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The most controversial issue possible?

November 22, 2012

Some times I wonder “what is the most controversial issue possible?”

Is it abortion? Same-sex marriage? The environment? Religion? Israel vs Palestine? Pepsi vs Coke?

I wonder what a conversation with all these things in it would look like?

<knock on door>

Me: Hello? <opening and answering the door>

Guy: Hi, I’m with the “Same-Sex Pro-life On a Green Planet Religious Order of the Prophet of the Society of Zionist Pepsi Drinkers.” Can I share the core doctrines of our group with you this fine Saturday 6am morning?

Me: Uh, well, I drink Coke….

Guy: <going nuclear> BUT…!!!!

<5 hours later>

Newscast: 15 people and one partridge in a pear tree died today during what authorities are calling “an argument gone horribly wrong.”

—-

The problem I see with discussing controversial subjects is that emotion often takes over. And usually, controversial subjects are the LAST subjects you want to come to conclusions on based on emotion.

On the flip side, arguing all logical like, without any emotion, kind of diminishes an important element in many issues that are controversial.

Hmmmm…..

Well anyway, off to go drink the one true drink: Pepsi 😉

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6 Comments
  1. Stephen Brown permalink

    The problem with emotion in controversial issues is twofold (in my opinion). First that emotion will often be appealed to in place of logical reasoning. A logical argument that you happen to also be emotional about is not a problem; but the argument must be considered on the merits of the reasons given, not how you feel about it. If an argument cannot be engaged with reason, it has no place in rational debate; it is offered dishonestly as an attempt to veto reason.

    Second, most controversial issues are so because of the significance of their consequences. People hold strong views about lots of pointless things, but most of them don’t become controversial because most people don’t care what you think. But when your opinions have implications for how others live, people start to care. The point being that being emotional about issues that nobody cares about is not really a big deal.

    On the other hand, being emotionless seems to ignore the implication that the issue has significant consequences. I say “seems” because it need not be lacking, even if utterly devoid of emotion. Take abortion for instance. Without emotion, it can be handled as such:

    1. What is abortion?
    – killing an unborn human
    2. Under what circumstances is it acceptable to kill a human?
    – self-defense or defense of another human, war, legally sanctioned execution for criminal offenses, other?
    3. Does abortion qualify as self-defense or defense of another human?
    – yes (only possible to make this argument if the pregnancy threatens the life of the mother and/or twin – assume for the moment these cases are justified & proceed – we can come back to them after settling the main issue)
    – no (proceed)
    4. Does abortion qualify as war?
    – no, war requires the parties to be independent nation states
    5. Does abortion qualify as legally sanctioned execution for criminal offenses?
    – no, a crime must be a result of a conscious act of will
    6. Therefore, unless justification can be provided of a) another legitimate reason to kill a human & b) evidence that abortion meets the criteria for this justification; we are forced to conclude that abortion (not counting the extreme minority cases addressed in point 3 for now) is wrong.

    However, though the above argument does not rely on emotion (though I am emotional about this issue), there is no oversight due to lack of emotion above. In fact, an argument can take into account the emotion generated by an issue without being an emotional appeal itself. An argument that failed to take into account relevant emotional feelings would not only be emotionless, but lacking in sufficient reason as well. For example:

    Is love necessary for a successful marriage?

    1. What is the purpose of marriage?
    – to provide a safe & stable environment to raise children
    2. Is it possible to remain together & not abuse each other or children without love?
    – yes
    3. Therefore, love is not necessary for a successful marriage.

    In what appears to be an attempt to avoid emotion in the argument, relevant information is excluded, leading to a false conclusion.

    Love is not simply a compulsion that we have no control over, but is also expressed through an intentional commitment to act for the benefit of others. Since the primary goal of marriage has been identified as raising children (whether this goal sufficiently defines marriage is irrelevant at this point), it should be noted that love is required to succeed in this goal, as one must both be committed to the well-being of the children and the spouse (which directly affects the well-being of the children).

    So my position is that emotion is not necessary to have reasonable, thoughtful, and even sensitive discussion & debate on any issue. It would be rationally deficient to ignore emotion as a piece of evidence that may be relevant in the discussion. While appealing to another person’s emotion can be an effective way to get their attention & get them to consider the arguments you are making, it does not add to the value of the argument. Therefore I consider emotional “arguments” an important tool in convincing a person of the truth, yet irrelevant themselves to the truth being discussed, as far as the emotional element is concerned (ie. an emotional appeal is not likely 100% emotion & 0% reason).

  2. There is probably a planet out there hanging in space where the issues are reverse and what is thought controversial is now every day. This is just my dreamer thoughts for today tomorrow I could think something else.

  3. Stephen Brown permalink

    It’s called the future. Francis Shaeffer wrote:

    There is a “thinkable” and an “unthinkable” in every era. One era is quite certain intellectually and emotionally about what is acceptable. Yet another era decides that these “certainties” are unacceptable and puts another set of values into practice. On a humanistic base, people drift along from generation to generation, and the morally unthinkable becomes the thinkable as the years move on. Schaeffer, writing in the 1970s, perceptively continued, The thinkables of the eighties and nineties will certainly include, things which most people today find unthinkable and immoral, even unimaginable and too extreme to suggest. Yet – since they do not have some overriding principle that takes them beyond relativistic thinking – when these become thinkable and acceptable in the eighties and nineties, most people will not even remember that they were unthinkable in the seventies. They will slide into each flew thinkable without a jolt.

    We can confirm his suspicions already. I just wonder how far this can go? Is there a limit to what humanity can legitimize?

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