Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Pet Peeve, with charts

Logic is a skill that can be developed. It is the method of processing information and using that information to make decisions.  Generally it is the synthesizing of data to form meaningful information.  If X + Y = Z, then Z - Y = X.  If we know that X and Y are positive numbers, we also know that Z ≥ X, and Z ≥ Y.  Logic allows us to make predictions of the future based on data about the past.  Part of logic is evaluating what data is relevant to the decision and making appropriate conclusions based on that data.  Logic can be taught.  One can become better at noticing and correcting logical fallacies.

Here's what everyone seems to get wrong: a logical conclusion will consider all relevant factors, even the random, irrational, unpredictable, and illogical factors.  For example, emotion.  Emotion is often based on subconscious factors that can't be reasoned with. And yet, we all have to live with our emotions, and those emotions can make our lives dramatically better or worse.  So to make a decision that throws out as irrelevant any emotional consequences, is to make a very illogical decision.  If one has strong emotions about a subject, then any logical decision about that subject must take those emotions into account.  Not because emotions are more important than logic, but because there is no conflict to begin with.  Logic demands taking emotions into account.

The Wikipedia article about the Myers-Briggs personality assessment describes the difference between "logic" and "feelings" people like this:
Those who prefer thinking tend to decide things from a more detached standpoint, measuring the decision by what seems reasonable, logical, causal, consistent, and matching a given set of rules. Those who prefer feeling tend to come to decisions by associating or empathizing with the situation, looking at it 'from the inside' and weighing the situation to achieve, on balance, the greatest harmony, consensus and fit, considering the needs of the people involved.
It creates a false dichotomy between thinking and feeling.  Because if one cares about people, then the only reasonable, logical, consistent, way of making a decision is to understand those people, to best consider the needs of the people involved.  Seeking harmony is not antithetical to seeking a reasonable, logical, solution.  If I have an emotional investment in the happiness of others, and an emotional investment in the financial success of my company, then the logical way to make business decisions is to balance the two. 

It's not a question of Data versus Troy.  If we were robots, then, yes, we would not need to account for our emotions.  But we're not robots.  And not even Data would recommend that we pretend to be.  It's also not a zero-sum game.  The strength of someone's emotions is not an invert correlation to their skill at making logical conclusions.  We are not pie charts.

We are bar graphs.

1 comment:

Diatryma said...

It turns out that I contain a similar growlpost about logic vs intuition. 'Logic' 'science' 'rational' are so loaded with this-is-right values. Sigh.