Arguing Well

When I was a younger version of myself, I studied philosophy. My original plan had been to graduate college with a philosophy degree, and then transfer to a law school. While I'm grateful that things didn't turn out that way, the years I spent studying philosophy were priceless in how they affected the way I think about things. I learned to be specific, clear, and brief. I learned to assume that my audience was lazy, stupid, and mean. Above all else, I learned that attacking an argument is perfectly appropriate, while attacking the person making the argument is not. I think about that a lot.

When I think about the din and the discord of social media, and the way that people communicate with one another, I think of how cruel we can be to those who disagree with us. This affliction is not unique to one political ideology. Rather, it is endemic of citizens of the Internet. I'm no better than anybody else where this is concerned. When I'm feeling frustrated or angry about something, the catharsis of dunking on someone else helps for about thirty seconds. Then I just feel awkward and embarrassed.

In America, the citizens are remarkably polarized. I sometimes fear that we'll see another Civil War. We just might, if we don't do better. If we learn to become better listeners. Slower to anger and offense. In pursuit of common ground and agreement. I wonder what that kind of discourse would be like.


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