In defense of emotional rhetoric that is seen as “illogical” and declined in universities.
The things that matter most are emotionally ridden, and we need not gaslight people that are emotional, and see them as unprofessional, and immediately lose our trust and their credibility. The most biologically emotional people are teenagers, and then we develop a new culture in adulthood, but we must not forget that we decided on our opinions when we were emotionally ridden teenagers: We are using formalities of what seems like logic as a veil to silenced emotions by our now fully developed prefrontal cortex.
“This adolescent empathy frenzy can seem a bit much for adults. But when
I see my best students in that state, I have the same thought — it used to be so
much easier to be like that. My adult frontal cortex may enable whatever
detached good I do. The trouble, of course, is how that same detachment
makes it easy to decide that something is not my problem.” Robert Sapolsky- Behave, The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst, 2017
This quote really brings you back. In adolescence, we like to romanticize stories like Twilight, when the girl could say: “I could save him!” Where depression and gothic are attractive. Because in adolescence, we have more power to feel someone’s pain. We don’t feel for them as in adulthood, we feel as them.
I remember one day in freshman year, I was 18, and I was in my Citizenship Class, in my first semester abroad. The professor asked us about child marriages, he showed us pictures of it happening in Lebanon, and asked us what we think of child marriage laws, after a silent but collective agreement that this is not okay, he asked us to participate and defend our opinion. And one girl, let’s call her Huda, I think she’s one year younger than me, got very empathetic about child marriages. The professor asked why should child marriages be illegal. But she got emotional, and it obviously took the professor by surprise, because he thought he would get logic-based arguments like: She’s not old enough to consent, etc. Instead, Huda said: “Because it’s disgusting!” and with a disgusted face, she looked down at her desk, emotionally ridden. And others joined her, with emotionally charged comments too. The professor tried to steer it in a more “Law Student argumentation”. But only a few arguments about consent came through, others are just about how cruel, disgusting, rude, selfish, shameful, these people and these laws are.
What’s the difference between emotion and logic? Isn’t logic based on emotion? Is it just that logic is just emotions that are veiled and are silenced a bit, but they are still there. Don’t we all base our perspective on emotions? Strictly speaking? Why is logic separated from emotions? As adults grow, their emotions get more silent, but they exist. Adults feel empathy, disgust. And the adults rule the world of academia. but teenagers? They sink in their emotions, the highs are high, the lows are low. But let’s not forget, adults are just adolescents that grew up.
There is an age gap in argumentation. There is a language barrier between people who have biological stronger empathy, and others with more silenced empathy, and a bit more selfishness. In the systems we have now, old people teach the young, and that’s good in some cases, but bad in others. In any case, we must understand that old people are not as logical as we might think, because old people were adolescents as well, and in that phase, along with late adolescence, we set lifelong values. Therefore, adolescent empathy and emotionality linger on, though hiddenly, like puppeteers to our theater of formal debate, logic, and source quoting.
Memories of adolescence stay in adulthood for as long as we live. So when highs were high and lows were low, adults remember those highs and lows and what caused them. Sure, they veil their arguments for highs and lows with logic now, but inside that logic, there are emotions, small emotions that are the residue of oceans of intense feelings since childhood.
Sometimes, when people talk about their poverty, their parents’ parents experience colonialism, and they are met with selfishness, they get passionate, overridden with emotions as well, but people see them as childish, they refuse their opinion, they immediately think they themselves are right. That’s not always the case. Let us not overestimate the value to formalities, to what is logic, because logic and research can come from emotions too.