Why care about consistency?

  1. Inconsistency in our opponents’ reasoning is cognitively salient to us. This is the so-called “argumentative theory of reasoning” developed by Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber. Mercier and Sperber argue that human beings evolved a capacity for reasoning in order to win arguments rather than to acquire true beliefs about the world.
  2. Inconsistency and hypocrisy do not require the critic to assert a controversial position or make controversial criticisms of their opponent’s position. This makes it attractive for political competitors wishing to minimize their own exposure while criticizing their opponents.
  3. Inconsistency in the form of “double standards” can reflect unfair treatment of different people under the same procedure. Americans in particular are attentive to procedural unfairness. I suspect this reflects, in part, the adversarial nature of the American legal system and the role of procedural fairness in our notions of legal justice.

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Nick Geiser

Nick Geiser

Political theory PhD. I write about politics and (social) science.