It Only Stands to Reason

It Only Stands to Reason

Reason is a good thing. In and of itself, it is something that you can’t find anything wrong with. But in the context of life, it is not a perfect guide and can even be used to mislead you. Here is what I mean. Consider the following example.

Mrs C was trying to convince everyone that someone else, Mr AR, was a racist. The conversation focused on reasoning. Mrs C pointed out that Mr AR had been wronged by groups of a certain race. The wrongs had been repeated on several fronts, personal and professional, and Mr AR has acknowledged the problem. Mrs C says, “It only stands to reason that Mr AR will hate those groups and be a racist towards them. Why can’t you see it? Are you afraid to believe it? Are you a coward?” This argument can be convincing to some. After all, everyone wants to be “reasonable.”

But Mr AR is NOT a racist. So, what is wrong here? It “stands to reason” that he is, but in fact he is not. How can we explain this? Several things could be said.

Reason does not always determine what we do in life; emotions can take over. A mother doesn’t stop loving a child because the child fails in some way. A child doesn’t stop caring for a parent even though they become old and irrational. A professional doesn’t give up a carefully chosen career because there are some bad colleagues in it. If someone tries to convince you that someone is a certain way or has done something – only because it makes sense – they could be very wrong. Emotions may dictate that something different happens.

Also, Mrs C was using reasoning to INFER a fact about AR. But inferring is not the same as direct observation. Also, even if something is directly observed, it may not mean what you think it means. Ruling out other explanations are important. Also, before you label someone with a behavior, it should be a repeated behavior.

We need to be careful when someone says, “It only stands to reason, so you should feel this way and act this way.” Maybe they are trying to recruit you for certain beliefs or activities. Standing to reason is not the only motivator in life. Our emotions contribute to what we believe and how we act. Human beings are sometimes emotional and not solely rational.

Of course, sometimes reason is assumed to be totally needed and accurate, as in science and engineering. But it does not direct our behavior in other areas and not all the time.