Wednesday, October 13, 2004

The Side of Reason

I was thinking about something-or-other while on the way to a haircut today, and suddenly had the thought (which I've had before, but which struck me with particular force this time): It's not being right that puts you on the side of Reason; it's being reasonable. I wish people would more generally assimilate their practice to this dictum; especially if they're certain they're right.

For my part, I'm usually less interested in whether someone's right than in whether they, in their particular circumstances, are being reasonable; it's one reason I'm good at this whole philosophy thing, particularly history of philosophy. Of course, the eventual goal of all this is to get to the right answer; so I sometimes worry that I'm too concerned about whether people are being reasonable, and not concerned enough about whether they are right. But I am very certain that we are too often inclined to conflate 'I'm right' with 'I'm reasonable', when in fact neither implies the other. Being reasonable does not guarantee you are right; and being right does not guarantee you are reasonable. (There are, I think, lots of people in the world who are unreasonable in the way they hold and communicate correct conclusions!) Being right and being reasonable are both things for which everyone has to work; and they both, distinctly, require that effort.

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