Insistence itself is in the wrong

Your insistence begets your interlocutor’s (my) resistance, acquiescence, or consternation. You believe that P must be the right way of proceeding or Q is the right picture of the world and that we should act based on P or Q. And I react to your forceful, impactful words either by fighting against them (resistance), by giving in too easily yet against my will (acquiescence), or by displaying my alarmed confusion (consternation).

It is possible, of course, that you are right about what you say, but insistence itself is always in the wrong.

Defining insistence

A first go at a definition of insistence:

  • Insistence is the firmly held conviction that the relevant agents would be best off were they to act based on
    • (i) the belief that P is the right (or best) way to do things or
    • (ii) the belief that Q is the right (best, most accurate, most coherent, etc.) view of the world.

‘No one is so wrong as the man who knows all the answers’ (Merton)

Thomas Merton summarizes the teachings of Zhuang Zhou (Chuang Tzu) so beautifully: ‘No one is so wrong as the man who knows all the answers.’ This is from The Way of Chuang Tzu.

How wrong: wrong in a moral sense? Perhaps. But primarily wrong in an epistemic sense as in incorrect or mistaken, in error. Whence: ‘No one is so mistaken as the man who knows all the answers.’ But how could this be? Isn’t he precisely the one who is most right, never mistaken?

Oh but this man, the know-all-the-answers man, has never acquainted himself with what is beyond the answer to this or that. The Dao. Therefore, he is folly, an unperturbed insistence, a disputation.

Zhuang Zhou: ‘Better to abandon disputation and seek the true light [of direct intuition]!’