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I was reading A.G. Gardiner’s On Umbrella Morals and in the second paragraph occurs these lines

In fact he is a thoroughly honest man who allows his honesty the benefit of the doubt.

I want an explanation of the above lines.

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To fully understand this line, there is some necessary context. I have found a full copy of the essay here. Gardiner is speaking of what he calls an "umbrella conscience". He provides an example:

Perhaps he takes your umbrella at random from the barber's stand. He knows he can't get a worse one than his own. He may get a better. He doesn't look at it very closely until he is well on his way. Then, "Dear me! I've taken the wrong umbrella," he says, with an air of surprise, for he likes really to feel that he has made a mistake. "Ah, well, it's no use going back now. He'd be gone. And I've left him mine!"

The "benefit of the doubt" is an idiom. Quoting Merriam-Webster:

the state of accepting something/someone as honest or deserving of trust even though there are doubts

Now let's work through the example provided.

Perhaps he takes your umbrella at random from the barber's stand. He knows he can't get a worse one than his own. He may get a better.

This is a dishonest action. A proper person should check to make sure they are taking their umbrella, especially if any mistake would likely mean stealing someone's better umbrella from them. However...

He doesn't look at it very closely until he is well on his way.

This part is important because it introduces the possiblity, in his head, that he has made an honest mistake. Perhaps he truely meant to take his own, ratty umbrella. But by a complete accident (even one that he should have avoided in the first place) he now has someone else's umbrella. Now we turn to what the man thinks to himself.

Then, "Dear me! I've taken the wrong umbrella," he says, with an air of surprise, for he likes really to feel that he has made a mistake. "Ah, well, it's no use going back now. He'd be gone. And I've left him mine!"

Now, out, the man is surprised to himself that he has the wrong umbrella. Starting from the assumption that he is an honest man, and giving this assumption (honesty) the benefit of the doubt leads him to the conclusion that he has made an honest mistake. Not giving his "honesty" the benefit of the doubt would mean questioning whether his "accident" was truly an accident, or if it was an intentional, dishonest theft of a better umbrella.

Therefore, a man who allows his honesty the benefit of the doubt would, when considering his own actions, start from the assumption that he is a good, honest man and not question that assumption much at all.

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