This is an observation that I’ve made before but would like to gather it into a single post.
One of the most curious accusations which I often receive is that I always think that I am right. I have no idea how to respond to such an “accusation” other than saying, of course I always think that I am right! Why else would I hold a belief or conviction other than upon the basis that it is right and think that it is so? Do you know of anyone who wilfully and deliberately hold beliefs which they think are wrong? Is there any other grounds for holding onto a conviction or propositions other than the fact that it is right and true?
So of course I always think that I am right. But this is not the same thing as saying that I think that I am always right. The two propositions are as different as night from day. The former is demanded by consistency, that at any point of time in our lives, we ensure that our beliefs are right and hold them upon the grounds that it is. The latter is sheer lunacy for anyone who isn’t infallible. We are not right all the time and we cannot think that we can possibly be right all the time, but we can at any point of time hold onto beliefs which we think are right.
Alastair Roberts in this comment on his blog makes a similar observation about writing in general. Given the exponential explosion of information and writings online, and the limits of our attention and time to process them, we necessarily must believe that not only are our writings true, but that it is intrinsically worthy to have a claim upon your limited time, and not only worthy, but worthier than other writings. And with that I leave you with his own words:
For my part, I am not apologetic about the fact that I strongly believe that I have something to say that is worth hearing and engaging with and which can contribute something important to several current conversations. Practically everyone who writes believes this and we should be prepared to own it. I also believe that I have more helpful and important things to say than many and perhaps most others, which is a potentially dangerous, but not necessarily inappropriate view to hold. The fact that I advocate and practice a form of discourse that is more exclusive and restrictive, anti-populist, and which implies that I believe that my writing is more entitled to people’s attention than that of many others is one of the reasons for the resistance.
While some might regard this as an instinctive sense of entitlement based upon privilege, I trust that it is primarily founded upon a careful assessment, in dialogue with the judgment of older and wiser persons, of the value of my words, a value dependent upon my training, knowledge, level of insight, control of my self and emotional reactions, the degree to which I am providing a distinct viewpoint from others, etc. The impression that not all voices in a conversation are equal and that your own is more important than most takes not a little nerve and self-confidence to hold and is vulnerable to many, many dangers. However, I believe that it is very important that certain people hold this belief and I will encourage it in some others. While in the past the value of a person’s voice would be assessed by a third party prior to publication, nowadays we often find ourselves in a much more complex situation, where we often publish ourselves and assert the importance of our own voices.
I firmly believe that the contemporary popular assumption of the equality of all voices is a bankrupt one and that we should be championing conversations where gifted, well-trained, and self-controlled persons serve as the advocates of positions and less qualified or gifted voices for those positions yield the floor to them, with discourse being more representative than purely democratic in character. For those of us who speak, we must often be prepared implicitly to assert the authority of our voices before any authority will be recognized. However, we must do so in a manner that follows from a sober weighing up in communication with the judgment of others of the relative importance of what we have to say, avoiding the pitfalls of both immodesty or excessive modesty. A path fraught with peril on all sides, but one we must take.