Monday, March 17, 2014

Reasoning vs Justification

Would you rather be an honest and fair person and have the world believe you're deceitful,
or be a liar and a douchebag
and have the world think you're Gandhi?

It is Plato's prerogative to prove that our minds are perfect think tanks and that all our actions and morales are based on logical and rational reasoning meant to find the truth which, as he says, is the truest sense of happiness. Now, what Plato says sounds good and all because he's a very persuasive debater, but how true are his arguments?
Plato's is the idea of what humanity should be, rather than what it is. Our own sentience and natural programming make it nearly impossible to be unbiased and fair throughout life.

Our minds are less equipped for reasoning than they are for justification. While reasoning takes sheer
strength of will to find out the truth and reach a moral standpoint, justification works in reverse. You decide the moral standpoint and your position before you even start thinking about why you chose it.
 A lot of research has been done in this field by the likes of  Jonathan Haidt and Howard Margolis. It says that when in contact with an opinion, we instantaneously decide if we're for or against.

When you flat out say 'you're wrong' to a person, you've already defeated the purpose of the discussion even
before it started. The person's mind perceives it as a confrontation and immediately tries to defend his own resolution. The person's reason goes not to look for truth, but to justify what he's already decided. Their whole being senses you as a threat to the perfect conclusion they have 'unbiasedly' arrived at.

In reality, what we say is inscrutable truth is actually quite malleable. Reason is largely a tool to justify our intuitions & beliefs held by groups we wish to be a part of. Reputation is more important as a whole to humans rather than seeking precise truth. We form our opinions in a subjective way depending on the circumstances, emotional quotient, and authoritative value of the person in question. We have evolved to become impeccably adept at justifying our flawed reasoning and intuitions.

This is the reason people argue even when they know they are wrong, why we carve out a version of ourselves that we project to other people, why we forgive celebrities easily. Evolutionary advantages of being fair and honest are quite less than the advantages of seeming honest and fair while actually being
dishonest and deceitful. This is how we can rationalize the silliest arguments and beliefs when they otherwise are plain wrong.

It is eliminating this subjectiveness of the human behaviour as a race, the bending of truth and logic to serve our needs that will help us find our reality. Until then, the truth is as flexible and inconsistent as our own minds.
But rationalization doesn't need to be a manipulative force, it can be a good politician trying to wade through the trench of baseless instincts and deliver us to the truth that is objective and concrete.

People are fluid. 'Truth' is made by people. Truth is fluid.

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