No Performative Reservations

People engaged in critical discussion often interpret a lack of reservations as a feeling of certainty. A man who expresses his theories and arguments clearly, without performative reservation, may be viewed as arrogant, or as believing that he “has it all figured out” and could not possibly be mistaken. But performative reservations fulfill no substantive function within a critical discussion of theories and arguments, though they may well obfuscate the discussion by shifting its focus away from the theories and arguments and onto the reservations themselves. So, any discussants, in order to improve their understanding of the theories and arguments being discussed, should express those theories and arguments as clearly and concisely as they can, without performative reservations that may obfuscate the discussion. The mistake of interpreting a lack of reservations as a feeling of certainty flows from the even deeper mistake of identifying one’s “sense of self” with one’s current theories—a notion which contradicts the familiar psychological fact that in general one’s sense of self persists, even during periods throughout which one’s explicit theories are frequently, and indeed radically, changing.

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