This dinner happened about four months ago with a bunch of foodies in Flushing, Queens. I didn’t post it then because this restaurant unanimously disappointed everyone, and I’m not particularly interested in hurting the feelings of any restauranteurs. Besides, I could barely understand what the fellow foodies were saying about the food and the cooking techniques. The dinner reminded me of the fact that there are always people who know more than I do.
I recently came across a political commentator whose tagline is “Facts don’t care about your feelings.” Many of his YouTube videos went viral because, with his encyclopedic knowledge of facts, he can quickly shoot down a long line of people in debates. He is like an intellectual Rambo.
What he means to say with his tagline is that facts are on the side of logic, not emotion. Reason, not feeling, is the arbiter of truth. The smarter and the more knowledgable you are, the closer you are to the truth.
Here is the problem I see: Facts indeed don’t care about your feelings, but they don’t care about your logic either. We formulate a logical argument based on the facts we have, but facts are never complete. If we come across a new fact that contradicts our argument, it must be reformulated. In science, new phenomena are discovered that force the established “truth” to be corrected or modified. These new facts do not care how beautiful your logic was.
We make most of the important decisions in our lives without a sufficient number of facts. In fact, we don’t even know what constitutes “sufficient.” Do we have 1% of all facts or 99%? Just because you have more facts, doesn’t mean you are closer to the truth either. One key fact discovered in the future could overturn hundreds of other facts. Logic cannot predict the stock market any better than gut feelings.
Truth is fundamentally indeterminate but our society cannot move forward if we accepted this fact. So, for pragmatic reasons, we simply pretend as though truths exist. But for decisions about our own lives, listening to our feelings is just as rational as listening to our reasons. Ultimately, facts don’t care about anything.
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