Sentimental Journey

"A sentimentalist desires to enjoy the luxury of an emotion without paying for it." —Oscar Wilde

"Compassion is the fellow-feeling of the unsound." —George Bernard Shaw

"The majority of men prefer delusion to truth. It soothes. It is easy to grasp. Above all, it fits more snugly than the truth into a universe of false appearances—of complex and irrational phenomena, defectively grasped. But though an idea that is true is thus not likely to prevail, an idea that is attacked enjoys a great advantage. The evidence behind it is now supported by sympathy, the sporting instinct, sentimentality—and sentimentality is as powerful as an army with banners." [H.L. Mencken, The Anti-Christ]

Academia, politics, and the horde of pseudo-intellectuals that dominate the media, the arts, and religion are always at war with reason, the intellect, and truth. Their attacks are never direct, although the assaults on knowledge and truth by the anti-intellectual post modernists and cultural Marxists was about as direct as it gets.

The most persistent attacks against reason usually come in the form of something that is supposed to be above reason or "superior" to "mere" knowledge. Past assaults have come in the form of, "revelation," "instinct," "intuition," "the subconscious," "a priori knowledge," and, "consensus." One very old form of these assaults on reason is gaining ground today; it falls under the general category of "sentimentalism."

But today there is a whole bushel of these sentimentalist words. Besides "compassion," there is "sympathy," and, "empathy," and "commiseration;" even the words, "condolence," and, "pity," or the absurd notion of, "unconditional love," are pressed into service to deceive the emotionally muddled.

What The Words Mean

Do you know what those slimy sentimental words mean? They all mean the same thing. They mean, to feel with: compassion: com (with) passion (feeling); sympathy: sym (together) pathy (feel); empathy: em (with) pathy (feel). They all mean having feelings that are the same as or like someone else's feelings, but they only pertain to feelings of human failure like suffering, sadness, grief, misfortune, and despair.

They only ever pertain to the pathetic. You will not find any words that describe, "feeling with," or, "sharing the joy," of the successful, the happy, the achievers, the normal, the healthy, and the triumphant.

This sentimental journey is like riding on a train passing through a land created by Dostoevsky, dominated by the physically broken and psychologically deformed. Sentimentalism gives one a cockeyed view of life and reality.

Almost Ubiquitous

There has always been a stream of sentimentalism running through the swamps of the anti-intellectual which swells from time to time into a river. It is too early to tell if a flood is imminent, but there certainly are more and more examples of it:

"11 Ways to Raise a Compassionate Child";
"8 Ways To Tell If You’re A Truly Compassionate Person";
The Compassionate Mind: A New Approach to Life's Challenges; (One of many such books.)
"Forget the Elections: 13 Ways to Make Empathy Great Again"

I'm sure you can remember when Republicans made "Compassionate conservatism" a part of mainstream politics.

It is now apparently becoming a part of mainstream libertarian thought. The following is from the article, "Poverty and Civil Society: Why Government Intervention does not promote a Civilized Society":

"It is commonly misconceived that in today’s world, the only way in which we can call ourselves civilised or compassionate is if we are willing to permit the State to intervene in public affairs ..." which essentially equates "civilized" with "compassionate," and relegates anyone not dripping with sickly sentimentalism to the bin of the uncivilized.

If you doubt libertarianism is being swamped by sentimentalism, let Mary J. Ruwart disabuse you. The title of her latest book is, "Healing Our World: The Compassion of Libertarianism."

What Is The Point?

Why is there this growing emphasis on feelings like compassion, sympathy, and empathy in almost everything? If tomorrow by some miracle everyone were suddenly overwhelmed with feelings of passionate sympathy and empathy, what would it change? There must be something that those pushing these sentiments expect to change. What is it?

The truth is, it is almost impossible to find anything concrete as the basis for these admonitions to empathy and compassion.

On one site I did find a list of twelve supposed benefits of compassion listed, but all are supposedly "personal" benefits, only one is "social" or "political:"

"More compassionate societies—those that take care of their most vulnerable members, assist other nations in need, and have children who perform more acts of kindness–are the happier ones."

There is no explanation of what a, "compassionate society," is or how one goes about measuring the compassion of a society, or for that matter who a society's "most vulnerable" members are or how it could be determined which country's children, "perform more acts of kindness." In any case, the only advantage of compassion is that it makes a country a happier one, whatever that means.

In the article, "Poverty and Civil Society: Why Government Intervention does not promote a Civilized Society," linked to above in which the writer equates "civilized" to "compassionate," he also says this: "I take a civilised society to be a community, or set of communities, which have reached a stage of social and cultural development which benefits the whole populace ...." Apparently the purpose of compassion is for the sake of a society. Exactly how compassion benefits anyone, much less a, "whole populace," is not explained, but it sounds good, doesn't it?

I ran across the following question during my research: "Don't you want nurses to be compassionate?" I was suddenly aware of the relevance to the whole question of compassion.

NO! I want any nurse who tends to me to be competent, knowledgable, and efficient. The nurse's "feelings" are absolutely worthless to me. The nurse may be dripping with compassion but if that nurse screws up my IV, I'm dead.

Your Feelings Don't Matter

With regard to principles, especially one's values, feelings do not matter. Principles, if they are right principles, are determined by reality and discovered by objective reason. Feelings are irrelevant to all principles of what is true and false, what is right and wrong, what is or is not important.

The problem is that most people do not know what feelings are. For example, one dictionary definition of sentiment is: "A thought, view, or attitude, especially one based mainly on emotion instead of reason." Dictionary definitions are often inaccurate, but this one is perfectly correct.

In my article on "Mind," I wrote at the end:

"Though our feelings are determined by the mind, and we are conscious of them, they are not part of the mind, and are non-cognitive; that is, they provide no information about anything beyond the feelings themselves. Decisions or choices influenced by feelings, which are not fully determined by reason, are irrational, and almost certain to be wrong."

I have already explained exactly what feelings are in my article,"Feelings." If you are not sure what feelings are, where they come from and why we have them, please read that article. Feelings can never be the basis of any objective principle or value.

In a much earlier article (around 2000), "Basic Ideas", I wrote a description of truth:

"By truth we mean that which correctly describes reality or any aspect of it.

"The following illustration demonstrates both the meaning of reality and truth.

"Suppose you are very thirsty and find a bottle containing a colorless, odorless liquid. The liquid in this bottle is either water or a deadly poison. If you choose to drink the liquid one of two things will occur, your thirst will be pleasantly quenched or you will suffer excruciating pain and die.

"Reality is what the liquid in the bottle actually is. Truth is whatever correctly describes that liquid. If the liquid is poison, only a statement that says the liquid in the bottle is poison is true. If you believe the liquid is water and drink it, if it is poison you will die. If you take a vote of everyone who has an opinion about what is in the bottle and they all say it is water, if you drink it and it is poison, you will die. If you feel very strongly that the liquid is water and drink it, if it is poison you will die.

"Truth is not determined by belief, consensus, or feelings. It is determined by reality. It is determined by what is so, no matter what anybody believes, feels, thinks, or knows. In this case, the truth is determined by what really is in the bottle and only a statement that correctly describes that is the truth."

I want to add this to that illustration. No one's compassion, or sympathy, or empathy, can change the fact of what is in the bottle. If some sentimental fool has compassion for you and empathizes with your excruciating thirst and emotionally declares, "its water," but in fact it is poison, you will die if you drink it, and all the compassionate fool's feelings will not save you.

What you need at that point is not compassion, but some ruthless and heartless individual who will tell you the brutal truth—and save your life.

Instead Of Virtue

Most of the people who promote themselves as empathetic and compassionate, consider their pathetic feelings to be some kind of virtue, a virtue that makes them superior to those who do not have the, "right kind of feelings." But their feelings are worth exactly nothing to anyone else, or even to themselves.

Nobody's compassion ever fed the starving, nobody's empathy every relieved the suffering of the sick, and nobody's sentiments ever provided a product or service of any real value to anyone.

Real virtue is difficult. Growing, transporting, and marketing food requires very hard work. Discovering and producing drugs, providing real medical services, and performing life-saving operations require the kind of discipline and acquired knowledge the sentimental have neither the will or ability to achieve. Those who produce and make the products and services that truly benefit human beings frequently have little feeling for those who benefit from their efforts. What they feel strongly about is their achievement and accomplishment, which is what any who benefits from their ruthless dedication to principle ought to really appreciate.

It is much easier to "feel" than to "do," and pat oneself on the back because one, "cares about others," while being absolutely worthless to themselves or anyone else.

You Can't Feel What Anyone Else Feels

The very ideas of compassion, empathy, and sympathy are sentimental nonsense. No one can feel "with" or "like" anyone else, or ever know what anyone else feels.

For the same reason no one can ever really know what you feel, because one's feelings are only available to one's own consciousness, you can never know what someone else feels. When someone describes their feelings to you it is your own feelings you must substitute for the words they use to describe them. It is the reason the medical profession recognizes no one can know what anyone else's pain actually feels like. The best they can do is to ask a patient to identify their own pain on a scale of one to ten—but there is no way to know if there is any relationship between one individual's pain described as five and any other individual's pain described as five.

Embracing The Unreal

No evil has ever been driven by correct reason. Every evil ever committed has been driven by emotion: one's feelings, one's passions, or one's desires. Frequently the process of reason is invoked to somehow justify one's emotionally driven behavior. The name for that misuse of reason is "rationalism."

Rationalism (rationalization) is actually irrationalism. Sentimentalism and emotionalism are irrational.

The problem with the irrational is that it evades reality:

—It ignores or evades consequences, especially long-term consequences. Choices and decisions based on or influenced by feelings are not based on careful consideration, but on impulse, or whim, with no regard to any broader ramifications.

—It almost always evades the actual reasons for or true nature of that which one's feelings are about. Whether it's about poverty, hunger, homelessness, or any other so-called, "unfortunate" human condition, why anyone is poor, hungry, or homeless is never asked. In reality, almost every misfortune human beings suffer is the consequence of their own choices and actions (or more likely, lack of action).

—It is almost always misplaced. One's feelings ought to reflect a mind and psychology that properly evaluates what is truly good and worthwhile and what is no good and worthless. Most peoples' sentiments are wasted on the ignorant, the indecent, the non-productive and those who fail to become and achieve anything of value while ignoring the virtues of the decent, productive, and successful, because the virtuous do not need the sympathies of the sentimental.

—It fails to recognize the source of all true benevolence. The truly benevolent are always ruthlessly unsentimental and realistic who actually accomplish something of value.

It doesn't matter what or how you feel or anyone else feels, the only thing that matters is reality. All the harm in this world comes from those who surrender their capacity to think and reason to their irrational feelings, passions, and desires.

The Dishonest Appeal

While I do not know why the appeal to feelings has suddenly seemed to flood the culture, I do know what the purpose of that appeal always is.

In our dealings with other human beings there is one moral principle: reason is the only moral from of human intercourse. This simply means that reason is the only moral means for us to communicate and deal with others. In most of our dealings with others it is taken for granted and the way we communicate with others or deal with them is always rational, even when we are simply enjoying each other.

In fact, the only time human beings interact irrationally toward one another is when there is some kind of disagreement, or when one individual is attempting to persuade some other individual or individuals. Even in the case of disagreement, reason is seldom abandoned, and then only when one individual resorts to force.

But force is not the only irrational means of dealing with others. The most common example of the irrational being used by one individual when dealing with another is when one individual is attempting to persuade others.

There is only one moral method of persuasion and that is by appealing to another's ability to think and reason. No matter what the objective, convincing a prospective customer to purchase your product or use your service, convincing another to take some action or abstain from that action, encouraging others to support your cause or view, the only moral way to convince someone else is to demonstrate by clear reason why your product or service is to their advantage, why the action or inaction you advocate is morally or practically right, or why your cause or view is objectively correct in a way that can be rationally understood.

Any other method is both deceptive and immoral. Any attempt to persuade someone with appeals to anything other than their ability to reason, such as appeals to feelings, emotions, sentiment, desires, fears, superstitions, gullibility, or ignorance, are appeals to the irrational. It is an attempt to bypass reason and to produce an emotional response, rather than an objective rational understanding.

These are the methods most employed by advertisers, religionists, various scam artists, advocates of political ideologies, promoters of various diet, health, and psychology fads, and a million other popular movements that have no objective rational basis. That which is objectively and rationally true does not have to be promoted by appeals to the irrational.

A Simple Test

No one encourages study and the acquisition of new knowledge more than I. I believe everyone ought to learn all they possibly can about as many things as they possibly can.

In one's quest for knowledge, however, one must be on guard against "false knowledge," because there is so much in this world presenting itself as knowledge which is nothing more than deception.

There is one test that can always be used to distinguish between what is true knowledge and false knowledge.

True knowledge is always based on reason, and can be understood using one's own ability to think objectively. False knowledge is universally based on, something other than reason, such as appealing to one's irrational fears and worries, or feelings for all life, or grand promises of some alternate medicine usually couched in scientific sounding jargon.

These days that something other is frequently some form of sentimentality, such as "compassion," or "sympathy," or "empathy," seldom directed at any particular thing or objective beyond promoting a "kinder gentler" world or attitude. Whatever you are studying, when you discover that it is defended on the basis of any of these deceptive concepts, you can be sure it is, "false knowledge."