Thursday, February 14, 2008
A commenter on a God's Politics post recently made this comment that just absolutely floored me. It's interesting to know that such people actually exist - people who actually believe they are always right and aren't afraid to say so. This would be the exact opposite of epistemic humility, an inability to consider the possibility that one might be wrong.

I don't claim any "sophistication". Nor do my words. I make no nuanced or predicated arguments with complex backgrounds.

Rather, my arguments are simple, straightforward, and yes, I actually DO think and believe I am right.

I had one of those moments a good many years ago, when my father fouled up some statement so bad that everyone misunderstood him. We all argued briefly and finally it becamse clear what he meant and I restated what he had said using the proper terminology. My father flew into a rage "Can't you just let me be wrong?!" he bellowed in anger.

I said not a word, but every fiber of my soul screamed out " NOOOOOOO!!!!!". I NEVER AGAIN wanted to have been wrong.

I refuse to be wrong. I have transformed from a political and social liberal to a conservative, because I had to be fundamentally correct about things. One does not tranform thier thinking fundamentally by being closed minded. But one does not also gain anything by pretending to be only half-convinced of some truth's correctness. I have lost and regained my faith, the same is true.

And yes, I state unequivocally, I AM RIGHT ABOUT EVERYTHING. I set my life's mission to be RIGHT about everything of importance. If you disagree, feel free to try to prove me wrong. But please understand that I have a decade of online discussion with people who were convinced I was wrong on (insert favorite controversial topic here) and set about to educate me. I have seen all the arguments repeatedly.

Well, ok, I've seen a LOT of arguments repeatedly, but none are convincing, at least so far. I was once on the side of many of your political arguments, so don't accuse me of failing to understand them. Of c ourse, my assumptions of what you think can be wrong, too. I can't read minds. Again, enlighten me.

The biggest problem I have ever had was getting political liberals to state why they believe what they beleive. Far too few have set about challenging what they think, to change your mind if necesary, so that you could believe without doubt in the validity of what you hold as true. Few can tolerate being questioned, and few have enough of an open mind to stack thier best defense against another's.

I am the epitome of an open mind... Just one that has long ago seen the value or validity of various concepts and beliefs and isn't easily swayed. I am not offended by disagreement. Nor do I judge people for disagreeing. But long ago, I had to make judgements about the validity of many things, and trust that judgement after testing it repeatedly.
posted by Mike Clawson at 1:40 AM | Permalink |


At 2/14/2008 07:27:00 AM, Blogger PrincessMax

How sad. He's holding onto himself so tightly that no one else can get in. God comes in through the cracks he's holding together. So self-reliant. I wonder if he is lonely.

He very clearly illustrates why I don't engage with trolls on the internet. Although not necessarily a troll himself, like them he's only ever going to be convinced of anything by actual, personal, face-to-face experience of a new truth demonstrated by another person. But he keeps himself from that truth by staying on the internet.


At 2/14/2008 10:18:00 AM, Blogger bill h

a close friend, who is a secular person asked me about my beliefs, don't you question? I told him, I had lots of doubts and I granted that I could be wrong, but I believed strongly enough that I was basing my life on the belief that what I believed was true. My lack of certainty was I think strangely comforting and reassuring to him. A book that meant a lot to me was Taylor's Myth of Certainty. It's a fine book. I just don't relate to people who don't have some doubt.

I love the name of your blog. I think Paschal understood lack of certainty well.


At 2/14/2008 12:49:00 PM, Blogger Steven

The fact that he's entirely convinced that he thinks he's right all the time means it doesn't matter what proof you have, he will say it isn't good enough. You can't reason with such a person so don't even try to argue with them.

I sometimes have that mentality, that I'm right, so I'm prone to it. But I'm fighting that. I want to learn. You can't learn anything if you think you already know the answers.


At 2/15/2008 03:13:00 AM, Anonymous joshua case


A good friend of mine told me once, 'Never forget joshua, it is in the nature of a conservative mind to remain closed. All of its energy exists to preserve and conserve what it thinks it knows it right. It can not be changed by you. It needs its rightness.'

Unfortunately, I have found this to be true more than a few times. And I, have not seen this as hopeless, or as an opportunity to lash out on this person or that, but rather to just see it for what it is, and love the person, and invest my real energy elsewhere.

it is good to see that you have other like-minded people commenting here. people who you can invest your energy in. people who aren't scared to be wrong.

thanks for the space..


At 2/15/2008 10:55:00 AM, Anonymous Karl

Joshua, I think there's some truth in that comment about the nature of a conservative mind. At the same time, I think the guy Mike quotes in this post is more an example of dogmatism than he is an example of conservatism. *Maybe* more conservatives than liberals are dogmatic. Growing up around Fundamentalism I sure met people like the guy Mike interacted with here. But I've also interacted with plenty of dogmatic, closed minded people who drive around with "A mind is like a parachute..." bumper stickers on their cars. They are dogmatic about different things - but they equally have their minds made up that they are right about everything important and those who disagree with them are wrong.

Also, back to the comment about the nature of a conservative mind: if she is a fair-minded and intellectually honest conservative then once you have won her over (even though doing so may be difficult), you are likely to have made a long-term ally, one who won't be easily changing her mind and leaving you the next time the wind blows in a new ideological direction.

As a moderate independent with some "conservative mind" tendencies I kind of like G.K. Chesterton's quote:

"I am incurably convinced that the object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid." [GKC, Autobiography]


At 2/17/2008 08:56:00 AM, Anonymous joshua case


thanks for the thoughts. i do want to note though, by 'conservative' i wasn't necessarily meaning conservative. I think there are conservative types across the spectrum of belief and life.

I think, as you also seem to indicate, it is the posture of the person to change or new information or 'the other' that really speaks about who they are.

Or, as my wife recently reminded me, having an open mind is very different from having an empty mind. And one these is definitely better than the other;)



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