The Dying ART of Disagreement

I read a great article recently that was a summary of a lecture given by NY Times columnist Bret Stephens. He stated that “to say we disagree” are words that define our individuality, give us our freedom, enjoin our tolerance, enlarge our perspectives, seize our attention, energize our progress, make our democracies real and give hope and courage to oppressed people everywhere. His reasons for presenting this dialogue was due to his concern about the polarization that is taking place in our society and our country, stating that we are judging one another morally depending on where we stand politically. He contends that this is a moral threat to our nation’s welfare because our polarization is geographic, personal, electronic, and digital … based on different facts as seen through different environments and lenses. This divisive rhetoric can make our voices hoarser but rarely does it sharpen our thinking, much less change our minds. He would like to see the standards for a discussion or debate to have guidelines or principles to help overcome these obstacles. These would include: to listen and understand … to question and disagree … to treat no proposition as sacred and no objection as impious … to be willing to entertain unpopular ideas and to cultivate the habits of an open mind. Sounds reasonable but in reality it appears to be difficult. Maybe we should consider his statement that every great idea is really just a spectacular disagreement with some other great idea. He concludes by saying that in the ART of disagreeing well, we should try to understand well, read deeply, listen carefully, watch closely, grant our adversary moral respect, give him/her the intellectual benefit of the doubt, have sympathy for his/her motives and participate emphatically with his/her line of reasoning and most importantly … allow for the possibility that we might yet be persuaded of what he/she has to say. Good stuff to ponder in our society of conflict and in my opinion, good principles of PEACE.