Posts Tagged ‘worldview’

Having sensible discussions

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

Recently I have been thinking quite a lot about how people who have different points of view on a particular issue can have a proper discussion about that issue. So often we don’t actually engage with each other or even really try to but instead go from the position “I know I am right and the other person is wrong” to the position “I know I am right and the other person is wrong because of X, Y and Z” but at the same time something similar is happening for the other person for possibly different Xs Ys and Zs.

In reality people don’t generally hold views which they consider to be wrong and don’t do things that they think are evil (at least not and then support them afterwards – I regularly do things that I think are wrong). So in a sensible discussion what we want to find out is what the underlying facts, assumptions and beliefs are and what the relative importance of each of those things. Then hopefully it will be possible to see how these fit together to form a worldview in which the opposite point of view is in fact the correct view.

Unfortunately this is frequently rather difficult partly because it is all to easy to reject things outright and so not actually examine these underlying issues and partly because all these things tend to be interconnected in a rather complex manner. So it may be necessary to talk about a very wide range of underlying issues which are all mutually dependant resulting in it taking a rather long time. Very few people will be prepared to put in that kind of time and even with those who are it is still difficult as there are fundamental restrictions on the number of hours in a day.

Recently I have been having sensible discussions with some of my Christian friends who are inclined to the ‘right’ while I myself generally consider myself inclined towards the ‘left’. In this situation it is possible to have really quite interesting discussions by virtue of the fact that we both already agree on a wide range of very important issues and have worldviews which are on a deep level very close indeed. At the same time outward political views can end up at opposite ends of the spectrum. It is also rather helpful that we already love each other a lot and so it is easier not to get angry or to consider them a bad person because of views that I might find objectionable because I already know that since they love all the people who are affected by implementations of policy based on those views they must have good reasons for them.

In this I have found that it is surprising how big a difference in policy subtle differences in the priority given to different underlying good principles can have. Having had the whole of Christmas to allow these thoughts to mature in the absence of such discussion I appear to have lost my recollection of good examples of this and since some of these thoughts stretch back to April or earlier that is not completely surprising.

So in summary: If both sides in a discussion are willing to put real effort into having a sensible discussion and looking carefully at the underlying issues then it is possible to get rather more out of if than one might expect. (This is also far more interesting than discussing the weather etc. and I should put more effort into making it happen).

Relatedly I had a ‘fairly’ sensible discussion about religion on #cl (It didn’t descend to a flamewar though IRC isn’t really a good place for going into detail on complex issues) this must be some kind of miracle. :-)