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"A wise man once said nothing."

Updated: May 11, 2021

With charm and with wit, this line directs a piece of advice to its reader. It is quite easy to imagine such a circumstance in which a sentiment of this sort would be useful to embody. Particularly in those moments in which we feel we should just stay out of a conversation and say nothing at all. However, this quote might be pointing at more than just the occasion of saving face or preserving fresh air. It actually and quite honestly confronts what can be one of the largest blockades to learning and receiving education. That is, if we take this proverbial sentiment a little further, we could see that it might be suggesting that the wise should sequester the need to argue and abstain from obliging someone’s need to be convinced. I can hear a gasp of disbelief now, married with the question of why an able-bodied person would intentionally restrain themselves from the delightful opportunity to persuade someone.

It might also be presumed that the desire to be convinced of something is just a function of validating one's need for evidence. As we, of course, rationalize the truth of a matter based on pieces of evidence that support it. Though the need to be convinced can also shatter a person’s opportunity at grasping objectivity, as one might be more focused on bits of information that appeal to their personal rationale rather than all the other factors that remain relevant. This is one of the most important things one may learn through formal education. What is true might not be convincing. Nor does it need to be. Though at times, we rather have things appeal to our sense of rationale or imagination rather than reality. Much of political division is founded on this sort of fault. Where many may believe that political disputes are based on arguments against parties or policies, disputes are often based on differing opinions of what either side constitutes as valid evidence.

Here we have some great questions to pursue and some even greater answers to provide. What should be different about a person’s character after having been genuinely educated? For one, we’d hope to grow out of looking to satisfy our personal desire to be persuaded by evidence and begin to acknowledge every relevant piece of data instead, even if we do not find some aspects convincing. The benefits here are twofold. First, by avoiding persuasive bias, one will be able to gain an objective understanding of the situation in question. Secondly, one will also be able to see a situation from multiple perspectives, thereby positioning themselves and the relevant information in a hermeneutic. This means viewing a situation at different levels of analysis: be it personal, psychological, cultural, anthropological, etc. Managing persuasive bias on the micro or local level, as it pertains to analyzing situations and actions is one level, but the same remains for persuasive bias on a macro level.

Limiting one’s scope of knowledge only to matters that they find interesting, compelling, or persuasive can greatly limit one’s scope of understanding and is even a fault that characterizes certain disciplines in the education field. For instance, many scientific scholars will ignore religious studies because they do not believe in it, but other scholars will study it whether they believe in it or not, as they recognize that such a subject is an important part of world history and may even lend itself to elucidating a myriad of aspects related to human behavior, psychology, and storytelling.

In such a case, the scholars that remain more open and objective about which fields they acknowledge will inevitably have a larger scope and purview than those that limit their scope of study only to the fields that persuade them. While it may seem inevitable that our bent towards subjectivity will cause us to be narrowly focused and concentrated on appealing to our own rationale, the dilemmas of placating to our personal convictions can only lapse our scope of recognition if we let it. In such a case, before you attempt to say anything at all, might you ask yourself, are you convinced?

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