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I feel, therefore I am

Iván Sánchez, student of the Degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) of the School of Philosophy y Letras, presents his reflection on the tendency towards sentimentalism in society and the dangers it can entail.

Feelings seem to have become the protagonists in today's political decision-making. Thus, the demands of what should or should not be allowed in the public arena are based on whether something pleases or displeases me. As a consequence, it is sad to see that it is becoming more and more normal to hear that, because something displeases me (a certain sexual practice, the consumption of x substance or even a certain idea), it should be banned.

It needs to be emphasised that it is perfectly legitimate to dislike a certain sexual practice, substance use or idea. But what is not legitimate, under any circumstances, is to demand that something be banned on the pretext that it is distasteful to you or to a large number of people.

We must not forget that to demand that something be prohibited is nothing other than to order the law to prosecute anyone who is involved in it. Or to put it another way, to order that something be prohibited is, ultimately written request, to order that it be legitimate to use force and violence against it. In this case, it is the state, through the security forces, that uses it.

Therefore, if we do not see it as desirable that everyone should be able to use violence against anything that displeases them, neither should we accept that others should be required to use violence against anyone or anything that displeases them.

In addition, if any feeling of rejection, dislike or offence in any person were to be taken into account, the issue of practices, symbols, ideas or objects to be banned would be infinite. This is totally unfeasible, especially given that in many cases the threshold for this subject of feelings is unfortunately very low, especially in recent times.

If we were to accept that feelings were a legitimate basis for making political judgements, we would see that the system that derives from it is totally untenable. Knowing that, faced with the same thing (object, idea, practice...), two people can react and feel differently and even in opposite ways, it makes no sense to say that feelings should be used to decide what should or should not be allowed. If feelings are the criterion, then there is no criterion. For, in the face of a measure, whatever it may be, if A is pleased (and asks for approval) and B is displeased (and asks for disapproval), feelings cannot untangle the situation, since both positions are based on their respective feelings.

The same reasoning can be applied to groups. Assuming that the feelings of the majority should take precedence can lead to more than appalling results, since agreement with this criterion, any act, no matter how brutal, would be valid if the majority accepts it. At summary, trying to establish feelings as a criterion for ordering our societies is problematic, as it cannot resolve the cases of groups or individuals with different views and feelings about a topic.

Moreover, it has been shown that banning something on the basis of displeasure and offence is absurd and immoral. Absurd, because if we were to listen to everyone who is offended by something, we would have no choice but to ban absolutely everything. It is immoral because it would be arrogant to assert that anyone who offends me or causes me displeasure should be punished according to the arm of the law.

If we want to order our life together in a peaceful way that avoids the passionate war of "all against all" and tries to integrate the maximum number of people in a harmonious way, there is only one possible solution: we must abandon the path of passionate sentimentality and move towards a life governed by the acceptance of our differences. 

All this without forgetting the ability to understand each other through the use of our reason. Only in this way will we be able to overcome the great barrier that sentimentalism has imposed on our societies and find the right answers to the moral dilemmas that permeate our common life.



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