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May 30 2013

Caring about things I don’t want to care about

The content of my last blogpost at Big Think was on how often many of us are engaged in “debates” that shouldn’t be debates at all: gay marriage, legalized a abortion, euthanasia, and so on.

This doesn’t mean that we don’t legitimately care about these, nor that these aren’t discussions worth having, or are simple to solve. But, if more people – often opposing – were willing to critically examine WHY they are opposed to these problems – instead of reacting “from the knee” – we would either have less vitriol, less discussions or better quality ones.

There are good reasons to oppose euthanasia, as I’m sure there are might be better reasons not to legalise abortion than “killing babies is wrong because God says so”. We might not be convinced by these opposing arguments, so far, but setting the views we think right against the best views of the opposite side only highlights how much stronger our views are.

Concepts of right, wrong, family, and so on, all culminate in various forms on topics like sex and death; and we become better debaters and thinkers – and therefore people – when we actually interrogate our reasoning for or against the topic at hand.

Just as we want our opponents to interrogate themselves, we must be willing to do the same. Indeed, I sometimes find myself coming down on the so-called conservative sides of things (like certain aspects of gun rights), despite my initial reaction of joining what we might caricature as the liberal chorus. What matters isn’t that it’s liberal or conservative, but that it is reasonable, has evidence and logic, and so on.

What should be of interest is engaging with the best opposition you can muster, as Daniel Dennett highlights; being able to conceptually repeat and reiterate what your opponents (ideally, the best, most thoughtful ones) are saying, and then seeing whether your argument and position still remains. Perhaps your view takes a hit, perhaps it’s damaged by sharper opposition; but at least you know, in the end, you’re holding a position because it’s justified, not because it’s towing any kind of liberal, conservative or whatever line.

2 comments

2 pings

  1. 1
    Markita Lynda—threadrupt

    Indeed! The makers of straw armies and disingenuous arguments should be ashamed not to follow the example of Charles Darwin, who insisted on addressing the most cogent arguments of his detractors. Thank you, thank you! I hate dishonesty: and misrepresenting your opponents’ arguments is a lie and a scientific sin.

  2. 2
    sheila

    What should be of interest is engaging with the best opposition you can muster, as Daniel Dennett highlights; being able to conceptually repeat and reiterate what your opponents (ideally, the best, most thoughtful ones) are saying, and then seeing whether your argument and position still remains.

    Conversely, when someone’s argument is, “Get raped with a knife, you stinky cunt!” then I’m going to conclude that their position isn’t reasonable, doesn’t have evidence and logic, and so on, and they know it.

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