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« John Tasioulas on Human Rights | Main | Rom Harré on the Linguistic Turn in Philosophy »

October 26, 2013

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Jim Vaughan

Very good exploration of an intriguing question!

Critique and argument would seem to be foundational to the whole Enlightenment project, however, I fear we use political debate these days more as a gladiatorial contest - our tribalism means we already know whose side we are on, so most people want to win, not understand the other.

One problem I think is that every perspective contains a straw man parody of its opposite. So, progressives are convinced conservatives are motivated by self-interest, complacency and fear of change, while conservatives believe progressives are motivated by idealism, envy and effacing of difference.

Im glad you mentioned the "filter bubble" effect. I have heard that one reason for the polarisation of US politics is that Republicans and Democrats no longer have much opportunity to socialise together. Perhaps for the UK, the House of Commons tea room and bar is an essential but unsung safeguard of continuing political dialogue.

Finally, I must mention a good Gestalt technique. When my wife and I want to stop arguing, we swap chairs, and each try to argue from the others point of view. It takes sincerity and an effort of empathy, but I am always stunned when the world suddenly shifts, and her perspective dawns on me. All my self-righteous certainties crumble in that moment, and I am left gasping and emotional.

I think what we all crave, in arguing, is not to be agreed with, but to be understood.

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