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Logic And Emotions

It's no secret that every person has a different world view and different way of approaching problems. Some people think Phở is one of the best foods on the planet and other people are entirely wrong about everything. It's the nature of dealing with people.

When trying to persuade people to our viewpoint, we must first understand how they view the world. It is only then that we can actually speak in a language that they will understand. 

One way of framing this problem is whether people rationalize their decision on an issue through logical or emotional terms. This is a key indicator of how best to talk to the person on the issue.

Make a guess at how best to talk to your fellow band mate who says these statements:

"I don't know guys. Adding the E-bow sustain during the ballad section of the song clashes with the fluid, legato 6/8 feel of the section." - Example A

"Of course this part needs a bass solo! I just bought this brand new Modulus and I spent last weekend practicing non-stop" - Example B

Sure they're cheesy examples, but you get the point I'm trying to convey. When someone has told you (explicitly or implicitly) how they evaluated the merits of their position, they're conveying how you will have to talk to them. Would the person in example A really care if you got the EBow because you saw another band do it and it sounded cool? How do you think the person in example B would react if you started trying to explain the idea of "sunk costs"?

When you're trying to talk to people about their positions, make sure you speak the same language. Otherwise you're wasting breath.


Here's a quick article by Eric Barker with some research showing when it's important to say "I think" versus "I feel".


  1. I think (not feel, to be consistent with the last link) you're making a false dichotomy between logic and emotion in this specific case. Example A is trying to justify his opinion using emotional reasoning (will adding sustain really make something sound less "fluid"/balladish? Could someone plausibly argue the exact opposite, that E-bow sustain will make it sound MORE "fluid"/balladish?), whereas Example B's bass solo might genuinely improve the song specifically because he spent hours and hours on it. I'm not sure either is necessarily more logical/emotional than the other when placed in the context of music, an extremely subjective field as you well know.

    Your broader point is well-taken, but I think it's tough to find the distinction between the two in most cases.

    Example A: Progressive taxation is suboptimal because wealthy people derive more utility from their money and generate more marginal benefits to society at large; taxing them at a higher rate than less wealthy people will generate more deadweight loss than a single tax rate for all citizens.

    Example B: It's immoral for the government to censor speech because, as is written on the Liberty Bell, "Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof" (Leviticus 25:10). Since God created man with no distinctions save that of righteous and unrighteous, all opinions are equal before God and no mortal authority should usurp His power.

    Example A is arguing for an aristocracy by misusing economics words he could have simply Googled, whereas Example B is arguing for the First Amendment using perfectly sound logic, provided you accept the premise that Bible quotes are an acceptable source. One of the toughest things I've learned is that, to use Robin Hansonish terms, people's priors are often deeply disguised and that often "arguments aren't about winning", they're about scratching deep, pre-rational itches. Some of the silliest people I've ever known were people who loved to talk about science (despite not being science majors or even knowing how to solve simple physics problems), and that made me realize that being "logical" as opposed to "emotional" is often in the eye of the beholder.

    This of course applies to me and so on.

  2. Wow, that's a seriously badass way to word it.
    "Arguements aren't about winning, they're about scratching deep, pre-rational itches"

    I'm probably gonna do a post on that quote alone, haha. I whole hearted agree. The "feeling of having made a conscious choice" is actually an after-the-fact rationalization (Daniel Dennet woop woop!).

    and DAMN! Being "logical" as opposed to "emotional" really is subjective, haha. Excellently worded.

    As for my examples, I see where you're coming from. The kind of mindset I was trying to portray in A was "the reasoning I ascribed to why I believe this is a good idea, is that the part is a stylistic fit for the song." Although, to be fair, A is not as good as an example as I would have hoped.

    I think example B is a better attempt at what I was trying to convey. The bassist is arguing his position as "i have made an investment, in both practice time and money, towards this particular section." Sure, the practice would improve the part's execution, but the real heart of what the bassist is arguing is from the emotional "I don't want to have wasted my effort" and not the logical "this fits the song". Even though the "fits the song" is effectively a matter of taste, this post is more about how to approach problem solving and so that's the angle it'd interpret it from.

    By the way, thanks Aaron! Fantastic commenting, keeps me on my toes!