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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

Intellectual Honesty and Integrity


In a blogpost entitled Swimming in Controversial Belief, I stated the following:


Per one source, “When Plato gave Socrates’s definition of man as ‘featherless bipeds’ and was much praised for the definition, Diogenes plucked a chicken and brought it into Plato’s Academy, saying, ‘Behold! I’ve brought you a man.’ After this incident, ‘with broad flat nails’ was added to Plato’s definition.”


I referenced Diogenes’s mockery of Socrates’s position to highlight how framing of an issue can make a significant difference in how people consider various topics. By “framing,” I’m referring to the manner in which an issue is structured or presented.


I value the Diogenes anecdote and I keep it in mind when writing blogposts about Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT). Because of the tale that I find humorous, I often define terms when writing about various topics.


In doing so, I aim to practice intellectual honesty. Regarding this term, one source states:


Intellectual honesty is an applied method of problem solving characterised [sic] by a nonpartisan and honest attitude, which can be demonstrated in a number of different ways:


·  One’s personal beliefs or politics do not interfere with the pursuit of truth;


·  Relevant facts and information are not purposefully omitted, even when such things may contradict one’s hypothesis;


·  Facts are presented in an unbiased manner and not twisted to give misleading impressions or to support one view over another;


·  References, or earlier work, are acknowledged where possible, and plagiarism is avoided.


As well as within my blog, I encourage clients to practice intellectual honesty when disputing the irrational beliefs they use which cause unpleasant consequences. This requires abandonment of motivated reasoning and may result in cognitive dissonance.


Noteworthy, intellectual honesty may be confused with intellectual integrity. Regarding the latter term, one source states:


Intellectual integrity is an aspect or part of integrity proper. It requires being willing to stand up for your best judgement of the truth, by being willing to act in accordance with that judgment when the need arises. Like other intellectual virtues, intellectual integrity is a character trait. This means that you can have intellectual integrity even if you are never called on to stand up for what you believe, and even if you are prevented from standing up for what you believe. What matters is that you are willing to do so, that you are deposed, other things being equal, to try.


While intellectual honesty relates to an applied method of problem solving, intellectual integrity suggests one has a character trait related to integrity—the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness. I value both of these concepts.


To illustrate these principles, I admit that in general, I disagree with much of what comedian Bill Maher has to say. Nevertheless, I appreciate his display of intellectual honesty and integrity regarding his views on abortion. For context, Maher recently stated of abortion:


Not if you believe it’s murder. You know, that’s why I don’t understand the 15-weeek thing. Or, the… Trump’s plan is, “Let’s leave it to the States.” You mean, so, killing babies is okay in some states? Like, I can respect the absolutist position. I really can. I scold the Left when they say “Oh, you know what, they just hate women,” people who aren’t pro-life, they[‘re] pro-choice. They don’t hate women. They just made that up. They think it’s murder. And it kind of is. I’m just okay with that. I am. I mean, there’s 8 billion people in the world. I’m sorry, we won’t miss you. That’s my position on it.


Presuming Maher wasn’t making a joke, and being charitable to his position, it’s reasonable to conclude that Maher doesn’t reject the act of abortion and he accepts it for what it is – the termination of life. I respect his intellectual honesty and integrity.


Still, I have one minor quibble regarding Maher’s framing of his position. Murder is the crime of unlawfully and unjustifiably killing a person. Killing is the act of depriving life or causing the death of an individual.


Although murder is a form of killing, not all killing represents murder. As an example, when I served as a military policeman (MP) in the Marine Corps, I was prepared to deprive others of life.


Had I used deadly force, all things being equal, my actions would likely not have related to a criminal act. Of course, when I was an MP and in relation to killing, I was taught to use euphemisms—mild or indirect words or expressions substituted for words considered to be too harsh or blunt when referring to something unpleasant or embarrassing.


Rather than stating that I shot to kill, I was instructed to instead say that I shot to stop the treat or neutralize the treat. Still, framing of this sort doesn’t negate the act of killing and neither does use of the word “abortion.”


Abortion is defined as the termination of a pregnancy after, accompanied by, resulting in, or closely followed by the death of the embryo or fetus, such as a. spontaneous expulsion of a human fetus during the first 12 weeks of gestation, b. induced expulsion of a human fetus, c. expulsion of a fetus by a domestic animal often due to infection at any time before completion of pregnancy.


“Termination” and “death” of this sort is an intentional act. Therefore, abortion is the deliberate killing of life—the quality that distinguishes a vital and functional being from a dead one.


Bacteria are microscopic living organisms, plants are living beings, and so are fetuses and embryos. To suggest otherwise is intellectually dishonest and serves as a form of an intellectual deceitfulness regarding one’s character trait.


Herein, I’m not asserting what is good, bad, right, wrong, holy, evil, or otherwise. As well, I’m not suggesting what people should, must, or ought to do regarding abortion. Additionally, I’ve not employed the use of naturalistic or moralistic fallacies.


Rather, I’m exhibiting intellectual honesty and integrity by stating truth – abortion is the killing of life. Whether or not you define human life as a featherless biped with broad flat nails is of no consequence to me. Even living featherless bipeds can be killed.


In conclusion, I think this blogpost is important, because I’ve demonstrated courage when addressing a controversial topic, much as was the case with my blog entry entitled Swimming in Controversial Belief – wherein I addressed the topic of transgenderism.


If you’re searching for a mental, emotional, and behavioral health practitioner who values intellectual honesty and integrity – and who doesn’t aim to help you feel better though whose objective is to help you get better through the process of discomfort – you may be an appropriate fit for the REBT services I offer.


If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life—helping you to sharpen your critical thinking skills, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.


As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.


At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!



Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW




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