COGITO ERGO SUM?

In my previous communication I extolled the virtues of logical and analytical thinking. I even had the temerity to bring out the heavy artillery of Holy Scripture to support that view. Perhaps I was somewhat dismissive of actions based upon feelings and intuition. Now I would like to introduce the psychological paradox that thinking can be bad for us! We can think so much that our internal chatter interferes with the use of common sense. The available glut of existing information may obscure the heart of a problem. To make decisions about complex problems one needs to ignore irrelevant data and in a sense to unlearn. As I have previously suggested, our intuitions can function as a short cut to access the wisdom gained from previous experiences. Gut feelings can be important and should not be underestimated. Researchers at Columbia University studied the importance of feelings in decision making. They had subjects predict the outcome who would win on a game show. Situations ranged from business to politics. Surprisingly those subjects who trusted their feelings made better predictions. Another study demonstrated that stocks picked by people in the street did better than those chosen by experts. People on the street picked companies that had broad name recognition. The experts mostly relied on the analysis of price-earning ratios.

My son is a very good golfer. He often suggests to his fellow players, “just grip it and rip it.” By that he means to stop thinking about a shot and just relax and trust the wisdom of the body. All golfers have had the experience of missing an incredibly easy putt. Especially when the stakes are high, thinking intrudes and the player chokes. He gets the yips. We call it performance anxiety. The higher the expectations piled upon a performer the more he begins to think and not trust his basic skills. An opera singer launching into an aria cannot afford to to analyze her technique. The same can be said about other performers.

To digress, other areas exist where thinking and analysis have limited value. For instance, a job applicant submits valuable information in his resume. In such situations a curriculum vitae is no substitute for a personal interview. In assessing the suitability of a candidate intuition plays a role more important than reviewing the candidate’s previous record. The same can be said regarding most choices we make in life. Love at first sight probably exists and totally defies logical analysis. Matters of taste and aesthetic preferences can often seem weird to another person. Our choice of friends, occupation, religion, politics and interests are primarily based upon personal feelings. I might suggest that the more ancient areas of the brain interpret our feelings as a type of truth. These inner vibes are not to be disregarded. However intuitive truths are fraught with danger. Emotional decisions can lead to folly. All of us have heard the expression that there is no fool like an old fool. When immersed in a sea of emotions the mind becomes impervious to logic. What man has never rued the fact that he allowed the big head to be ruled by the small head? (I would bet that presidential candidate, John Edwards, curses himself repeatedly for that debility.) I’m certain that there are many women who have awoken in the clarity of morning feeling disgust for having slept with some creep. Who amongst us has never experienced buyer’s remorse? Emotions can give us valuable guide lines. They also can give us great capacity to be fools. The proverb tells us that to err is human. Sometimes only the the divine can forgive our folly!

This entry was posted in Commentary, Musings, Philosophy. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to COGITO ERGO SUM?

  1. Bob Levis says:

    Very interesting!! Before I let it marinate more, I would like to share and idea that I feeel like sharing.

    In teaching my logic classes, I would tell my students that you have to have the courage to goof, namely, play with where your feelings seem to guide you AND then check them out to eliminate the goofs; but have fun playing with the possibilities, and keep moving, dancing, or what not. Life is at least a game; but it is not just a game. Sometimes our play sparks something; but this can’t happen if we don’t start “playing around” in the first place!! So playing is a serious and important thing, etc.!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *