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Truely, Myths and Stories Care About Your Feelings!

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Truly, Myths and Stories Care About Your Feelings!

Once upon a time - 2015 - the conservative movement embraced a new catch-phrase - soon to become a meme - "facts don't care about your feelings!" Originating with the conservative commentator, Ben Shapiro, this was a response to his exasperation with campus leftists, SJWs, promoting a politics of feeling and victimization. Click Here Trans-women are not real women. Deal with it, snowflakes! The facts of biological sex say that you aren't a real woman, and facts don't care about your feelings of 'victimhood.'

However, there are now signs of conservatives abandoning this once dominant meme. In February of this year, another commentator, Lauren Southern, released a new video responding to Shapiro, 'Feelings don't care about your facts.' Click Here 50% of marriages fail. Does that mean we should no longer care about marriage? 60% of murders go unsolved. If it was 40%, would we take this as a license to become Jeffrey Dahmer? According to Southern and contrary to Shapiro, facts and statistics are not ultimately what anyone - besides highly rational and calculating sociopaths - really care about. Conservatives should recognize that the arts and humanities contain the key to motivating normal (non-sociopathic) humanity, not emotionally vapid appeals to scientifically verifiable facts and statistics.

Southern's rejection of the 'facts don't care about your feelings' meme is not limited to online conservative commentators lacking academic credentials. The Canadian psychology professor, Jordan Peterson, echoes Southern's defense of feeling before facts. Writing and speaking in often obscure academic prose, Peterson argues that feelings precede facts, and 'Thank God for that!' He distinguishes between the world as a 'place of things,' or rather facts, and as a 'forum for action.' Indeed, as expressed through 'ritual, drama, literature, and mythology,' the latter is a 'place of value, a place where all things have meaning.' Click Here

Peterson responds not to Shapiro's categorical denial of any relationship between facts and feelings, but instead Sam Harris's definition of truth. Consistent with Shapiro, Harris sees truth as consisting of a world of scientifically determinable facts, independent of our feelings. Click Here By contrast, Peterson argues phenomenologically this makes little to no sense. As the pioneer American psychologist William James once put it, the world presents us with a 'blooming buzzing confusion' of perceptual data. We cannot make sense of the world unless we interpret it.

Here myths and stories play an essential role for humanity by interpreting and giving meaning to the chaos of raw data. They express fundamental truths concerning how we should act in an otherwise senseless world of facts, ensuring our survival and flourishing as human beings. Unlike Southern, Peterson does not appeal generally to the value of arts and humanities over scientific facts and statistics. He instead appeals specifically to the Christian redemption myth. This story structures the experiences of those struggling for meaning in a fallen world of victimhood politics and SJWs. Conservatives experience this world as morally degenerate and emotionally unbearable, desiring respite from their suffering in it and a return to grace.

Does the redemption myth 'care' about their feelings? Yes, insofar as it enables them to make sense of their lives in the fallen state of spiritual chaos and confusion. Peterson appropriates this Christian story for conservatives savvy enough to grasp the moral vacuity of facts, absent interpretation through myths and stories. However, he also sees its generalizability beyond Christianity. As far as SJWs are concerned, racism and transphobia might just as well be framed as fall from grace into a condition experienced by its victims as morally degenerate and emotionally unbearable. After all, race is not a 'fact,' but a construct emerging in historical time to serve the vile purposes of white supremacy. Likewise, biological sex is deployed now less as a 'fact' than a construct to facilitate heteronormative attacks on the transgendered.

Conservatives no longer believe they can appeal to feelingless facts to dominate their SJW opponents. That was a forlorn belief from the get-go. Nevertheless, they have now put themselves in the position of competing for the most compelling version of essentially the same myth or story of redemption. Whether embraced by conservatives or SJWs, this myth is also 'true' in essentially the same way. The story is true, and true for both rival political camps, as long as it helps them make sense of a world fallen into unbearable moral degeneracy. However, Peterson's phenomenology of truth and meaning through story commits conservatives and SJWs to viewing one another as the agents of immorality responsible for the fall.

It is not that both camps are set adrift in a chaos of feelings without facts. Instead, the truths of how they differently appropriate myth to structure their feelings and make sense of the world commits them to an embittered contest over rival meaning. Independent of perceptual experience - and its many possible meanings in myth and story - facts cannot settle such a contest. The evolution from uncaring facts to myths structuring feelings results in a political contest, or rivalry, with no end in sight.

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Michael Allen is a professor of philosophy at East Tennessee State University. He has published extensively on various topics in political philosophy

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