You Should Be Able To Say Why You Believe What You Believe

Several times a day, usually every day, we state our beliefs about the world to other people. It could be small things like, “My work sucks/is awesome” or “Pewdiepie is the best YouTuber”, or perhaps bigger things like, “We should all have freedom of speech” or “I like/dislike what the current government is doing with X”. Whatever it is that you say you believe you should be able to say why you believe it.

Most of us agree that no matter what colour or sex you are you should be entitled to the same opportunities as others. Yes, we agree that this is good but why is it good? If you agree with this sentiment then you should be able to answer this question and give good reasons why. All views, beliefs or opinions about the world need reasons. In fact, this is why we have made so much social progress over the last 50+ years; we used reason to infer conclusions about the world. We came up with good reasons for why men and women should be paid equally, why we should have age limits on alcohol, why we shouldn’t hit our children and, if going back even further, why we should have democracy instead of monarchy or dictatorship. But it’s not just about having good reasons for our beliefs; it’s about being able to articulate those reasons and in a convincing manner as well.

Unfortunately we can, for the most part, get away with believing something even if we don’t have good reasons. If we believe what is mainstream or what the majority think is right then we don’t need to articulate good reasons because the person questioning our views would usually be a part of the minority. This makes it much easier for us to get away with sloppy thinking because at best we can step back into the majority and feel comfort knowing everyone agrees with us. At worst we can publicly shame the individual who disagrees with us by outing them on the Internet and even causing them to lose their jobs, friends or family.

Our natural state is not that of a person actively trying to find good reasons before believing something because this would be evolutionarily energy consuming. We naturally agree with the majority because if everyone thinks a certain fruit is poisonous then why risk it? We are inclined to protect ourselves and it’s easier to believe everyone else and stay safe. It takes a brave person to take a bite out of the fruit and risk his health. If they fail they may die painfully but if they succeed they may have a new food source that provides for them for some time. This is a reason, perhaps a good reason, to try the fruit and, simply put, the more or better reasons one can find then the better the idea is. The more or better reasons one can find against the idea then the worse the idea is.

Another issue is that the majority may believe completely different things depending on where you are. You’ll get different answers in Texas and in Sweden when asking about whether people should be allowed to own guns. Regardless of where we are, where we were brought up, what our religion is or isn’t and what race, sex, gender or sexual persuasion we are we should still have good reasons for what we believe. And we should be able to articulate those reasons; especially when having our ideas or opinions challenged.

Why should we use reason? Because reason provides us with justification for our beliefs, reason helps us base our beliefs on more then just our feelings and senses (which can also be a reason) and it can be tested against past and present facts and reasons to further refine or change what we believe if we come up with better or different reasons.

Why should we be able to articulate our reasons? Because if we want people to truly see things from our perspective, let alone convince them of our ideas, then we need to be able to explain our reasons simply and clearly. If someone told you the apocalypse was coming but they have no reason to support that idea, would you believe them? How about if they just yelled it in your face or said their holy book told them so? If someone doesn’t have good reasons for their beliefs would you believe them? And if we can’t articulate our reasons how can we expect anyone to understand us and take us seriously?

 

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