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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 21 2012: I can't agree that most arguments are about subjective issues. If issues seem to be subjective it is because we do not have enough knowledge on the issue itself (or else it is purposely misrepresented to suit one party or another). What is right and wrong cannot be subjective.
    • Nov 22 2012: "What is right and wrong cannot be subjective"

      Hello Marlen,
      While this is probably true, there is so much gray area that often times people with different subjective viewpoints will come to very different conclusions even if they have the same core values. For example, is it right to start a war with a country because its leader denies his citizens of basic human rights? Some would say yes, that the death and destruction caused by war is less harmful than the dictator's reign over his people. Others would say that it isn't our place to step in, and that the war itself is worse than having a dictator for a leader. Two people who both want peace and happiness might have very different views on this issue.

      Clearly my example is not detailed enough to say one way or another, but you can see how certain situations have so many factors involved that it can be difficult to give an objective answer. And when objectivity is not an option, subjectivity comes into play.

      In this discussion, I think a main topic is whether it is important to fight to defend free speech, and if so, how important. The famous example is yelling fire in a crowded room. Society has decided this is not an important freedom to preserve, so we prohibit it. This is a no brainer, but what about deceptive advertising? Should a company be able to bend the truth in order to sell its product, and if so how much? The answer you give will almost certainly have a subjective aspect to it, because the question is not settled. Those who agree with you may say you're being objective, but those who disagree will find subjectivity.

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