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Marlon Jones

Gear Up Liaison, Oklahoma Regents for Higher Education: GEAR UP

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"...but I'll defend to the death your right to say it… Really?"

Voltaire once said “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it” Would I? Really? While maybe not dead, civility is definitely paralyzed in our country, in our communities, and in our homes. At what point did it become easier to antagonize, patronize, and vilify the “other” instead of conducting a reasoned discussion about the perplexing issues that surround us? Well into the machinations of the most recent elections it was being reported by various media sources that Americans were more divided than during any other time in history. There is simply something that does not sound quite right about that statement. Is it possible to have an honest and reasoned discussion? Is it possible to objectively consider an opposing point of view? Do we even agree on what the problems are? Disagreements are inevitable but being disagreeable is not. What do you think?

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  • Nov 14 2012: Ultimately the goal of an argument is to determine the truth, or the more correct of the two (or more) ideas. If we do not keep these arguments polite and rational, their purpose becomes corrupt. They become a contest of competing wills, irrational and emotionally charged. Debates more often than not are used to determine a winner or a loser (as we saw with the recent presidential elections), rather than a test of the strength of the arguments themselves. Nobody can lose a rational argument, because we can all benefit from the knowledge there gained. Being disagreeable is discouraging to progress. Respecting your opponents view is encouraging to progress.
    • Nov 15 2012: Good point, and I would add that the nature of political debates in the United States might need to be rethought. There's really not a conversation going on, it's each person giving their pre-planned answers. Giving a candidate two minutes to explain their policy may be good for those of us who only look at politics once every four years. But for those of us who really pay attention, we hear a few talking points that we already know from each side, and they move on.

      It seems to me that there should be a different type of debate, perhaps in a written format, where candidates can flesh out their ideas more fully. This would make for a more informed electorate, hopefully.
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      Nov 20 2012: Re: "Ultimately the goal of an argument is to determine the truth, or the more correct of the two (or more) ideas."

      Most arguments are about subjective issues where no truth can be determined. I would say, the goal of an argument is to reach agreement. Arguments are only successful when people actively seek a common point and build on it.

      But I agree with you that when we shift focus from "what is right" to "who is right", all sides become wrong.

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