Why doesn't my logic convince you?
We try to logically convince each other of our politics. We lay out the good reasons for our position on same-sex marriage, or immigration policy, or deficit reduction. We persuade. It doesn't work.
You're sure that I will change my position on taxes or gun control, or change my preference for a candidate or party if I can only understand your logic.
But even when I understand you, I'm not convinced. Why not? It makes perfect sense to you. Why don't I agree?
I don't expect reason to change your mind about who you fall in love with, or your religious beliefs, or your favorite sports team. Why should I expect reason to change your politics?
Our romantic attachment, or team allegiance, or sexual identity, or faith doesn't come from the reasonable part of our brain. It comes from so far down in the subconscious that we don't even know where to find it.
Same with politics. Reason and logic don't reach there. We don't use reason for a fashion preference or hair style. People don't logically decide to drink and drive, or to have sex before marriage. Our motives are in other places in our brains. When we try to change behavior using logic, it doesn't work.
Have you played the table game "Apples to Apples"? When you expected the others to use logic, you lost. When you gave up your need to persuade the others of your correct thinking, you had a better time.
We don't use reason to choose our political position. We use reason to justify it. We received our politics way back when we adopted a worldview. That came to us through our DNA before we were born and was assimilated from the view of our family and community support group before we knew what was happening.
Our politics helps keep us connected to our support group. It's not only congresspersons who choose their positions based on the will of their support system. We all have to answer to ours. But we need to think of ourselves as level-headed, reasonable people. So, ever since, we've used our logic to gather good reasons why we believe as we do.
There are two exceptions to this:
1. We're open to changing our worldview in late adolescence and young adulthood when we notice the weaknesses in the one we learned.
2. We're open to changing our worldview when we suffer a great loss. In either case, our logic is one tool we can use to analyze and choose between worldviews, which includes our politics. Otherwise, logic is a tool to justify, not choose, what we believe. It's a tool to protect our place in our support group and to protect our identity.
Does that mean logic is worthless in our interactions with those who disagree?
No. Logic is still a good tool, as long as we use it for what it can do.
It can help us identify the bases for our assumptions. It can help me honestly remember some of the experiences of my past that have led to my beliefs. It can tell anyone who wants to hear the story of why I think like I do. It can set me to listening, without judgment, to someone else's story playlist.
When we hear that from each other, we're in a place where we're communicating subconscious to subconscious. Then we can possibly influence each other's faith, worldview and, thus, politics.
Logic can't convince a person to change their mind about something that was not set because of logic in the first place. But logic can put us into a position to care, soul to soul.
Jimmy Carter didn't get very far with Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat, logically explaining the value of peace between Israel and Egypt, until he got the two leaders telling each other about their grandchildren. Then they were able to set the Camp David accords that have held for those two countries since 1978.
We must live with each other as neighbors, faith community members, family, Congress. We can't separate from everyone with whom we disagree. So reason can help.
It can find common values we can support together, even with those who have hurt us. We seek to understand the motives for their behavior, to help them get their needs met in a way that we can both live with.
We seek to understand their motives, values, assumptions and worldview to let them help us meet our needs in a way we can both live with. We start by checking our own.
The better we understand our own beliefs, values, assumptions and worldview, the easier it is to find workable solutions together with those whose beliefs, values, assumptions and worldview is different.
When faced with gridlock, we don't give up on reason. We just use it for what it can do.
- Paul Nulton is a Grand Chute resident and a Post-Crescent Community Columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org