This article, originally given as a lecture, focuses on the worrying fact that we no longer seem to know how to disagree with one another any more. I’ve certainly witnessed this with the ‘hive mind’ on social networks, who are outraged if anyone so much as questions what keyboard warriors see as sacred tenets.
In other words, to disagree well you must first understand well. You have to read deeply, listen carefully, watch closely. You need to grant your adversary moral respect; give him the intellectual benefit of doubt; have sympathy for his motives and participate empathically with his line of reasoning. And you need to allow for the possibility that you might yet be persuaded of what he has to say.
I subscribe to the view that we should have strong opinions, weakly held. In other words, we shouldnl be neither embarrassed nor reticent to say what we think, but we should be ready to change our mind. This is why the EU ‘right to be forgotten’ legislation is so important. We grow up, emotionally, physically, and intellectually.
There’s no one answer. What’s clear is that the mis-education begins early. I was raised on the old-fashioned view that sticks and stones could break my bones but words would never hurt me. But today there’s a belief that since words can cause stress, and stress can have physiological effects, stressful words are tantamount to a form of violence. This is the age of protected feelings purchased at the cost of permanent infantilization.
Source: The New York Times
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