Has “Think” Become a Four-Letter Word?

Sunni's picture

It’s starting to appear so to me, and that’s rather worrisome.

Okay, so the question might be a bit hyperbolic, because the evidence I have accrued is somewhat flimsy. It’s the pervasiveness of the evidence that leads me to wonder most, though.

I’m used to people differentiating between “I think” and “I feel” in their communications, e.g., “I think option A is the better choice for me” versus “I feel like having balsamic vinaigrette dressing on my salad”. For me, this distinction clearly captures a difference in cognitive activity involved: the former has required some amount of focused mental activity; and while the latter certainly does require some kind of mental activity as well, its character is quite different. Unless dietary, budgetary, or some other factor(s) come into play, one typically doesn’t reason through something like that. A preference comes to mind and unless something makes it unworkable, it’s chosen.

Lately it seems that “feel” has replaced “think” in constructions such as my first example above. I’ve encountered this even in formal writing and business writing (where one would reasonably expect word choice to be more fully considered). Perhaps it’s my linguistic hypersensitivity kicking in again, but I’m not inclined to think very highly of a company that allows something like “We feel that this merger is the best way forward for all involved” to stand in its copy. I conjure images of reading tea leaves or checking astrological charts, rather than analyzing budgets, revenue projections, and such.

Don’t get me wrong: I still think that feeling is a cognitive activity, and thus by definition is a type of thinking... even if I can’t articulate the distinction that I have in my head very well. All the same, I can’t help but wonder if there’s an insidious anti-intellectual tone underlying this shift in communication.

I think, you feel... ;)

I use this distinction in a naughty way. When I write I say "I think", but I say the statists "feel" or "believe"- implying that I don't think they think. And, often, I really don't think they do.

No question here

I've noticed an increase in this usage as well. Generally speaking, I don't think it is an accident or mere carelessness either. The "leaders" know exactly what they're about.

People have been increasingly conditioned to view everything from an emotional standpoint, rather than a rational evaluation of the facts. Emotionally driven people can be ruled easily by charismatic "leaders," whereas the rational mind is less likely to be misled.

The enviro-whacko, especially the AGW nonsense, is rather solid proof, as far as I'm concerned. Very few of them make any effort to deal honestly with solid facts, and spend all of their time using emotional blackmail and spouting personal opinion based on how they "feel" about it.

People who make decisions based purely - or even mostly - on emotion divorced from facts will not survive. Unfortunately, they may take a fair number of the rest of us with them.

So yes, when a columnist or blogger begins to pepper his sentences with how he/she "feels" about this and that, absent much recognition of the facts, I usually stop reading.


I agree 110% with Mama Liberrty in her comment.

The first exposure I had to the power of language was Orwell. With practice, it is easy to pick out motivations for specific wording in newscasts, publications, and propaganda. It can even be entertaining. I eventually had much fun watching the ham-fisted attempts at visual and verbal jujitsu of politcal ads. Buncha amateurs.


Murphy's Bye-Laws

I've Got That Thinking Feeling

Although I too used to carefully differentiate between 'think' and 'feel' in my speech, over time I've become much more loose in this respect. It could be that my mind is mush after so many decades of wading through the foggy intellectual landscape we live in. Alternatively, it could be that I've become so deeply integrated as a person that my feelings are completely consistent with my thoughts, with the result that it's hard to tell sometimes whether I think something or feel something or both at the same time. I prefer to consider it the latter, but it could be that I've succumbed to the ever-present dangers of self-deception...

Has “Think” Become a Four-Letter Word?

I take it as a good sign, as it seems the better label for a lot of what comes out of people's heads. A further advance would be getting people to start many of their sentences with “I parrot”.


That is so funny... but sadly accurate, too.

I believe

I do not hear "I feel" very often, but do hear "I believe".

"I think" is rare. Perhaps Skeptical Man is right. It is an improvement in that people are accurately stating what they are doing.

Now that we know this we have a starting point. The question is can we persuade some to start (or resume) thinking.

We can try.

I've never yet managed to convert someone from emotional to rational decision making... but I guess there's no reason not to try. :) I suspect you must have more patience with them than I do.

I'd have to argue that it IS rational thinking.

At least in the short term.

People in America have been conditioned to play the politics of victimhood. If you can trot out your assorted pains and grievances, why, the Great & Powerful State just MUST make it better. So you get the goodies.

And if your grievances and pains don't meet the threshold, or are politically incorrect in some way, why then you can redeem yourself by calling attention to the problems of someone else. Not quite as much political capital by being a Real Victim, but still more than it should be. Best part, you don't have to do anything to solve the problem.

Like it or not that is what culture has become.

I believe something different, as I think most of those here do. But it doesn't get us the goodies.

Words matter. Actions matter more. Good intentions don't.

If I said that to the average "progressive," they'd laugh in my face. The "system" has been twisted so much that one line sounds like nonsense.

"The goodies"

At least some of us don't want any of the "goodies." We don't want anything at someone else's expense. We only want to keep that which we own, produce, and purchase. And that ownership includes our lives and bodies, of course.

Amazing how many people simply can't understand or accept that simple concept.

Good observations

And good to see you online again!