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Thursday 17 Aug 2017 | 16:22 | SYDNEY
Thursday 17 Aug 2017 | 16:22 | SYDNEY

Reader riposte: The hardest words



26 May 2011 09:04

Kien Choong writes in response:

I tend to approach issues with a rational mindset — ie. there must be a single rational way to think about a matter. Something Amartya Sen wrote changed this for me (I hope!). In his recent book The Idea of Justice, Sen made two arguments for why a country should pay attention to the views of other countries. One reason being that our actions may affect others (and vice versa); the other reason being that an external perspective helps overcome parochialism which limits our own capacity to reach the right conclusions. Sen also made the point that parochialism is very hard to overcome.
The understanding that we are all parochial to some extent, and that our parochialism is self-limiting and hard to overcome (on our own), lets us to pay closer attention to what other people have to say. If we change our minds on something, it is simply because we are aware of the limits of good reasoning. 
Adam Smith's old fashion theory that our sentiments form the basis of our moral judgments seems helpful. If our judgments are influenced by our psychology, we can try to transcend our psychology through a combination of good reasoning and paying close attention to external view points. Knowing how difficult it is to transcend our psychology should motivate us to work harder to understand external points of view.
Acknowledging 'I was wrong' should not be hard. Overcoming parochialism is hard.

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