Reason, Reasoning & Unreasonableness II
It’s been argued that one who wears his position on his sleeve, rather than hiding it by a cloak of clever, reasonable-sounding rhetorical deceit is more to be trusted, that open and guileless unreason is preferable to rational trickiness.
Well, maybe, but it’s not that simple.
It isn’t necessarily the case that someone with an extreme position or unreasonable stance will display it openly, nor are any discussions with him likely to be effective. Not all unreasonable types are guileless simpletons…In fact many are quite intelligent and indeed, quite tricksey.
I’d personally prefer dealing with reasonable people when at all possible, as I’ve enough logical literacy to pick out and identify most of the fallacies they might commit. But against a skilled bullshit artist, one may have to apply a bit of care to avoid being taken…
…and equating open unreason with trustworthiness is not the way to do this.
Let’s examine why, by examining hypothetical unreasonable people having a goodly amount of intelligence:
Firstly, the unreasonable are more likely to make unreasonable demands in negotiations or discussion, demands so unreasonable as to be difficult and costly, or impossible to meet even in principle.
Secondly, the unreasonable, in making any offers or claims, they are more likely to make ones that are too good to be true, and which cannot be fulfilled or be factually correct.
Neither of these things will be obvious, when done by canny extremists.
This is why any such offers and claims should make one instantly suspicious no matter who makes them. No authority is infallible, no matter how venerated or prestigious or amicable.
Thirdly, and finally, the unreasonable are more likely to hold an extreme position, one difficult to negotiate over or otherwise rationally discuss for any number of reasons, and if intelligent, they will know this, and be even more likely than a more reasonable sort to use flawed logic to cloak his unreasonable stance and make it seem less extreme than it really is.
This is typical in those cases where a rationally indefensible position is being advocated, and the advocate has a vested interest in convincing others, especially by masking his arguments and making them appear stronger than they really are.
Logical fallacies are the tools of unreason and first line of attack of the dishonest.
Given these assumptions, I’d much prefer discussing things with more rational types, as they are less likely to make unreasonable demands, make unreasonable claims and offers, or have a need to resort to clever-sounding fallacies to obfuscate their true intent and position, all other things being the same, including intelligence.
You can, after all, reason with them. Not so for unreasonable types, even when their extreme views are obvious. That just means that they’re more dangerous and disagreeable, not more trustworthy.
A reasonable individual would probably have a more defensible position, a more justifiable stance, and is thus likely to have a better command of good arguments, or at least more reason to use them, and less of an incentive to resort to clever rhetorical tricks to mislead the unwary about the quality of his arguments.
I understand the reluctance of people to trust who they may see as deceptively shrewd, reasonable-sounding-but-tricky people, and prefer the more open, seemingly guileless, simple folk as more trustworthy no matter the leanings of their stated position and attitudes, but this is a simple, and simply misleading false contrast.
People with extreme positions and views aren’t necessarily open about it — the intelligent ones often aren’t.
But it’s not their intelligence that should be mistrusted, it’s their extremism, which may be expressed as a dangerous, dogmatic ideology that lets them to deceive, defraud, kill, or otherwise harm others with a clear conscience.
The Nazi deathcamps, the Killing Fields of Cambodia (now Kampuchea, I think), the ethnic cleansings of Kosovo, religious wars throughout history, etc… are all classic examples of the things people are motivated to do when they are convinced of having absolute knowledge. That belief is itself an extreme view, and in the history of science and philosophy has shown to be a fruitless and failed pursuit.
I don’t distrust reasonableness or intelligence — these things in themselves are nothing to fear — instead, I’m wary of possible aggression, manipulativeness and general dishonesty from those with extreme views no matter their level of intelligence.
So extremism to me does not scream “TRUSTWORTHY!!,” open or not, instead it’s a warning sign to keep my distance and alert others that this individual may be dangerous in some way and is not to be trusted.
I value reasonableness as a virtue, and if you are afraid of someone who may feign that combined with deceit to scam you, it’s not the reason you have to look out for, it’s the deceit.
And that, mein fiends, requires a healthy dose of skepticism, not a knee-jerk rejection of rationality.
No one ever said not being fooled was easy, except those who then get fooled.
Posted on Saturday, 23:59, April 20, 2013, in Musings & Ponderings and tagged Fallacy, Informal Logic, Intelligence, Philosophy, Philosophy of Logic, Reason, Rhetoric. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.