The Lost Virtues of Logic and Emotional Control

Usually when I write, I have two objectives: to entertain and to educate. This is a warning to you, the reader, that this post contains neither of these. This is just my incoherent rambling on a topic that has long irked me.

Ancient Greece – The Origin of Logic

Socrates coined the term 'The unexamined life is not worth living'. Photo by Eric Gaba.

The great Greek and Roman thinkers are attributed with creating and perfecting two of the greatest inventions ever concieved: deductive logic and debate. Men and women had long fought amount them selves and argued with one another, but debate was the application of deductive logic to an argument. In this way, argument through the application of deductive logic became a tool for determining, definitively, who was right or wrong. In the case of obscurity of evidence, the discussion would turn to isolating those flaws and determining what must be done to prove a hypothesis. This was the very beginning of the scientific method.

This form of debate did not resemble the strict rule set of the scientific method, but it also bared almost no resemblance to modern forms of debate, such as the presidential debate during elections. The debates occurred in round table discussions, where a congregation of interested people each took turns discussing their theories on the idea, sharing evidence, and playing critic on the the evidence and ideas. Each person got their turn to let their voice be heard, and it was up to the audience to listen… or not.

In many ways, this early form of discussion and debate resembled a modern internet mailing list, forum, discussion board, or the comments section on this blog. Moderators were required then, like today, to keep the peace, maintain order, and work in the interest of facilitating discussion. Unlike what is experienced in modern technology however, it was critical that everyone who participated in these debates actively foster an attitude of emotional control.

It was only through the restriction of emotional outbursts and rigorous, logical argument that progress could be made and the right answer found. In Greek culture, to consistently have the right answer on a frequent basis made you an expert and ensured you a lofty place in Greek society. This was the beginning of philosophy, science, and mathematics. In modern, popular culture, I think it’s safe to say that this skill is not awarded the same level of status by society as it was in Greece. From my experience, this skill is infrequently fostered in young adults and is a skill that has fallen into disuse in the everyday life of most people.

Logic and Emotional Control In My Personal Life

Even though this skill has fallen into disuse, it is still rewarded and highly prized in certain circumstances. From my experience in business, executives and managers are considered good when they can consistently use logic to find solutions to problems, even in the face heightened emotions. Much of this comes from experience; both technical as well as emotional. All long term, successful businesses have a core of people who are dedicated to solving problems while exerting emotional control.

Again though, these virtues are not widespread. Concepts such as ‘job security’ and corporate hierarchy allow ambivalence and incompetence to flourish. The modern work environment is much more a social event than it is a place to conduct productive work and improve our society. Only in an assembly line, where people are required to repeat menial, robotic tasks is productivity awarded. But that is not the proper environment to apply logic or emotional control.

It is in our personal lives that emotional control is most needed and most highly rewarded. In looking back at the last several years I’ve spent in corporate america, the combination of incompetence and ambivalence I’ve experienced in my career has lead me down a very nihilistic path. I can truly understand why people become alcoholics and drug abusers; convinced that there is no escape from the ‘system’. It’s safe to say that the last few years have been the hardest of my life. That continuous effort to stay on the ‘responsible’ path has forced me to flex muscles of self discipline I never knew I had.

At the same time, this lifestyle was necessary. The world does not owe me anything. The reality is that any lifestyle requires assets and tools, none of which come free. I bore this lifestyle because without the money it provided, I could not have purchased and restored my boat or the other assets I have purchased to secure my future.

The forge of an unpleasant lifestyle has hardened my character. Over the last three years, I would come home very frustrated on a day to day basis. I had a perpetual feeling that I was a small cog lost in a vast machine. Instead of resigning in defeat, I channeled my anger into productive work in my personal life. Sometimes I would work on the boat, sometimes I would make improvements to my house, sometimes I would work on my website. I would maintain a calendar of milestones that needed to be achieved in order to move myself closer to self sufficiency. This calendar was guiding me to a point where I could live on the boat and minimize my need of money, without compromising my quality of life.

The result of my emotional control over the last several years are what will allow me to break free from my job next year and afford a life of frugal leisure. The technical skills I’ve fostered in myself and the expensive technical equipment I’ve purchased will drastically reduce my dependency on infrastructure and oil. All of my efforts have been dictated through carefull, logical planning. The energy that has fueled my progress was catalyzed from frustration through my conscious efforts at emotional control.

I realize that most people don’t have the technical expertise or money to do what I have done. But I don’t want to foster the illusion that it has been easy or effortless. I am proud of the effort that I have exerted over my life. My life has not been easy and years have not passed without regrets, but I chose it. I accept responsibility for my suffering.

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