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Driving safely is your duty

If we think before we act, then what goes through our minds a split second before we do something wrong?

Gulf News

If we see a Dh500 note on a table in a café, what do we think before we pick it up and put it in our pocket and smartly walk off? Or what do we think that makes us hand the money in to the café owner as lost property?

If we are driving along the highway, and a child jumps in front of our car, I suspect we act automatically and step hard on the brakes to avoid hitting the child. In this case, little or no thought is needed, or indeed possible. We do not act, we react — and we do it in the moment to avoid killing the child.

Now, do we have time to think before we put our foot down on the accelerator pedal and drive too fast for the conditions around us? Do we have time to think before we race with another driver? You bet we do!

Driving a car is partly automatic or instinctive and partly controlled by conscious thought.

So, why do some of us drive like madmen while others drive safely? A philosopher or a psychologist would say that we do so because we think we can get away with it, and because we do not subject our thinking to the proper degree of critical scrutiny.

Philosophers refer to that as our epistemic duty — again, subjecting our thoughts, our motives and our opinions to critical scrutiny. The type of scrutiny that tells you that doing what you are about to do is wrong.

Of all the living things that inhabit the planet, it can be argued that we alone have this propensity.

If we refuse to examine our motives, then we are either stupid or lazy or both. If we are unaware of the possibility of such thoughts, we are unintelligent or handicapped in some way.

If we do wrong knowingly and then rationalise it, we are justifying our own mistakes. The realisation that we have done something wrong comes when we are caught, or when there are observable consequences.

Causing a road accident is the last type of these. Unfortunately, things do not always have immediate consequences, but be sure of this; everything has consequences.

Your getting away with dangerous driving will have the consequence that you think you can always get away with it. But, sooner or later, this will catch up with you — and it will be your fault, because you did not fulfil your epistemic duty.

I hope you don't die or kill anyone because of it.

— The writer is an Al Ain-based educator and Gulf News reader

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