Benefit of the doubt

An expression I’ve been thinking about lately is “benefit of the doubt”.

To fail to give someone the benefit of the doubt reveals more about your character than it does about the person you’re judging. For your default assumption to be that someone acts nefariously is to expose the fact that you would do the same in a given situation.

Furthermore, giving the benefit of the doubt helps to foster a “generosity of mind”. To be skeptical of the actions of a friend or associate is to be intellectually miserly. Miserliness, remember, is something the Escapologist seeks to avoid. By fostering a generosity of mind, you become less guarded toward your fellow man. Let him in! Escapologists have a hard enough time building muscles of resistance against normative living and honing critical faculties (asking ‘why?’ of normal behaviour) without eying peers with suspicion.

This has been today’s lesson in cod psychology.


Robert Wringham is the editor of New Escapologist. He also writes books and articles. Read more at

4 Responses to “Benefit of the doubt”

  1. the sussex idler says:

    Your reaction to most things in life says more about you than it does the situation. Unless it is an allergic reaction, that is. I’m allergic to Cob Nuts. I have an anaphalactic (?)shock. I call it a prophylactic shock. Nobody laughs.

  2. Rob says:

    You’re probably right. About reactions saying more about yourself that is. Not the anaphylactic thing.

  3. Maus says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with the call to greater generosity of mind. To hope that anyone and everyone I encounter could be a friend definitely increases the friendliness vibe. But once you’ve evidence of someone’s malice, you have to assume nefariousness until proven wrong. Didn’t you just publish a whole issue devoted to mala fide? Unfortunately, we know it exists.

  4. Rob says:

    Hi Maus. There are certainly circumstances that would reduce one’s ability to give the benefit of the doubt. My project is to try and expand my definition of the conditions in which I would grant benefit of the doubt. I’m starting to believe that the social and intellectual advantages of doing so will usually outweigh any possible wound inflicted by a nefarious party.

    Our Bad Faith issue was based more around the Existential kind of Bad Faith (mauvaise foi) than the legal/social form (mala fide). But your point remains: in a world where mala fide exists, it is impossible not to be on the lookout for it.

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