Friday, September 24, 2010

Benign Inconsistency

An enjoyable discussion with the offspring about subjective POVs in Faulkner and the possibility of Truth harked back to those late-night dorm room b.s. sessions. So bear with me.

An argument recently about whether consistency is a virtue. In one's thinking and in arguments, I'm probably still more of a stickler than some. In behavior toward others, less so.

Consistency on behavior is tough because there are competing values, and the balance doesn't always tilt the same way. A staunch vegetarian, my mother has on rare occasions eaten meat or fish when dining out to avoid offending her host. I think she would say that there is a point beyond which sticking to one's principles becomes a form of selfishness.

It's only in intellectual matters that complete consistency is ever possible. If we shrug that off, how can we be clear-headed when allowing exceptions in behavior?


Tulkinghorn said...

The question "How can you possibly believe x and y at the same time?" is usually answerable this way: "It is possible because I do, and, by the way, I'm not interested in the "inconsistency": either in giving up x or y, or in providing an explanation."

At some point, I believe that arguments about inconsistencies are based on naive and simplistic assumptions about matters of intellect, taste, behavior, and belief.

David Chute said...

I was a little more polite. Didn't use the words that could be said to correspond to "naive" and "simplistic," such as "sloppy" and "lazy."

Tulkinghorn said...

All apologies, of course.

Unfortunately (and this is one of those matters of temperament that I don't feel inclined to defend any more than I defend my baldness..) my reaction when asked to defend 'inconsistent' beliefs is pretty well indicated by the harshness.

If I'm in a political discussion in which I'm told "Your guys do it too." I usually change the subject. Not what I'm interested in.

David Chute said...

It's an easy out, that's for sure.