On validity of emotions in arguments

  1. This came from a discussion with a friend two days ago. It was about the validity of emotion as an argument in a discussion. Obviously, arguments about how things make you feel are completely valid reasons for whether behavior or actions should be permitted or not. A lot of our moral fabric comes from banning behavior that causes distress, negative emotions. (And as a side question, it is worth asking whether the happiness gained from someone else’s misfortune is in-fact immoral, which we commonly use in our day-to-day jokes.) But we must be careful of the fact that few acts in this world generate a unanimous reaction of disgust and distress. For the most part, a large part of our acts are gray, generating different and sometimes contradictory responses in people. In that case, the validity of emotion as an argument comes into question because an equally persuasive account of an opposing emotion can be provided (eg murder in the case of self-defence). It is obviously problematic to state that no-one can do anything that makes anyone unhappy. Thus, the final arbiter of these rules/laws have to balance the amount of emotions being portrayed on both sides of the argument. But no one is perfect and media, culture influence the way we see the world, so mistakes are made. 
  2. Laws are restrictive. They state what you cannot do, which limits the amount of injury you can bring to anyone. We would like to think that laws are intemporally just but in fact they are not. Values of the society change and once considered perverse behavior may not seem so under a different light. Once things have been codified into law, repealing them is a lot more difficult than you would imagine. Law becomes a part of the culture. and informs actually a lot of the opinions we have of it. It requires an utterly convincing moral case of why the law in question is immoral or infringes upon inalienable rights guaranteed by some charter.
  3. Discussions on hypothetical situations can be devoid of emotion because it is as we claimed, hypothetical. On the other hand, discussions on past unjust acts evoke powerful emotions, and it would be cold blooded to disallow the portray of emotions in this case. So I sometimes wonder whether it is a net benefit/loss to the world when victims of a specific atrocity/calamitous event pass on, bringing with them emotions that one could say poison the progress being made or a powerful reminder on what things we need to never let happen again.


  1. After having been involved with a non-profit startup in this past year, I think I can finally come to understand a lot of the emotions that are associated with any mention of the idea to give up.
  2. Ultimately, it comes down to pride, the refusal to believe that anything you have put your mind and effort into should fail. It is a cry against the unfairness of the world, and the fall is farther and deeper the more successful it is before the fall.
  3. And it must be noted that ‘9 out of 10 startups fail‘ or something like ‘7 out of 10 startups fail’ if you believe the statistics are messed up. So with pretty good chance, the naysayers will be right despite your unwillingness, and self-doubt will accompany that. 
  4. But I think the most important attribute of an entrepreneur is in fact grit, not insight, Ideas are a dime a dozen. Insight can be wrong because the market can change. The most important thing is and always will be execution, which is hard, long, tedious and frustrating. Any challenge you face in the creation of a successful business will be more legitimate than the previous challenge in being a suitable explanation for why your startup didn’t workout over coffee with a friend who you haven’t seen in a long time. 
  5. IMO, there are two types of startups. Ones that are disruptive, that create new markets, and ones that eat on the value chain. A classic example of the later is ‘Walmart’, the ultimate manifestation of a grocery store, beating out all competition by razor-thin margins and volume,  You can say that the ability to eat on the value chain is innovative, which is true in a lot of cases for hardware, instead of lowering everyone’s wages or moving operations to China. But the ones that are disruptive, I’m thinking Uber right now, the ones that seriously threaten to destroy existing professions/industries, and go head to head with regulations, that takes some serious balls to follow through with. Because I’m sure everyone who has waiting for a taxi in the rain has asked the question, ‘I wish there was a reliable service to call a taxi and know that I was going to get one’ but how many of us have followed through. Hats off to these entrepreneurs. 
  6. But please don’t diminish the work of entrepreneurs. It requires a lot of courage to stand up in front a group of people and sell your idea and hear it getting thrown to the ground and stepped on by people with derisive comments who may be right but have no idea of the struggles it took to get there today. 

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