The worst misconception about reason and rationality

See here for the Finnish version.

Logic is infallible in principle, and reason is generally the best means for figuring out how things are as well as how to act. However, if you take these ideas as assumptions, you need to be careful. People constantly seem to think that since reason is the most reliable way of reaching the truth, they can’t be wrong when employing it. That if you have reasoned out something, there is no point in listening to any further objections or considering whether you are really right.

However, this is not rational. It’s naïve to assume that you can just see what’s reasonable just like that and never be wrong. Situations may be much more complicated than how a person imagines them — and they usually are, which means that the person will often need to alter their original view of the situation and especially the practical solutions based on it. Thoughts supposedly based on pure reason may in fact depend on assumptions that are taken for granted but are really only baseless biases of the individual or the society — and this applies to anyone.

Science, and its reliability, are also based on the idea that all notions can in principle be tested and altered.

Being rational doesn’t mean that you reason things out “perfectly” in one go and then refuse to change your mind. Instead, that is called arrogance. One must change one’s mind if (and only if) they encounter a sufficiently good reason to do so.

(The message of this article is much the same as that of the earlier one “The Only Way to Be Right, and the Only Way to Be Rational”, but this time I want to emphasize the point that rationality involves a process of evolution of the correct answer.)


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