Thinking through or arguing for

I used to choose a position and argue for it tooth and nail. If I couldn’t convince someone else I was right, then eventually I would convince myself it was because there must be something wrong with the other person.

I think that was basically the mindset I still had when I started this blog. My earliest posts tried to make a case for things that I wanted people to believe.

That impulse is still not entirely gone from me. Perhaps it never can be.

But I think it has lessened considerably, and I think, furthermore, that that is a good thing.

When I was younger I was impressed by the figure of the champion of truth, who knows the right thing to argue for, and who can convince others to join the cause. I wanted to be that person. And since, happily, I figured I already knew what is right and true and good better than pretty much everybody else, all I needed was to figure out how to be persuasive.

I now think it’s much harder to know what’s right than most of us assume. Even when we do happen by accident to be right about something, we normally don’t know what makes it right and so we still can’t defend it competently when we’re challenged on it.

So my writing has generally taken on a much more humble and tentative cast in the last couple years, I think. Rather than speaking to persuade from a place of certainty, I’m exploring thoughts, and simultaneously questioning and exploring myself in the process.

It’s been much more helpful and valuable to myself. And given how few people I seemed able to persuade in my younger days, I might even be able to hope that this new approach could have a better chance of affecting people than the old one ever did.

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