Room for Being Wrong

We all like to think of ourselves as being rational beings, unaffected by bias and holding opinions which are, majority of the times, always right.

During this, we fail to realize the fact that rationality, by itself, is nothing but subjective. If there’s nothing inherently objective and absolute, how can rationality be? To think that the choices we make, the opinions we form, and the decisions we take, all have to be right is based on a false assumption.

We often get into spontaneous arguments with friends, coworkers and family where we try our best to reaffirm our stance and how it’s the correct one. The arguments are based on subjective opinions, and in cases where a reference to some absolute facts is involved, people often end up believing what they’re thinking at the back of their minds are the apparent facts. This can happen without any true knowledge of the underlying facts.

For example, two persons debating which browser is the best. A Firefox fan can make up an argument that it’s the best browser since it’s installed on the most number of devices. It may or may not be true; but since that person is a hardcore user, they’d like to think of it as the most downloaded browser. In reality, Chrome, for example, may have more downloads. If the number of installs is the only criteria for being “the best”, shouldn’t Chrome be ahead, then?

This takes us to another challenge. When pointed out that our stance is factually incorrect, we often shift the argument. The basis of our previous argument no longer means anything.

In the example above, if the number of downloads is indeed the criteria for being the best, our stance turned out to be wrong and it’s Chrome which should be on top. How many will accept it and change opinion, if their assumption (read fact) was proven wrong?

Being self-critical can be good if we don’t judge others and don’t automatically put down the opinions of others. Embracing difference of opinion is excellent; the world can be a better place if we don’t always judge others as wrong and realize it’s down to having different perspectives.

I’ve just started reading the book Thinking, Fast and Slow, and it has me wondering: The understanding of how we think and make our choices is an interesting science, and being aware of it can help us in becoming more accepting of other’s views.

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Ehtisham Siddiqui

Blogger and a techie. WordPress, cricket and aviation freak. Love traveling!

7 thoughts on “Room for Being Wrong”

  1. Nice article, I would say that accepting that you are wrong can only improve your character and behavior.
    I can definitely recommend you that book! It will not let you down.

  2. Are you sure rationality is nearly as subjective as morality? I think it is more logical. On my very About page is have said that in certain objective issues (for example is education important), one opinion is actually correct and other is wrong. But, I really appreciate you talked about rationality!

    1. You make a good point. However, education is a very specific example, and if we consider the needs of this age, it’s necessary. “Morality is more logical” is a controversial statement because not all examples, like the one of education, would fit. What about dressing, for example? Prime example of morality and how it’s subjective, depends a lot on the local culture.

      1. Yes there are many things were rationality may not find a place, but many things where rationality is objective. Many such examples where people have strong opinions on both extreme ends but one end is right! 🙂

  3. Good points that you’ve mentioned here. Objectively speaking, given any topic – there is no clear ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. Especially in the Chrome v/s Firefox example that you’d mentioned. If Chrome looks better for one, Firefox should be a great fit for someone else. And if two people were to debate on the topic, one might win (because they obviously knew how to articulate themselves better!), but does that really mean that they are right?

    Long story short, like you rightly said, rationality is subjective. But rationality also means that one should keep an open mind, and should be open to new ideas and thoughts. For instance, going by the same example you quoted – Firefox v/s Chrome. Let’s say, I’m a die-hard Chrome fan – and someone puts before me some hard facts about how Chrome is memory intensive. Another person might even coax me into moving permanently to Firefox citing clear examples of Google tracking user data. If I were a true rational person, I would ideally weight the facts against my own thoughts and come up into conclusions.

    So, like you said – ‘an open mind’ is a subset of a truly rational person. 🙂

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