Intuition or reason?

A colleague and I enrolled in a continuing education class at Rice University called Democracy and Disagreement this semester as an extension of our work with the Center for Civic Engagement.  Part of what attracted me to it is Dr. Elizabeth Barre’s interdisciplinary approach, which encompasses other important fields such as psychology and biology.  One of the major themes we’ve been discussing is the debate over what is more likely to shape people’s opinions and behavior: intuition or reason (click here for a great article).  Some psychologists argue that it’s the former while philosophers refuse to abandon the latter.  This has me thinking about how my academic training influences my approach to teaching both political science (and history).  To me, the focus should always stay on the evidence, i.e. what we actually know as a result of conducting research using rigorous methods.  Making statements that are not supported by fact is irresponsible.  Like most people, I hold opinions on a variety of issues, but I think it’s imperative to examine different arguments and then weigh the evidence before making a decision or adopting a position.  This is what I tell my students.  Feelings have their place, but our credibility hangs in a balance if we’re inclined to just speak from the gut instead of exploring what the data tells us.

Click here and here for related posts that I’ve written.

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