Friday, 2 January 2015

The Beauty of Being Wrong

Just a short entry today after witnessing one-too-many pointless 'saving face' back-and-forths: this for me really defines intellectual honesty, and shows whether one is really using their critical thinking abilities or just putting on a show of doing so.

We all shape our communication from the knowledge we have managed to accumulate until that point in the conversation where we have to use it. We all have varying degrees of trust in different points in knowledge: some may be empirical, some may be hearsay, but we don't really think much about this distinction when we are tapping it. A conversation should be a great occasion to test that knowledge, yet more often than not I see it used as an occasion to 'show' knowledge as a badge of stature, and any questioning of it is seen as an offense.

This is a sure sign that the person speaking has created an 'illusion' of themselves that they are presenting just as much to themselves as the person they are speaking to... almost a third person, some sort of mystical 'authority' that should be revered and defended without question. And this creation is also a result of wanting to cater to whatever (we think) another person 'wants' or 'needs'.

Yet we can't see into other minds, nor can we 'know' anything with absolute certainty. All we have to operate on is 'to the best of our knowledge', and if a conversation is to have any intellectual honesty, the knowledge of both/all parties should be open to (and even begging) questioning and testing. I guess this is what we'd call 'constructive conversation'.

If I am unsure about an element of knowledge I am using to make a point, this should show in my emotional display, and should be an invitation for someone other to provide a better solution if they have one. If a better solution is provided, it is not an offense - au contraire! If their point is valid and, better still, tested, they have actually increased my wealth of knowledge through their experience, making me a better person... what a gift!