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How many times have we read, or heard it said, that women are more emotional and men are more rational? I conjecture that this idea is thousands of years old, and since it carries a pejorative connotation about women, we can deduce that it must have been created by men.
While I think that there is truth underlying the idea, I think that the idea, as stated, is false and that it is based on a misunderstanding of cognitive processes. I think that if we identify the relevant cognitive processes, we'll understand how men and women do tend to differ.
Here is what I have in mind.
There is an overall gender difference in cognitive preference: women tend to trust intuition more than men do, while men tend to trust explicit reasoning more than women do.
This gives rise to the classic kind of marriage conflict in which the husband challenges the wife on the basis of explicit reasoning, and the wife holds to her viewpoint in spite of the husband's challenges.
Another classic marriage situation is one in which a new person enters the couple's life. The wife is expected to be a better judge of the person's integrity and character on the basis of a woman's uncanny ability to make such judgments, as if she has a sixth sense.
We should keep in mind that although these classic examples illustrate an overall difference in cognitive preference between men and women, the difference is not absolute, across all situations because, of necessity, men use intuition pervasively, and women do use explicit reasoning.
Also note that by overall difference I refer to the frequency distribution for men vs. the frequency distribution for women. For example, when plotted, the frequency distribution for the height of men lies largely to the right of the frequency distribution for the height of women, but there is overlap because some women are taller than some men. Applying this example to cognitive preference, we replace the feature of height with the propensity to use explicit reasoning.
What does emotion have to do with this difference between men and woman?
Nothing. The association of emotion with this difference in cognitive preference is a fallacy that is reflected in use of the word feeling. The word feeling is used to refer both to intuition and to emotion, and this is a source of confusion. If someone says, "I feel that we should take the freeway," the word feel does not refer to emotion but to intuition.
Are women more emotional than men?
I think that once the concepts of emotion and intuition are accurately understood, there is no reason to believe that women are more emotional than men are.
There are differences between men and women in the expression of emotion, but I think that these differences are largely due to cultural norms.
For example, it is more acceptable for a man to express strong anger than for a woman to express strong anger. I think that part of the reason for this is that a man's lower voice and larger body enable him to express strong anger more effectively than a woman can.
As another example, at a memorial service for a person, it is more acceptable for a woman to cry publicly than it is for a man to cry publicly. In our culture, it is expected that a man will suppress the expression of sorrow sufficiently to prevent public crying, while it is acceptable if a woman does not.
At the meeting, I'll briefly present the foregoing ideas, then we'll discuss the differences between men and women in their cognitive preferences. I encourage everyone to think of specific examples to illustrate the points that they wish to make.
For the interested reader, I present the main facets of my theory of mind in the following meeting agenda:
How does our mind work?
They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
So is the attribution of beauty arbitrary? Is there anything objective about the attribution of beauty?
Beauty is attributed to a wide range of things. We attribute beauty to the appearance of nature and to the processes of nature. We attribute beauty to human performance and to human creations. We attribute beauty to human appearance. We attribute beauty to ideas, such as mathematical concepts, theoretical concepts, and solutions to problems.
What is meant in making such an attribution? Is there an underlying theme among these wide-ranging instances of attributing beauty?
In developing my comprehensive theory of human life, I solved this problem. The solution is not obvious, and it surprised me. I'll say it here because I think that it will surprise you too:
When we attribute beauty to something, we are praising skill in its creation or its performance.
Thus, when we attribute beauty to something, we are referring to some purpose in the thing, but our awareness of the purpose may be implicit rather than explicit.
It turns out that the attribution of good is the same as the attribution of beauty, but in lower degree.
In this meeting, I will define and explain the following concepts:
Then we'll discuss these ideas.
Although I had no practical application in mind when I developed the foregoing understanding of beauty, this understanding does teach us something of fundamental importance about beauty that can help us when we aspire to achieve beauty in anything that we create or that we do or that we work on, including our appearance. It also informs us why a woman should be cautious about how much to emphasize sexuality in her appearance.
In my book Why? In Pursuit of the Ultimate Answer (2008), I cover this topic on pages[masked]. In my book Why Human Life Makes Sense (2011, 2012), I present the parallel concepts of knowledge, skill, and wisdom in figure 2.3.
Do we have freewill? Yes, we do, but experimental science can’t determine this, and the proponents of freewill in the discipline of philosophy don't know how to reason about freewill in order to establish that we have freewill.
There are three steps to establishing that we have freewill.
A. Establish a theory of knowledge, clarifying the structure and function of knowledge.
B. Based on A, establish our intuitive notion of freewill.
C. Based on A, show that the challenges to freewill are false.
The challenges to freewill are these: determinism, chance, and scale reductionism.
Determinism is countered by proving that it is irrational, and this consists of three steps, as follows.
1. Prove that reality is continuous.
2. Based on 1, prove that knowledge of reality is, of logical necessity, probabilistic.
3. Based on 2, prove that reality is indeterministic.
In his famous uncertainty principle, Heisenberg proved a limited version of step 2, while my proof is simpler and more general.
Chance is trivially countered because it is just another name for indeterminism.
Scale reductionism means that a model of large-scale behavior can be reduced to a model of small-scale behavior. For example, a model of the commercial and political activities of the human race can be reduced to a model of the behavior of molecules. Scale reductionism is intuitively false, and there is no example in which it holds. A proof in formal logic remains to be developed to complete this step.
I call the alternative to scale reductionism, scale extensionism for the sake of parallel terminology. Under this model, rather than reducing a large-scale model to a small-scale model, as in scale reductionism, what we do is extend the small-scale model to cover large-scale behavior, and we base the extension on observations of large-scale behavior. Alternatively, we can say that we extend the large-scale model to cover small-scale behavior. This is the way that we develop knowledge in real life, namely, through extension, not reduction.
Regarding the untenability of scale reductionism, the closest idea to this result in the literature is that of emergence. However, the idea of emergence suffers from the fallacy that matter/reality can be understood in bottom-up terms, that is, in terms of the construction of large-scale objects from small-scale objects. My theory of knowledge clarifies that this is not how we should understand the structure of matter/reality.
I present the foregoing proofs in Why Human Life Makes Sense (2011, 2012) in chapter 6 on indeterminism and in chapter 7 on personal responsibility.
I present more detailed info in Why? In Pursuit of the Ultimate Answer (2008). The proof of indeterminism is presented on p. [masked], and these pages refer to earlier passages that present more detailed content. The proof of personal responsibility is presented on p. [masked], and these pages, in turn, refer to earlier passages that present more detailed content. Related concepts appear as follows: mind vs. body, p. [masked]; other minds, p. [masked]; the probabilistic nature of ethical behavior, p. 251/4-5.
In this meeting, I will present the foregoing proof of freewill, and we will discuss the main points as I present them.
Following that, I will present a model of the mind, explaining how decision-making works as a continuous flow of propensities based on predicting the future. The automatic processing performed by our mind/brain is essential for skillful behavior, and our mind/brain develops these automatic capabilities over time under the direction of our conscious volition. To illustrate, when we learn any skill, such as playing the guitar, we consciously concentrate on the movements of our fingers. We practice until the movements become automatic and can be executed at will as a coherent, automatic skill. Following this theme, unconscious, automatic brain activity leading up to a conscious decision is essential for skillful behavior. Ultimate control resides in our conscious volition for deciding to go with one flow of propensity or another.
I present this model of the mind in Why Human Life Makes Sense, Edition 2, chapter 8.
In conclusion, consistent with our intuition about our minds and our behavior, we do, in fact, have freewill: we are responsible for our decisions, though the degree of responsibility is graded, depending on the condition of our body and the situation. In addition, a competent model of the mind/brain is completely consistent with this understanding of freewill. Put simply, our everyday intuition about human nature is correct.
Both theists and atheists agree that human life does not make sense because of the possibility of suffering and death. Both theists and atheists agree that human life, as it is currently structured, was not intended by a beneficent God. Theists blame the problem on created free agents, such as Adam and Eve, while atheists claim that there is no God. Eastern religions agree that earthly life is deficient, a lower form of existence to escape from. Complementing this scenario, existentialists assert that there is no meaning inherent in human life.
In this meeting, we will discuss these issues, and in the context of this discussion, I will present results from my comprehensive theory of human life. The results are as follows.
We observe from personal experience that the exertion of effort is necessary for meaning. But the feature of effort, or willpower, implies a system of energy transformation, and this, in turn, implies the possibility of suffering and death. Hence, if life were created by a beneficent God, it would be subject to the possibility of suffering and death. Complementing this insight, we will see that there is meaning inherent in human life — in fact, the only possible meaning that could be provided for a race of intelligent free agents.