It takes a reason to reason

Walking home from work I listened to a podcast of BBC radio’s Analysis program. It dealt with political story telling. Some of the most interesting and insightful comments were made by the American clinical psychologist and political strategist Drew Weston. Here a is a link to an interview with Weston.

In the short sound bites that were included in the analysis program Weston made the point that cold objectivity alone cannot capture peoples’ imaginations nor motivate them to think deeply. It is emotion that leads people to reflect on their own prejudices and perhaps even change their world views. He summed this up in the phrase “it takes a reason to reason”. I also liked his neat line “I don’t think anyone remembers Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a plan’ speech. ”

This is relevant in the year of Barak Obama. Whatever the outcome of the primaries it is now inevitable that, one way or another, the most powerful nation in the world will soon be led by its first rational president in almost a decade. It is always easy to be cynical about politicians’ appeal to peoples’ emotions. Weston makes the point that an appeal to the right sort of emotions is much more likely to get rational things done than an appeal to logic alone. That is why Al Gore’s passionate, if not wholly accurate, treatment of the climate change issue has been such an important contribution to changing the direction of the climate debate towards one based on rational evaluation of evidence.


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