Jan 28·edited Jan 28Liked by TJ Radcliffe

As you know, I have a problem with this idea. I think I now understand this problem. Keep in mind, this is not a statement about its truth value. It may even be a reflection on my education. But here goes...

This is a kind of social theory. It is not a literature review or historiography. It is the kind of thing from which empirical statements are derived. I have two problems with this. The first of these is the easiest to understand. The second problem is quite difficult to explain.

1. This idea is completely ahistorical. It may have a history, but I don't know what it is. It is not derived from existing social theory of any kind. It has no precedent in the thinking of, for example, Marx, Durkheim or Weber. It is, in that sense, just some stuff you made up. This may not be a problem, but it makes it hard for me to follow because you are not addressing any of the central issues of social theory.

2. This problem deals with the huge number of empirical statements you make. It's vast. Almost every sentence is a statement with empirical value. Some of these statements have already been investigated extensively. I am going to focus on one of your central statement that,

" People believe things for feelings, not reasons."

But there are many, many, many....others.

I don't know what you mean by "people". Is this everyone? Or just some people? This is NOT a minor point to me. Is this meant to be a statement about the essentialist nature of people, like 'All people have a brain'? Is it a defining statement about what makes us human? And that someone whose beliefs are not caused by their feelings is not entirely a person? You are NOT saying that individual differences in feelings result in individual differences in beliefs? That people with more or less of some 'feeling' have more or less of some 'reason'? Or are you? So what is the nature of this relationship?

There is a whole literature that speculates on the origins of beliefs and the nature of believing. Some of it is philosophical. Some of it relates to machine learning. I don't know much about that work. There is also a vast empirical literature that gets collected together by psychologists. In this work, I think, it would be wrong to say that "feelings cause beliefs".

It is a vast literature. It is worthy of a lifetime of study. But let's look at your use of the concept of cognitive dissonance and see where that takes us. Cognitive dissonance is NOT an affective mechanism. There is reason to believe it is a physical mechanism in your brain and body. It happens all the time. Some educators describe it as a key aspect of learning. Festinger and others focus on errors that cognitive dissonance produce for the purpose of illustrating its existence, not because it has any logical connection to mistakes. You might be using the term 'feelings' to mean something different than affect, but that would make this a different kind of statement and one you would have to clarify.

Beliefs are predicted by a variety of factors. If we made an equation that predicted individual differences in beliefs, there would be many different types of variables in there. Some of them would be affective, but others would be individual or social. In fact, I think we all know this. This is what leads me to wonder if you don't mean this in some essentialist sense. This is also a point you would have to clarify.

I guess my problem is, where did this idea come from? It's almost like it's a bunch of stuff that makes sense to you, and you're going to see if you can convince some other people. This is very different from the kind of independently reproducible argument you'd want associated with data, for example with Covid. What I would like to know more about is where this line of thought came from. Is it just a common sense sort of argument, albeit a high level of common sense?

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