The Problem with ‘Facts Not Feelings’ by J. R. Wood Jr.
…Shapiro is famous, in part, for touring college campuses and ‘destroying’ idealistic and emotional young progressives with the aphorism “Facts don’t care about your feelings.”
However, there is an argument to be made on behalf of empathy in our discourse that is being heedlessly trampled by Shapiro’s defiant mode of aggressive argumentation.
The narrow emphasis on ‘facts not feelings’ reflects a widespread misunderstanding of the role evidence plays in the apprehension of truth, which thwarts our ability to properly pursue empirical and ethical truth in the first place.
…Differing opinions, even disagreements about facts, are not necessarily what leads to polarization.
As Shapiro himself has noted, hostility is inflamed when our differences are perceived to be threatening to the validity of our identities and experiences.
When disagreements are framed in a way that does not delegitimize the experiences of our opponents they cease to be emotionally threatening. And when disagreements cease to be emotionally threatening, it puts people at ease and affords them the space to consider new perspectives and ideas.
…Hyper-emphasis on the importance of facts strikes against our ability to properly understand those who disagree with us. It allows us to believe that their intuitions deserve our derision and condescension.
The assumption that fidelity to fact is synonymous with Truth, in turn, leads to intellectual atrophy that frustrates both empathy and intellectual growth. As Eric Weinstein observed during his discussion with Rogan: “The claim that you fact-check has been synonymized with the claim that you are truthful, which is utter nonsense.”
Facts are unquestionably vital to the pursuit of understanding. But the possession of facts alone does not guarantee an accurate or optimal interpretation of those facts. How we feel about a set of facts has everything to do with how we interpret them. And how we interpret facts is, in part, a matter of values.
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The video referenced in the essay: