What's 'reasonable'? For police, the answer is often their legal defense.

How an entirely subjective experience guides our legal system

A police car.
(Image credit: Illustrated | iStock)

I like to think I'm a reasonable person. I'm sure you do too. In fact, very few would decline to claim reasonability for their own. Thinking oneself (at least reasonably) reasonable is a lot like thinking one's own beliefs are true: If you didn't think it, you'd change. If you became convinced your beliefs were false, you'd adopt instead those you'd newly judged true. Likewise, if you came to suspect you weren't terribly reasonable, you'd try to take a more reasonable stance. For each, the shift feels so necessary it's barely even a conscious choice.

So we all think we're reasonable, but we hardly all agree on what "reasonable" means. Reasonability is in the eye of the beholder — which is a problem in a country where "reasonability" and "reasonable belief" are not only comfortable ways to describe ourselves and our thinking but legal terms whose meaning can steer the course of people's lives.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.

SUBSCRIBE & SAVE
https://cdn.mos.cms.futurecdn.net/flexiimages/jacafc5zvs1692883516.jpg

Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up
To continue reading this article...
Continue reading this article and get limited website access each month.
Get unlimited website access, exclusive newsletters plus much more.
Cancel or pause at any time.
Already a subscriber to The Week?
Not sure which email you used for your subscription? Contact us