The Decline of Reasoning and Rise of Sentiments

The Decline of Reasoning and Rise of Sentiments

Someone I know was looking for advice on what next to do going forward, as he was at a crossroads considering a career switch, which he wasn’t sure was in his best long-term interest. The advice he received from a trusted motivator was “follow your heart”.

I  have heard this phrase a lot of times, and it seems to be the only available piece of advice for people in desperate times. Contemplating between studying medicine or playing football “follow your heart”, thinking of whether to quit your job or not “follow your heart”, thinking of which business to start “follow your heart”.

As a kid, I loved candies and ice cream. I’m glad I didn’t follow my heart in that. There are so many things we love to do that aren’t actually good for us. What then should we do? The availability of this phrase in visually every facet of life today is a pointer to what is actually going on deep down inside, in this age of information . In other words, sentiments supersede rationality and quotes supersede thoughts . These scenarios play out in two forms:

  1. Sentiments Vs. Rationality
  2. Knowledge Vs. Reasoning

Sentiments Vs. Rationality

Someone once said this to me, “look people will forget what you did for them, but will never forget how you made them feel”. I understand why he said that. I mean who doesn’t want to feel good? But should that be the driving factor behind our evaluation of things and events?

Just imagine for a moment, that you have been stranded on an island for days. After a long wait, a group of nice gentlemen, about five in number, well built and capable of building a boat, came along and said nice words of encouragement and walked away with smiles on their faces, meaning that you have to wait longer before leaving the island.  And then after a long wait, a scruffy looking old man wearing a long face walks by and without even exchanging pleasantries, he began building a boat, and when he was done, he just left you the boat and went his way. What you feel in these two scenarios will depend on which one had a greater impact on you based on your immediate need. Yes, the emphasis should be on need. That which solves a need should have greater value, or do you think otherwise?

Not long ago, a video of a teacher went viral on LinkedIn .The teacher was shown to have very close rapport with the students. She had a unique multiple styled  handshake with which she greeted each one of her students . There was another instance where a teacher was seen teaching trending dance moves to his students. It does make them happy,  doesn’t it? What about a teacher whose students all perform well on the subject he teaches, without making it fun. Who is a better teacher? This is not trying to imply that the first two teachers cannot produce high performing students, but this is directed at asking the question – “what should be the criteria for measuring their contributions”? Results or Feelings?

To answer this question, we need a clear definition of purpose. If I hired a carpenter to fix my roof, what exactly should I use as a criteria to measure his success or failure?  It would be irrational if I judged him by anything other than that for which he was hired, and for which he is paid. If this is true, then it will be consistent if I say that the teacher whose students perform better in his subjects is the better teacher even though this may not fit in into the growing narrative.

I know a man who has been struggling to pass his professional exams; he said he has been made to feel good by many tutors who were more interested in not breaking his ego by not exposing his areas of weakness. But only a tutor who made him not feel so good actually helped him to eventually pass his exams. Ironically many excellent professionals have been left out because they do not possess the flair of sentimentality. 

Knowledge Vs Reasoning

I asked someone a question, and he answered with a quote; I replied by telling him that quotes are not universal truths, that they represent the opinion and state of mind of whoever created  the quote. Yet, he replied with another quote. I am not against quotes as I use them a lot, but we should understand what they really are. People don’t seem to be interested in why things happen, they are only  interested in the end product. Like secondary consumers of the by products of cognitive reasoning, leading to a society massively chasing end products with nobody interested in the process leading to them. We love petrol, but hate to refine crude oil,  we love front end design software, but hate analysis and coding.

So this has led to a system where Hiring Managers are dismissing qualified candidates, because they did not cram and quote the expected stereotypical answers to their questions. A system where the teacher of the year is likely going to be one who makes the students laugh.  A system where a lot of processes are taking place at the expense of reasoning. Next time before you drop that quote, pause for a moment and do a little thinking. Also before you follow your heart, ask yourself this question,”is my feelings more important and representative of what is in my overall best interest”?  If your answer is yes, then you know exactly what to do. 

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