In the real world, or what the ancient Greeks called the marketplace (agora), we disagree and argue about things from time to time. We argue about politics and politicians, sports, and really important things, like if the Hulk is stronger than Superman.
My parents are big Cleveland sports fans. This is not an issue if the sport is basketball. But not so much other pro sports. My dad might say “I love the Cleveland Browns.” That is a statement about his feelings, and is true if he says so. But my Dad might say “The Cleveland Browns are a great team.” This becomes a claim about the team and involves its recent record of wins and losses. No matter how much my dad loves his team, it doesn’t change their record. Emotion doesn’t change the truth; we can love a losing sports team.
Truth is a statement that corresponds to reality. It is observable and verifiable. The Cleveland Browns are not true or false by themselves, but statements about them are true or false. “In 2016 and 2017 under head coach Hue Jackson, the Browns went 1–31 (.031), the worst two-year stretch in NFL history” This is true, not just because I cut and pasted it from Wikipedia, but because there are people who care about such things and count the number of games a team wins.
It’s like a chair. “The chair has four legs.” True or false? There is a real number of legs on the chair. A chair, any chair is generally understood to be defined by four legs. A stool has 3. But some chairs have a pedestal. My statement is true or a fact if, in reality, the chair has four legs. If I am pointing to a particular chair, we can count the number of legs, because I care about such things.
But my emotions don’t affect the chair No matter how much I love or hate the chair, that doesn’t change the number of legs it has. That doesn’t depend on me or my emotions. It may the nastiest, most-ugliest, uncomfortable chair in the world. But if I say “I HATE THAT CHAIR! It only has 3 legs.” The first sentence is true, because it’s about me and my feelings, but the second is about the chair and it is false.
If we are to have a truthful discussion about the number of legs on chair, I have to set aside my hatred of it, maybe for just a few minutes
Emotion doesn’t change the truth.
Maybe the same is true of politics and politicians. If we are going to have a truthful discussion, we may need to set aside our emotions. Can we admit politicians we love can have failures, and those we hate can have successes?
But of course, The Hulk is stronger than Superman. Its emotion vs. solar radiation. Seriously.
Dr. Daniel Behr is a professor at Mount Vernon Nazarene University and a global faculty for the Asia Pacific Nazarene University in Manila Philippines. He teaches communications and rhetoric. He is joined by his wife Coralee Behr who teaches English as a second language. To stay up to date on his activities, like his facebook page @BehrGlobal.