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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.

 

4 Comments

  1. The problem with reasonable people is that they are usually right. This is not what people want to hear.

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  2. I think sometimes people are wary of reason, because it seems the person is not being passionate or is not using their gut instinct and personal experience. For some reason, people seem to admire these things. I suspect that’s why advertising is so successful, it appeals to people’s emotions and to their personal experiences. But, as we know these are the tools used to persuade, as opposed to presenting undeniable facts.

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    • Yes, that seems to be why logical fallacies work so easily – taking advantage of the way our minds work in their default mode to bamboozle unsuspecting people.

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  3. ok you already know that i practice mindful speech, right? so recently someone accused me of being secretive therefore untrustworthy. he said that i must have something to hide because i won’t discuss my personal life. now, i don’t say anything behind a person’s back that i wouldn’t say to their face but i know full well that anything i share with him will be spread to others alongside a volley of opinions that he will never say to my face. but i’m the untrustworthy one! shah!

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2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] equating open unreason with trustworthiness is not the way to do […]

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  2. […] Reasoning & Unreasonableness II Here, I tie together some loose ends left by this post, and the first Reason, Reasoning, & […]

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