The perils of reasonablism April 27, 2013Posted by Ezra Resnick in Reason.
I’ll be the first to admit that reason can be a useful tool: logical thinking and honest evaluation of real-world evidence may come in handy if you want to cure disease, or build an airplane, or solve a crime. But some people just can’t stop there: they arrogantly insist that everything in life ought to be approached in a reasonable manner! As extreme and fundamentalist as it sounds, I have actually met those who will claim (with a straight face) that it’s impossible to be too reasonable.
It saddens me to see people whose worldview is so narrow and closed-minded. What kind of world would we live in, if everyone were constantly expected to provide good reasons for their beliefs and reasonable justification for their actions? If everything were open for discussion and reevaluation based on evidence and argument? The reasonablists need to understand that some people are deeply attached to so-called “non-reasonable” beliefs, and they might become offended or angry if forced to question those beliefs. And whose fault would that be?
Anyway, how come the militant reasonablists get to define what’s reasonable? They may proclaim the value of logical consistency and intellectual honesty, but that’s just their opinion. Others are free to define “reasonable” however they want: following tradition, obeying an authority, wishful thinking — who are we to judge? The reasonablists’ insistence on being undogmatic is just another dogma; their rejection of blind faith is itself a form of blind faith.
It seems to me that the reasonablists should learn a little humility. After all, just because logical, evidence-based thinking has proved immensely successful at understanding how our world works, doesn’t mean we should rely on it when deciding how to live our lives and build our societies. And just because your conclusions are supported by “evidence” and “logic” doesn’t mean I have to accept them.