We all know at least one person who has a reason for everything that happens to them – good or bad. I am guilty of being one among them. I love to constantly justify my actions. I feel like it is a sign of great intellect to be able to justify your argument with ease. “Why do you always want to be right?” is something I am constantly asked. But it didn’t make sense to me until I came across something.
Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber totally fucked it up for me the day when they wrote this book called “Enigma of Reason”. In this book, they try to make a compelling argument that reason is not an individual tool, but a social one. I have a feeling it was Hugo who came up with this.
I have always thought of reasoning as the use of logic in a conversation. Here it is used in a very different context. A man is considered reasonable only when the majority agree with him. The president is considered a reasonable man when he takes a decision where the majority think the same is true. Even I (with all my arrogance) would only consider a person reasonable, if I agree with him in some regard.
This also throws away the fact that having a reason doesn’t make something absolutely correct. So, reasoning has to do more with cooperating and coexisting more than bringing about the individuality in a person.
And it does not always need to be the majority. It can also be whoever has more power to decide what is right. You are not reasonable if you are simply right. Even when a scientist comes up with some idea which might be absolutely true — It is only considered right after a particular group of his peers & superiors agree with it.
My dear friend — ‘Because’
I love using ‘because’ constantly, even if people don’t ask. It saves me from feeling guilty. For example, if I am late to the office and even if no one asks me why I am late, I like to share the reason with at least one of my colleagues. It is stupid considering whatever I say after because is generally a lie. I never tell my colleagues “I came late because I was partying till late in the morning and snoozed my alarm 20 times before deciding to come”. I like to say something more reasonable like “I came in late because my roof started leaking in the middle of the night and I had to get it fixed”
Sometimes we are forced to explain things that are simply unavoidable. For example, when
my wife comes to me and asks: “Why do you love me?”,
Me: “I simply do.”
She asks again: “But why?”
Me: “I just feel it”
Her face expression changes and she asks: “There should be a reason. Why can’t you tell me?”
Me: “I love you because of …..” ( I will go on and on until I see her eyes light up)
There are places where you need to reason with someone. But sometimes reason is just you justifying yourself for getting accepted. In the end of the day we are social animals. We have an inbuilt mechanism that needs acceptance. We like to give meaning to everything we do. But remember that it is just something we evolved to do in order to live together as a species and nothing else.
Next time you try to win an argument with your ‘unique’ reasons, take a step back and be open minded.