumptions such as:

  • If someone can explain a position calmly and politely, they are probably being rational.
  • A position that is expressed strongly is probably wrong.
  • Someone who is upset is probably being irrational.
  • If two people are arguing, whichever one is calmer is probably right.
  • It is impossible to "see reason" when one is "being emotional".

Some of these assumptions may originate with the straw Vulcan fallacy, but it seems likely that the straw Vulcan originates in pre-existing assumptions about the nature of rationality. (Ironically, the straw Vulcan fallacy is often used to argue an opposing conclusion, i.e. that logic is inferior to feelings and intuition.)

Although it is true that strong feelings can cloud judgment and make it difficult to accept new information, it is also true that:

  • Sometimes those strong feelings are based on an accurate assessment of reality.
    • ...or, in other words, sometimes reality is such that a strong emotional reaction is entirely appropriate
    • There are many situations where it would be irrational not to have such a reaction
  • When other people take a position which contradicts reality as you understand it, that can be upsetting
    • ...especially if that position is likely to cause harm in reality as you understand it.
  • Dispassion may also be an indication of not caring very much, which might easily lead to limited investigation, which might easily lead to reaching incorrect conclusions.