Christian Living

Argue Rationally and Take Responsibility for Your Arguments

Author Amy K. Hall Published on 05/24/2016

In a New York Times op-ed titled “Stop Saying ‘I Feel Like,’” Molly Worthen says we need to pay attention to a recent evolution in language. In the last decade, people have begun to preface their claims with “I feel like.” And, she says, “[M]ake no mistake: ‘I feel like’ is not a harmless tic.” She argues that our shift towards couching our claims as subjective opinions reflects, and will increase, our inability to engage in “civilized conflict.”

Natasha Pangarkar, a senior at Williams College, hears “‘I feel like,’ in the classroom on a daily basis,” she said. “When you use the phrase ‘I feel like,’ it gives you an out. You’re not stating a fact so much as giving an opinion,” she told me. “It’s an effort to make our ideas more palatable to the other person.” ...

This linguistic hedging is particularly common at universities, where calls for trigger warnings and safe spaces may have eroded students’ inclination to assert or argue. It is safer to merely “feel.” ...

Yet here is the paradox: “I feel like” masquerades as a humble conversational offering, an invitation to share your feelings, too—but the phrase is an absolutist trump card. It halts argument in its tracks.

When people cite feelings or personal experience, “you can’t really refute them with logic, because that would imply they didn’t have that experience, or their experience is less valid,” Ms. Chai told me.

“It’s a way of deflecting, avoiding full engagement with another person or group,” Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn, a historian at Syracuse University, said, “because it puts a shield up immediately. You cannot disagree.”

Democracy is premised on civilized conflict. The greatest advance of the modern age has been our ability to argue about society’s most pressing questions without resorting to physical violence (most of the time). Yet the growing tyranny of feelings in the way Americans talk—about everything from how to fund public education to which presidential candidate to support—exerts a subtler kind of coercion on the public sphere....

We should not “feel like.” We should argue rationally, feel deeply and take full responsibility for our interaction with the world.

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