Why “upon reconsidering?”

I have been asked about the title of my blog. “Why ‘upon reconsidering?’”

Mostly, it is a reaction to the demand for instant, decide-now-and-forever-hold-your piece,” decision-making.   Partly, it is a matter of temperament – I tend to play handball off the back wall, and never really could get into tennis because of the frequent need to play close to the net.

I distrust fast decision-making (see Thinking Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman, and the vast array of books subsequent).

One, because it seems true that we don’t necessarily know the origin of a particular decision, whether my own or another’s. Believing as I do in informed consent, I can have no other attitude.

Two, because we know that much information pushed at us should be distrusted because it is poorly sourced or altogether inaccurate.

Three because I know from many years of facilitating group discussions and decision-making, that we are likely to benefit from second thought. (I conduct groups in circles. Contributions are made serially until we’ve been around the circle once. A second round is the opportunity to ask questions and clarify, and to consent to the accuracy of the record made on a flip chart, of what we said. No one gets to take over the meeting by arguing or criticizing another person {as opposed to an idea}. Two weeks later is the call-back. Everyone knows after a discussion that they may have misunderstood another’s remark; or can now think of a better way to express something.) Because we don’t really know what we think until we speak it¸ we are sometimes surprised by what we said. (I confess I do not know how this relates to the thinking of people who cannot speak or sign.) “I didn’t know I believed that; that I felt that way. I don’t know how I knew that.” These are our thoughts sometimes. Because I know this, I am skeptical of the predictions in chapter 7 of William Davies’ Nervous States: Democracy and the Decline of Reason, which discusses research in direct thought-to-thought communication

It takes time to come to terms with what we hadn’t known about ourselves. The call-back session is the opportunity to bring our newly-understood self to the group; to express ourselves better; perhaps to express a change of mind or heart; perhaps an opportunity to now agree with someone with whom we had disagreed two weeks earlier; perhaps to apologize for not understanding the first time. This is reconsidering.

Fourth, because, question or issue in hand, I know that I plan to take my time, find out more, look for reviews of books and articles, look for older in-depth history (contemporary history books have more to cover than those of a century ago, so if you want depth in a historical account, go back in time when there was less history to recount and more opportunity to discuss the writer’s times). See William Davies, particularly pp. 203 and 212.

Fifth, with time on my side, I am likelier to be able to discern, through literature search and thought, the biases of information supplied at the moment, and sift through why matters were recounted in a specific manner, gathering certain facts and opinions of certain people, but not others (see Leviathan and the Air-Pump: Hobbes, Boyle, and the Experimental Life¸ by Steven Shapin and Simon Schaffer: the experimenter chooses an audience who will agree in advance that certain results from an experiment would prove the experiment).

A story-teller myself, I am likelier to discern why the story was told. Every argument or discussion is a story: there is a reason for telling it, a message; some things are described and some not; the story is catered to the audience so they will understand what the teller wants them to understand, and come to the desired conclusion. No story is told just for the audience’s enjoyment. The teller wants them to enter the story with him or her and find his or her satisfactions in it, but also wants to learn what the listener finds satisfying, and what the listener hears in the story, and what is “missed.” You see how a discussion or an argument is telling a story.

Hence “reconsidering”: having resources and second thought on my side, and with time to understand my own biases – why I want to understand the story one way but not another, what in myself I must overcome to accept a new fact or thought –I can develop some confidence in my understanding of a matter, and give informed consent to it. And figure out what I wish to say about it to someone else.

It is all this that I lay before the reader, from whose own reconsidering I hope to benefit by way of your comment.