“Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts” – Daniel Patrick Moynihan
In legal circles, a short acronym describes the art of legal thinking. It’s called IRAC. It’s short for Issues, Rule, Application, Conclusion. Lawyers use this “formula” to build a context for the characterization of a conclusion. When used, it runs something like this:
- The issue at hand is: Robbery.
- The rules regarding robbery are: it’s illegal and to prove “robbery” the following criteria must be satisfied….
- The application of the “rules” to facts would be… and
- Therefore, my conclusion is: this particular event was a “robbery”… under the rules of law.
(Just to be clear – I’m NOT a lawyer.) And, needless to say, most people do not think this way.
Even in legal circles, the presumed clarity is hardly clear. Just watch a few episodes of Law & Order and you know what I mean.
So why is this important? What does this way of thinking say about creative imagination and the variability of opinion?
We need to trust something. And, quite often, we don’t trust others (or even ourselves sometimes) – so the issue of trust is more central to our thinking than are facts (which, by themselves, do not give us much). A context is required. Facts are really just “opinions” that we trust in the context that we make up. That’s why IRAC and legal deduction is so interesting. It creates a “formula” used to substantiate an opinion… which lawyers trust. The “facts” are met within a context which allows them to speak.
But IRAC misses something. Is trust “the agreement” between facts and the context that holds them?
Why am I hesitating? It’s just that experience often over-rides thinking.
Imagine being slapped. The first rush of emotion overwhelms our thinking. We are more likely to trust experience and let go of thinking — especially when the going gets rough. I’m not saying that’s a virtue – only that it’s a clearly observed reality. And for better or worse, experience forms a basis for intuition – that sort of “thinking without thinking” which experince provides.
And that’s really where creative imagination comes into play. Creative Imagination is the ability to form and maintain the relationships we want. Creative Imagination creates the context which allows our “facts” to speak (or to speak out loud). Relationships set the context.
And most relationships originate from intuition – that “thinking without thinking” – that highly trained expert primed for making essential distinctions.
As Malcolm Gladwell says “The key to good decision-making is not knowledge. It is understanding.” We are swimming in the knowledge of “facts.” And we are desperately lacking in the understanding that allows facts to speak. Intuition is a highly trained reservoir of understanding. Only …. it may not be the same understanding which everyone else shares. This is why we have such a variability of opinion.
So to correct for that, we substantiate our intuition about relationships with thorough and rigorous social testing. That’s what IRAC is, that’s what the scientific method is, that’s what peer review and independent evaluations are all about.
So in answer to the question: “If experience is such a great teacher, why does everyone hold such different opinions?” We are all assuming different sets of relationships and we weigh those relationship creatively, based on degree to which they express us.
Not much of a surprise … Is it? Understanding comes from different perspectives, from intuition, from “thinking without thinking” and from the experience we depend on.
Does creative imagination lie? Well, I guess that depends on your opinion, … or the context that shapes your opinion, … or the relationships you make creatively with yourself. The stories we tell, or the games we play, these expressions make sense of our sympathies and resentments.
IRAC is NOT the way most people think. IRAC doesn’t start with how we feel or with the relationship that we judge to be important. Creative imagination does. It starts with whatever holds your trust right now.
“Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts.” How true. But the context which makes for “an opinion” OR “a fact” — that context just might NOT be something I trust. Resentment and sympathy win out.
Politics, truth, and coercion … they really are divisive (or sublime) … aren’t they?
Thanks for listening!