Pre-Thanksgiving PSA

I hope that your Thanksgiving isn’t entirely virtual–that you’ll be able to eat home cooked meals with the people ordinarily under your roof, spend some time outdoors, and perhaps Zoom with more distant relatives. Inevitably, your conversations will turn towards politics, and I encourage you to keep these words from John Stuart Mill in mind:

So long as an opinion is strongly rooted in the feelings, it gains rather than loses in stability by having a preponderating weight of argument against it. For if it were accepted as a result of argument, the refutation of the argument might shake the solidity of the conviction; but when it rests solely on feeling, the worse it fares in argumentative contest, the more persuaded its adherents are that their feeling must have some deeper ground, which the arguments do not reach; and while the feeling remains, it is always throwing up fresh intrenchments of argument to repair any breach made in the old. And there are so many causes tending to make the feelings connected with this subject the most intense and most deeply-rooted of all those which gather round and protect old institutions and customs, that we need not wonder to find them as yet less undermined and loosened than any of the rest by the progress of the great modern spiritual and social transition; nor suppose that the barbarisms to which men cling longest must be less barbarisms than those which they earlier shake off.

The Subjection of Women

When you wonder why you apply logic and reasoning to a situation, and you get nothing but emotional responses that become more deeply entrenched despite the addition of more logic and reason, Mill helps us see that an intellectual assault on intuited beliefs does nothing but aggravate those beliefs. If an argument can’t win both hearts and minds, any sense of victory in that moment will be pyrrhic at best.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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