Reasonableness, Stance & Credibility
A while back, I was at what was then the game-shop I went to on the weekends. I was chatting with a friend of mine who expressed a view I found somewhat disturbing, but not surprising from some in this country — that he found someone to be more credible and more trustworthy in making obviously unreasonable statements, and another worthy of suspicion for sounding more reasonable, because as he put it “you at least know where he (the unreasonable man) stands.”
Let’s unpack this and see what’s being said…
It indicates a distrust of rationality and reason itself as something untrustworthy because it’s easy to use clever argumentation to mislead and deceive. It seems to be saying that an openly irrational person is not hiding his stance beneath a cloak of deceit.
This ignores the difference between fallacious reasoning to deceive, and sound or cogent reasoning as a way to discover the truth, not hide it.
I’m reminded of Martin Luther’s argument warning that reason was deceptive, using reason itself to make his point, as ironic and logically inconsistent as that is…
Logical and rhetorical fallacies are the tools of rationalization and propaganda — you cannot support a false position using good reasoning and sound premises, nor can you reliably reach a sound position using bad logic and presuming facts not in evidence or out of context.
But it is itself fallacious to conflate bad reasoning with good, to reject both out of hand. Reason is fallible, and that’s why there are tests we can use to evaluate its soundness. That’s one reason that skeptics keep themselves up on logical fallacies as well as techniques of good reasoning as a means of reaching reliable conclusions.
I don’t know about you, but I find the more reasonable types more trustworthy, not less. Rationality not merely feigned implies a willingness to discuss disagreements, though false rationality is one reason why I find religious apologetics and ideologically-motivated denial of science (on both the left and the right) so unworthy of credibility.
Certainly, it’s a good idea to turn a skeptical eye to even reason and rationality, to better let us know when they’re being misused to our detriment, but all else being held the same, we need more reasonable people, not fewer. The less rational types are simply making their destructive attitudes more obvious, and more dangerous. It takes a reasonable man to have a reasonable stance.
That, and at least you can discuss things with reasonable people without getting shot or stabbed.
- Debunking the Theist’s Appeal to Authority Fallacy (scepticalprophet.wordpress.com)
- The “logical fallacy” poster… (leiterreports.typepad.com)
- Introduction to Logical Fallacies (Workshop Style) (trippleblue.wordpress.com)
- 9 Ways to Create an Unbeatable Argument (scepticalprophet.wordpress.com)