Friday, December 5, 2008

Dialogue

If two people disagree over an issue, as I see it, they both can't be right. They both most certainly can be wrong, but not simultaneously right. I know arguments can be made that both parties can be partially right and I would agree, but when it comes to issues of truth, only one can be right.

Suppose two historians got into an argument over the sinking of the titanic. One historian states that the Titanic sunk after colliding with a massive iceberg, the other states that the titanic actually was sucked into a arctic whirlpool. Only one can be right. Either the titanic hit an iceberg, or was sucked into a whirlpool. Yes, someone could come along and say that both happened--the Titanic hit an iceberg and then was sucked into a whirlpool. But now we have three competing truth claims (assuming that the first and second historians assert ONLY one incident caused the tragedy).

It seems to me that our culture, while gradually rejecting the logic of absolute truths, is moving towards a misinterpreted explanation of the term 'tolerance.' One can no longer assert that they are right as interlocutors involved in a dialogue with opposite opinions are wrong without being deemed intolerant, haughty, puffed-up, narrow minded, or any other ridiculous and ignorant assumptions.

The truth is, ANYONE who holds an opinion against others, thinks they are right and the other is wrong. This person may or may not be a prideful or arrogant person, but asserting that they believe there opinions are the correct opinion cannot be a matrix for judging their intent and/or character.

If I were to state, "God is real," and you conversely state, "God is not real," and then, after hours of good natured debate, we both decide our opinion has not changed, it would be erroneous for me to say, "Ha, you refuse to listen...you refuse to change your mind. You are so sure that you are right. Your pride has gotten the best of you," I would be wrong, and ignorant, for the person with whom I had been in conversation with could say the very same thing about me. One can, and must, for the sake of peaceful and progressive discussion, approach any subject and say, "I believe you are wrong and I am right." This is not an admission of run-away-pride, rather it is an impressive display of honesty. Perhaps accusations of arrogance are permissible if, in the example of the Titanic historians, the firs historian stated, "I believe the Titanic hit an iceberg, and that is that...I refuse to listen to any of your arguments."

More and more indivuals and instituions are resorting to ad hominen attacks. Instead of attacking the argument and its logical backbone, they are attacking the character and/or intelligence of the person putting forth his/her opinion. I have no patience for this. If fact, I see it as ignorant. I am not assuming that someone who resorts to such an attack has a low IQ, they are just too uninformed to participate in the particular discussion and thus have to attack the character of the one presenting the argument for purposes of distraction. Thus, it can be reasoned that ad hominen attacks are an admission of wounded pride.

All that to say, I'll try to be honest around here. If I disagree with you, whether in your comments or postings on your own blog, I am doing so because I think I am right and you are wrong (conversely you think you are right and I am wrong), but I do and have listened carefully to your opinion, otherwise, how could I disagree?

36 comments:

ricbooth said...

Thanks for this well articulated explanation of disagreement, debate, and peaceful, progressive discussions. I enjoy such discussions, both participating and listening in.

Sometimes your stuff reminds me of CS Lewis. Have you read much of him?

redison said...

WELL SAID!

Very well said.

I'm not a fan of attacking people because their opinions differ from mine. In fact, although I love having conversations with people who agree with me, I think I enjoy it more when the person does NOT agree with me, because that only sharpens my opinion and makes me hone in on what I really believe. And I'm always up for a change of mind.

There IS a definite truth though. And since we all searching for it anyway, I have a hard time stomaching someone who finds the cards that I put on the table bothersome and/or offensive, when, no matter how severe the disagreement, I welcome theirs with nothing less than a genuine interest in what they believe and why they believe it, because they obviously have their reasons, as I do mine...

We've become so fixated on creating an eternally "politically correct" environment full of daffodils and butterfly milkshakes that we've forgotten that getting to the bottom of truth is not an easy task, but a rigorous one that involves thought and research and, above all else, civil, but passionate(!), conversation.

For what reason do we have to live if reason is worth nothing?

People who get defensive and moody and vengeful during mere ideological conversation think way to highly of themselves and need to come back down in the mire with the rest of us humans.

But, of course, this is all just my opinion....

Nikawitz said...

Very nice. That couldn't have been said better.

Anonymous said...

Just one typographical error. It's "ad hominem".

I enjoyed your post. The only thing I would like to add is this. We all need to realize that in the pursuit of truth we all have a common master, reason. It is by our ability to reason and to ask questions in order to investigate claims to truth and to determine whether they are valid or not. When we realize that we all are on the same mission -- to find out what the truth is -- we can be more open to critique and not become defensive.

nate said...

Thanks for all the comments!

Ric, I am a big Lewis fan...I have been reading Chesterton a lot lately...I think it's been rubbing off!

Redison, I totally agree, but am guilty of becoming either too defensive, or sugar coating my opinions to appear agreeable which is only exacerbating! I too enjoy discoursing with those who disagree...I guess it may be my competative nature!

Dan, THanks!!! I am going to swing by your blog.

Annonymous, thanks for catching the typo. I despise proof reading. For the sake of future readers, I am not going to fix the error, just so they understand your comment.

While I will hardly call reason a 'master,' (i feel so much in this life is unexplainable by reason alone) you actually summed up what I was trying to say in this post. Dialogue is working through reason.

Annie said...

Wow, you are such a logical, black and white thinker. Like me. :) Although I have wanted to understand people who are not like me, and be able to communicate effectively with them as well, and in that have discovered a few (very few - still learning) things about the other side of seeing things (which no doubt will be glaring to you if you read my blog). I love that you felt the need to explain yourself before you said anything. I do that! You've made some good distinctions here. And I have to COMPLETELY agree with you here: "Instead of attacking the argument and its logical backbone, they are attacking the character and/or intelligence of the person putting forth his/her opinion. I have no patience for this." It is illogical, demeaning; it displays NO intelligence or reasonable thought, and betrays the most appalling lack of character.

(All of that said ... I will say that there are aspects of God - and therefore truth, since He Is - which are not able to be seen in black and white, and which can only be understood subjectively. I'll expound if you like. At least as much as I can. It has to do with emotion.)

Great thoughts, Nate!

WES ELLIS said...

That's great! I just wrote a post called "absolute interpretation" which has something to do with this very discussion. If there are absolutes, I don't believe that we can get to them. As long as I have thoughts they will be subjective and within the realm of interpretation. But just because I am comfortable with subjectivity does not mean I am unwilling to criticize someone else, disagree with them, or even correct them. To enter into the sort of subjectivity which is paralyzed from making any real assertions and arguments would be a drastic swing of the pendulum rather than a true attempt at balanced dialogue.

"Instead of attacking the argument and its logical backbone, they are attacking the character and/or intelligence of the person putting forth his/her opinion." This reminds me of a conversation I had in Israel with a Wheaton College student who was there with me. We were talking about homosexuality and rather than making exegetical arguments for why my interpretation was wrong, he simply kept returning to the line "you're being dishonest with the text." He tried to turn it into a moral argument...

great thoughts here my friend!!!

Peter said...

I disagree with you.

Because you are a bad person.

Anonymous said...

Nate,

I was using the words of Socrates when I said we have a common master, reason. Our ability to reason and use think logically is the only way we have to test the validity of truth claims. As human beings that is what separates us from the animals. In this sense reason is our common master. Outside of public revelation which ended with the death of the last apostle, we have to use our reasoning to unveil the truth.

nate said...

I see your point, Annonymous. Forgive me for jumping to conclusions. Typically, amongst folks I converse with, the term "reason" fills in for the existence of a deity.

I am not a philosopher by any means, and hardly spend time committing phrases of the intellects of the past to memory.

But I am curious...how does the use of reason, within the context of assuming the existence of God, lead one to the assertion that the public revelation ended with the final words of the last apostle?

Thanks for stopping back...usually annonymous commenters don't. Feel free to email me...my curiousity (as to whehter or not we are friends/aquaintances) is killing me!

nate said...

Oh yes, Peter...hahahaha...that made my day!

Anonymous said...

Nate,

To answer your question, "How does the use of reason, within the context of assuming the existence of God, lead one to the assertion that the public revelation with the final words of the last apostle?"

To answer this question, we need to start with another one. Who has the authority to determine what is and what isn't public revelation? Back in the fourth century (387 - 388 A.D.) there were hundreds of letters that were circulating about the church and some were good and some were heretical. Who decided what was public revelation and what was not? The Church. Who had the authority to this? Then Church. It stands to reason that God had to provide an indubitable vehicle by which to pass on the teachings of Jesus Christ. This authority was given to the Church and it is the Church, led by the Holy Spirit, who decided what was Holy Scripture and what was not. Hence, when the last apostle, John, died this ended the public revelation.

I hope this makes sense and I look forward to your comments.

God bless.

Peter said...

Nate, did you leave a comment on my blog about homosexuality and my "ignorance of theology"? It didn't sound at all like you, but the name "Nate" got left - without a homepage link. And you're the only Nate I know. Just wanted to check - hope I didn't push you over the edge or something.
Your friend,
Peter

nate said...

Hey Pete,
No I didn't post that. It would definitely fly in the face of this post (the whole ad hominem thing) as that was an attack on the person, not the logic of your argument. I haven't read the pot yet, although I will tonight. If you have site meter, you can always see where in the US the nate-imposter lives...could help you figure out if you know him or not.

Don't worry, you haven't pushed me over the edge...yet. haha, just kidding.

Peter said...

I was pretty sure it wasn't you. I'm too lazy to watch my site-meter traffic stats, but good idea.

Thanks bro.

Peter said...

Besides, my "ignorance" is far more generalized than theology-specific.

RC said...

oh wow...i didn't know you were back to blogging - great news! glad things are turning around.

i appreciate the thoughts you share here - keep it up and again, welcome back!

Peter said...

Job keeping you too busy to blog? Where you at, dogg?

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