Wherever we look, we find otherwise sane men and women making extraordinary efforts to avoid changing their minds. Of course many people are reluctant to be seen changing their minds, even though they may be willing to change then in private, seemingly on their own terms, – perhaps while reading a book.
Intellectual Honesty lets us stand outside ourselves and think in ways that others can, and should, find compelling. It rests on the understanding that wanting something to be true isn’t a reason to believe that it is true; rather it is a further cause to worry that we might be out of touch with reality in the first place. In this sense intellectual honesty makes real knowledge possible.
Our scientific, cultural, and moral progress is almost entirely the product of acts of persuasion. Therefore an inability, or refusal, to reason honestly is a social problem. Indeed, to defy the logical expectations of others, – to disregard the very standards of reasonableness that you demand of them, is a form of hostility. And when the stakes are high, it becomes an invitation to violence.
In fact we live in a perpetual choice between conversation and violence. Consequently few things are more important than a willingness to follow eveidence and argument wherever they lead. The ability to change our minds, even on important points, – especially on important points, – is the only basis for hope that the human causes of human misery can finally be overcome.
Neuroscientist, Author, Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality without Religion