Rafed English

Sophistry and Rationalisation

Compliance with the edicts of reason and conscience and submission to the demands of justice and equity are not simple tasks. Hence many persons who should comply with the call of conscience, submit to the judgements of sound reason in their encounter with moral, religious and scientific duties and in confronting facts and realities, and overlook some of their egoistic interests, are tormented by acceptance of responsibility and the prospect of loss. This anguish, which results from the absence of real faith and moral courage, makes them suppress their conscience in the adversities of life. Thereafter, in order to escape psychic pressures, they resort to some kind of lame justification and rationalisation. Obviously when someone takes resort in this improper approach several times, the activity of the intellect suffers and is weakened. The person gradually gets habituated to sophistry and moves away from correct logical thinking. Then it takes the form of a negative habit and in the course of time emerges as an enduring personal quality.

Another group of people, in order to escape responsibility and to avoid confessing their mistakes, try to shift the responsibility for various matters and in regard to certain crucial situations of life on to others by finding justifications in their own favour, seeking to close the issue by a one-sided judgement. This kind of improper judgements are not a result of negligence and absence of attention to the subtleties of an issue. Practically all deviant persons, the terrible character of whose acts is beyond any doubt, take resort in various kinds of justification and inadmissible rationalisation in order to explain and justify their inhuman acts.

Dale Carnegie writes:

I have had some interesting correspondence with Warden Lawes of Sing Sing on this subject, and he declares that "few of the criminals in Sing Sing regard themselves as bad men. They are just as human as you and I. So they rationalise, they explain. They can tell you why they had to crack a safe or be quick on the trigger finger. Most of them attempt by a form of reasoning, fallacious or logical, to justify their anti-social acts even to themselves, consequently stoutly maintaining that they should never have been imprisoned at all."

If Al Capone, "Two Gun" Crowley, Dutch Schulz, the desperate men behind prison walls, don't blame themselves for anything-what about the people with whom you and I come in contact? 20

At first every person has a feeling of guilt for having shelved the burden of responsibility or for violating moral and social norms. But the repetition of such mistakes and offences, by diminishing the feeling of the negative and vicious character of such acts, makes one accustomed to them. Thereafter, in all the crucial stages that follow, his psychic responses vis-à-vis the offence unconsciously lose their sensitivity and the person comes to have a perpetual feeling of immunity from inner anguish and torment.

The Noble Qur'an describes such wretched creatures who have lost their awake and sensitive intellect and conscience due to crime and the pursuit of selfish gain and have sunk so irretrievably in the slumber of neglect and the mire of decadence that nothing can make them think again properly and discern between good and evil, as being more astray and inferior than beasts:

They have hearts, but understand not with them; they have eyes, but perceive not with them they have ears, but they hear not with them. They are like cattle; nay, rather they are further astray. Those-they are the heedless. (7:179)


20. Carnegie, Dale, How to Win Friends (New York: Simon and Schustar Inc., 1937), p. 27.

Adapted from: "Ethics and Spiritual Growth" by: "Sayyid Mujtaba Musawi Lari"

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