Have you ever had anyone say this? Maybe you’ve said it yourself. Two people are in a disagreement, and one of them gets sick of the discussion and blurts out “You always think you’re right!”
Never mind the fact that if somebody says this, it’s likely that they’ve had a few disagreements with you in the past and always thought that they were right. There’s something more important than hypocrisy here. People who say this must surely think that they are accusing the other person of thinking or acting in a way that they ought not. You’re somehow arrogant if you always think that you’re right. But think about what they’re saying. How might you deny this accusation? There’s really only one way to deny it, namely by saying: “No, that’s not true. Sometimes I believe and say things that I myself think are wrong.” But who does this? You would deserve a pretty strange look if this was your reply. This is just a confusion of language, because to “think” something is to believe it – that is, to believe that it’s true. When I say, “that was a really bad thing to do,” and someone asks me “do you think so?” they are being rhetorical. Of course I think so, because that’s what it is to believe something – to think that it is so. This is not arrogance. It is sanity.
Every time you think that something is true, you think that you’re right. Otherwise you’re a living contradiction. You think something is the case and you don’t think that it’s the case. Now, it’s possible that when someone says “You always think you’re right,” what they really want to say is “you never listen.” But if that’s what they mean, then that’s what they should say, instead of something crazy. Maybe if you listened, you would change your mind and form a new belief. But you’d still think you were right (unless you thought that your new belief was false, which would, again, be insane).
There’s a difference, of course, between always thinking that you are right on the one hand, and thinking that you’re always right on the other. You should always think that you’re right – in fact you can’t do anything else if you’re a sane person. But you should think twice about saying that you’re always right.
Always thinking that you are right just means that on any given occasion, you believe (i.e. affirm) what you believe (duh). Another way to express this is: “I am not wrong.” Thinking that you are always right means that you believe that on all occasions, what you believe is true. Another way to express this is “I am never wrong.” And that, in my books, counts as arrogant.
[Normal people can stop reading now]
As an observation on similarity, confusing these two sentences:
- Always, I think I am right.
- I think that I am always right
Is a lot like confusing these two sentences, which some philosophers have done:
- Necessarily, if God knows that p will c at t, then p will c at t.
- If God knows that p will c at t, then p will necessarily c at t.
And if discussions around molinism have shown anything, it is that this is confusion of the highest order.