Reason and passion (and appreciating point of view)

There are some learning experiences that are inspired by interactions within Second Life groups. I belong to a group called Play as Being, which gets together in Bieup to discuss things like meditation, mindfulness, the self, and play. Over time, we have evolved an inclusive method for discussion that helps all participants to be understood and appreciated.

It’s a gentle way to communicate, and especially well-suited to a virtual environment where we cannot see on anothers’ real life faces and so we must make an effort to show positive sentiment in our written chats.

In a Yahoo Group email list, we began to discuss an article written by one of our members, who is known as Bleu.

http://www.edge.org/documents/archive/edge342.html

Edge Seminar speaker Jonathan Haidt explored:

Why are humans so bad at reasoning in some contexts and good at reasoning in other contexts?

“Reasoning was not designed to pursue the truth. Reasoning was designed by evolution to help us win arguments. That’s why they call it The Argumentative Theory of Reasoning,” Haidt said.

Another friend responded with this exploration of reason and passion (Hume was one of my required readings a long time ago in college):

“That reminds me of Hume’s argument that ‘reason is and ought only to be the
slave of the passions.’

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/emotions-17th18th/LD8Hume.html#ReaOugOnlSlaPas

To this, our group founder and leader, who goes by Pema Pera in Second Life, related Play as Being’s way of gently exploring issues. He said:

“Once we realize that reasoning is mostly arguing,
a way to consolidate your already existing opinions,
we can discern different ways of doing so.

“The simplest way to reason/argue, is to confront
someone else saying ‘I disagree.’ Here is an example:

“A: I think X.

“B: I disagree. I think Y.

“Clearly, that’s neither very helpful, nor very pleasant.
Chances are than immediately both sides harden their
position, drawing battle lines, and defending X and Y.

“The PaB way of reasoning, as it developed very quickly
and is still developing, is more along the lines of:

“A: I think X.

“[ B thinking: X??? How odd, I’m pretty sure it is Y !!!
how interesting that a nice person like A can have such
a strange idea — I want to know more about that ]

“B: can you say more?

“A: … (saying more) …

“[ B thinking: aha, now I have more of an idea where A is
coming from and the context for thinking X. But let me
make sure I understand, before comparing with my ideas ]

“B: ah, how interesting. So you think X, because of …
(this and that) …

“A: yes, but not quite like that, more like … (such and
such) …

“[ B thinking: okay, that is very helpful, now I have a
more clear picture — though I still think that Y may
be more correct. Let’s see whether we can figure out
our differences. ]

“B: I see. That helps me to understand why you think X.
I myself had thought Y, but I may have to reconsider.
My main argument for Y, rather than X was … (gives
argument) … How does that fit in with your picture?

“At this point, A happily can extend the picture already
sketched and shared, in order to point out how A sees
things differently from B, and they both can walk around
the issue, looking from different angles, while together
finding new vistas.

“Initially, I had not clearly realized that this had become
the PaB way of reasoning by playfully ‘comparing notes’.
It only became clear when we had a few visitors joining us
for a while who were not operating in that mode. Their
much more jarring way of reasoning (like in many academic
forums, or political forums) was very helpful to bring out,
in contrast, what it is that we are all sharing here.”

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