Critical Distance

Photo by Julio Gutierrez on Unsplash

Derek Rishmawy writes:

If you’ve spent much time discussing any ethical issue of great import, you know there are times when it’s appropriate to ask someone, “What if it was your kid? Would you still take this position? Or hold it this way?” as a way of personalizing and putting flesh on the dilemma under discussion. Nevertheless, there are corresponding moments where you need to ask, “Okay, what if it wasn’t your kid? Would you still look at it this way?” as a way of prodding folks to recognize the way their own personal commitments might be obscuring and biasing their view of the objective issues at hand. Which is to say, both personalization and abstraction, or depersonalization, have their place in the reasoning process.

He’s right. There are times when it is helpful to think about an issue up close. There are also times when it is helpful to examine a question only after stepping back. It is also helpful to remember that our judgment can be affected by being too close or too far away from a given problem.

When debating any important question, think about where you’re standing. Try to take stock of the problem from various angles and vantage points. Subjectivity is part of every evaluation you make. You’re an element in the equation, so make that a factor.

But a measure of objectivity can be established. Work toward that goal. After taking various perspectives into account, measure the whole by a clear set of criteria, and make a call. Offer a conviction. Take a position. Make an argument for it, humbly, and charitably, and as persuasively as you can.