Blog Post: Develop Your Ability to Be Reasonable

Linda Elder
Apr 16, 2021 • 154d ago
Develop Your Ability to Be Reasonable

{"ops":[{"insert":"A hallmark of the critical thinker is the disposition to change her or his mind when given a good reason to change. Good thinkers want to change their thinking when they discover better thinking. In other words, they can and want to be moved by reason.\n \nYet, comparatively few people are reasonable in the full sense of the word. Few are willing to change their minds once set. Few are willing to suspend their beliefs to hear the views of those with whom they disagree. This is true because the human mind is not naturally reasonable. Reasonability, if it is to develop in the mind to any significant degree, must be actively fostered in the mind by the mind.\n \nAlthough we routinely make inferences or come to conclusions, we don’t necessarily do so reasonably. Yet we typically see our conclusions as reasonable. We then want to stick to our conclusions without regard for their justification or plausibility. The mind typically decides whether to accept or reject a viewpoint or argument based on whether it already believes it. To put it another way, the mind is not naturally malleable. Rather, it is, by nature, rigid. People often shut out good reasons readily available to them. We often refuse to hear arguments that are perfectly reasonable (when those reasons contradict what we already believe).\n \nTo become more reasonable, open your mind to the possibility, at any given moment, that you might be wrong and another person might be right. Be willing to change your mind when the situation or evidence requires it. Recognize that you don’t lose anything by admitting you are wrong; rather, you gain in intellectual development.\n \n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"Be on the lookout for…"},{"insert":"\n \n…reasonable and unreasonable behaviors—yours and others’. Notice when you are unwilling to listen to the reasoned views of others, when you are unwilling to modify your views even when others present evidence or good reasoning that supports a better view. Carefully observe yourself. Can you be moved by reason? Are you open to the voice of reason in others? When you catch yourself being defensive, see whether you can break through your defensiveness to hear good reasons being presented. Identify times when you use language that makes you appear reasonable, even though your behavior proves otherwise.\n \nTry to figure out why you or others are being unreasonable. Do you have a selfish interest in not being open-minded? Do others have a selfish interest in not being open-minded?\n \n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"Strategies for becoming more reasonable:"},{"insert":"\n \n• Notice how seldom people admit they are wrong. Notice,instead, how often they hide their mistakes. Most people wouldrather lie than admit to being wrong. Decide that you do not\nwant to be such a person.\n \n• Say aloud, “I’m not perfect. I make mistakes. I’m often wrong.” See if you have the courage to admit this during a disagreement, “Of course, I may be wrong. You may be right.”\n \n• Practice saying in your own mind, “I may be wrong. I often am. I’m willing to change my mind when given good reasons.” Then look for opportunities to make changes in your thinking.\n \n• Ask yourself, “When was the last time I changed my mind because someone gave me better reasons for his or her views than I had for mine?” To what extent are you open to new ways of looking at things? To what extent can you objectively judge information that refutes what you already think?\n \n• Realize you are being unreasonable if:\n\t\na. You are unwilling to listen to someone’s reasons."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"b. You are irritated by reasons people give you (before thinking them through)."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"c. You become defensive during a discussion."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"\n• When you catch yourself being close-minded, analyze your thinking by completing the following statements in your journal (remember that the more details you write in your journal entries, the better able you will be to change your thinking in future similar situations):\na. I realize I was being close-minded in this situation because…"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"b. The thinking I was trying to hold onto is…"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"c. Thinking that is potentially better is…"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"d. This thinking is better because…"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" \nBe on the lookout for…\n…opportunities to show mercy to others, to display understanding, compassion, and forgiveness. Notice the extent to which others around you favor punishment and suffering as the proper response to “deviant” behavior. Notice the extent to which you do. As you read the news, notice that severe sentences often are meted out for “crimes” that injure no one except the perpetrator.\n \nAsk yourself how often punishment is extreme (in causing human suffering). Consider “three-strikes-and-you’re-out” legislation. Consider the practice of trying children as adults. Consider “adult crime, adult time” legislation (laws aimed at giving adult-length sentences to children convicted of serious crimes). Also familiarize yourself with the approach of other countries (for example, Finland) that successfully return criminals to socially meaningful lives as soon as possible, with a low rate of repeat offenders. Think of ways to deal with cultural deviance without extreme punishment and social vengeance.\n \n[This blog piece was adapted from "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"30 Days to Better Thinking and Better Living"},{"insert":" by Linda Elder and Richard Paul, 2013, Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, pp. 73-76].\n"}]}


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{"ops":[{"insert":"After reading this blog, it is obvious to me that reasonableness is a difficult skill and is a work in progress. Much of our egocentric and sociocentric thinking blocks us from reasoning well.\n\nIt appears that the trait of Intellectual Humility is necessary. To accept the situation, that we maybe wrong and are open to hear other arguments that we may be opposed to, to listen to other facts or logic that we have not considered, and change our minds if it makes more sense. A challenge for many of us. \n"}]}