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“But if I accept that, where will it end?” : How fear destroys nuance and truth in debate

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posted on Apr, 8 2012 @ 04:26 PM
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Wasn’t sure where to put this, but I suppose it’s a philosophical or perhaps psychological point.

In my years on ATS, this has been something that has always bugged me, and I’ve never quite been able to come up with the words to describe it. Hopefully this will go some of the way to rectifying the problem.

When arguments get heated up – especially arguments on political, religious, or social issues – I constantly see a certain pattern repeated by people on both sides of any given debate. People tend to dig in and seem to be thinking something along the lines of the following:

“I can’t accept even one aspect of my opponent’s views, or it will lead to a “slippery slope” and before I know it, I’ll be agreeing with his extreme views, which I know aren’t true. So I better dig in and refuse to accept even his more reasonable points. Heck, better yet, I’ll say something more extreme than what I really believe, but which is “on my side of the issue.” That way it will balance his extremism.”

Wrong, wrong, wrong! This leads to a “tug of war” mentality that destroys any chance at nuance and renders discussions unresolvable.





In my experience, life is an infinitely complex thing, and the truth usually lies in the nuanced zones. It is easy to confuse nuance with “wishy-washy compromise” or “bland middle ground” but nothing could be further from the truth!



NUANCE
nü-ˌän(t)s
1: a subtle distinction or variation
2: a subtle quality
3: sensibility to, awareness of, or ability to express delicate shadings (as of meaning, feeling, or value)

Source: Merriam-Webster

Ask a surgeon some time whether sensibility to the subtle distinctions between different tissue types in a human bodily organ is “wishy-washy.” On the contrary, it makes all the difference between life and death!

It seems to me that when searching for the truth, to eschew nuance in favor of “digging in and shouting” is as useless as a surgeon deciding he’d rather use an axe than a scalpel when performing brain surgery because “the axe shows how hard-core I am in the fight against sickness.”

The above point may seem absurd, but we can see people doing this every day in their arguments, both on ATS and everywhere else. And when you get rigtht down to it, isn’t an important debate a form of “brain surgery”?

Concession is not necessarily weakness, when called for. Quite the contrary: in most cases it is the only way forward!

There seems to be a feeling in heated argument that, “If I budge even an inch, I’ll end up being dragged a mile.” I have found this fear to be very strong, but utterly irrational. In fact, when I am able to admit the truth of my opponent’s more reasonable views, it gets me enough trust with my opponent in most cases that he is willing to “crack the door” a little and let me into his mind, after which I am in a better positioned to convince him that his more extreme views are mistaken.

The key to this is to not give in to the fear that “If I admit X, where will it end? Soon I’ll be agreeing with Y, which I know is wrong.” This line of thought is incorrect, as is the line of thought that goes: “I know Y is wrong, and I know its exact opposite is wrong, too, but since my opponent is arguing Y, I better argue the exact opposite to ‘balance things out.’” For some reason the human mind in debate seems to slide easily into this pattern, but in my experience it doesn’t get us anywhere.

The most powerful commitment is commitment to the truth, not pigheaded adherence to one side or another of a given argument. And true courage is not the stubborn unwillingness to budge an inch – true courage is the willingness to seek the truth, wherever it lies.

Something to think about, ATS. In my humble opinion.


edit on 4/8/2012 by silent thunder because: (no reason given)




posted on Apr, 8 2012 @ 04:31 PM
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I agree with your thoughts here, you made some excellent points. One which should give all pause to consider their own actions.

me too



posted on Apr, 8 2012 @ 04:34 PM
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reply to post by silent thunder
 

Very thoughtful of you to post this, and wise words imo. The ego is such a force in shaping our expressions and perceptions. I am starting to ask myself, "is this part of the problem or solution," when assessing things and/or commenting.

Peace,
spec



posted on Apr, 8 2012 @ 04:37 PM
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reply to post by silent thunder
 


the problem as i see it :

Debate is not an appropriate instrument for getting at the truth.
because Sophistry tends to obscure the issues.

Logic is blind and leads one into the trap of believing that you know



posted on Apr, 8 2012 @ 04:42 PM
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reply to post by silent thunder
 


Agreed.

I propose E-Prime. I think by removing all forms of to be , or by removing all absolutism from language, discussions will go further and accomplish more.

For example:
"The grass is green" should be "The grass looks green to me."

"Beethoven is better than Mozart" becomes "I prefer Beethoven to Mozart."

By eliminating all absolutes (is, be, was etc.) from language, people don't feel their own assumptions are threatened.



posted on Apr, 8 2012 @ 04:52 PM
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reply to post by silent thunder
 


A very relevant opinion excellently delivered! In my own experience I find this tit-for-tat debating really quite off-putting. As well as not allowing for a more open form of debate, as you rightly point out; this sort of escalating argumentative stance makes it difficult for a new poster to join in. A little balance and concession would make for a far more interesting exchange of ideas.



posted on Apr, 8 2012 @ 04:56 PM
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reply to post by LesMisanthrope
 


Interesting.

But to my mind, better than messing around with grammar and language is to simply internalize the truth of this in a non-verbal way; to achieve a non-verbal understanding of the essential subjectivity of any observation.

For example, instead of insisting a person use "the grass looks green to me", it would be best if all of us could understand automatically that this is what is meant when one says "the grass is green." This avoids those cumbersome and faintly ridiculous postmodern verbal constructions that seem to be littering our language with increasing frequency.

The semioticians and postmodernists tell us that "all is words" and there is no cognitive activity or understanding outside the realm of words. They have to believe this, because word-play is how they earn their living, in universities and the world of publishing. I disagree. I think the most subtle, profound, and important forms of understanding take place on a sub-verbal (or perhaps supra-verbal) level. Such as with the Jungian concept of gestalt, say, or what the Tibetan Vajrayana people call "non-conceptual cognition." Or even just good old fashioned intuition and “gut feeling.”

Again, just my opinion...



edit on 4/8/2012 by silent thunder because: (no reason given)



posted on Apr, 8 2012 @ 05:24 PM
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reply to post by silent thunder
 


For me, that's easily achieved by not confusing opinion with fact, and realizing that when someone speaks, all I'm really hearing is opinion. E-prime removes all avenues of confrontation, and for me is a useful tool when conveying opinion to others. People don't seem to get heated knowing I'm speaking according to my own experiences.



posted on Apr, 8 2012 @ 05:26 PM
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Silent Thunder said to me thus;




life is such that it often demands we support our own "group" - family, tribe, country. This seems unavoidable. And yet, even as we do this, we lose our humanity if we cannot accept the fundamental humanity of the "other," too. Part of this is a committment to attaining objective knowledge of every situation, insofar as we are able.



I would like to respond and am responding in this thread because this is pertinent here;

another part is to STAY objective once we have reached objectivity. I believe that too much fierce debating can affect negatively, objectivity we already have toward others, because of the type of mindset you mentioned while debating.




edit on 8-4-2012 by Jameela because: (no reason given)



posted on Apr, 8 2012 @ 08:37 PM
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You should never fear accepting an opposing viewpoint. The second you decide you have a vested interesting in believing one side to be true, you're no longer being impartial.

I think it's fundamental that anytime we're debating/arguing anything, we must be prepared to accept that we may be wrong. Always remember that, if your right, the facts will be one your side, and if you're wrong, you'll gain knowledge. No one should ever decide that they won't accept an opposing view even if everything points towards it being true, and no one should deny good arguments, or use bias or dishonest tactics, just to support their beliefs.

~
Whenever I challenge something, I tell myself "I'm not interested in being right, I'm interested in the truth. I will provide reasons I hold my views, express issues I see with other's reasons, and in doing so I hope to be providing them an opportunity to prove me wrong, if I so happen to be."

I completely agree with you that the fear of being wrong, of not even accepting any talking point that's doesn't support your conclusion, is about as counter-productive as it gets. You let your emotions control you're objectivity, and you're no longer being fully rational about anything.

It's quite sad that this manages to be a prevailing issue in any discussion of any serious topic.



posted on Apr, 8 2012 @ 08:55 PM
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reply to post by LesMisanthrope
 





By eliminating all absolutes (is, be, was etc.) from language, people don't feel their own assumptions are threatened.


Eliminating absolutes in language would be a disaster in certain areas, such as law. Further, assumptions, by definition,, is suspect and by its nature a thing that is constantly under threat. Assumptions are not based on proof, but are often accepted as true even without that proof.

That said, I like the idea of this E-Prime in many ways, and also like Silent Thunder's reply in terms of using what knowledge can be ascertained by using E-Prime as a method of internalization. Rather than impose a new form of language on people, let us all impose these expectations upon ourselves first, and do our best to live up to our own impossibly high standards and hope to offer our efforts as an example.

Of course, that is far easier said than done. Lord knows I find myself all too willing, all too often, to spiral down into the muck and mire of absurd arguments, and yet, I try...then again, trying is not doing...but then again, the only way I could have learned to juggle was by first trying, and at some point the doing finally took hold. I use juggling as an example because while I can do this, I still all too often descend into trying and then I wind up dropping all the balls.



posted on Apr, 8 2012 @ 10:16 PM
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reply to post by silent thunder
 


i know that my ways of saying my opinions cant b but rejected by anyone else but i keep doing it bc i know how it is my absolute right exercise, n when absolute is meant then truth perspective is expected not anyone else n surely never a relative reaction

fear is simply the reality shape with else, so the constant end life sense
the end is never involved in truth, so fear is never a reason of things realities or shapes

only evil could mean fear as a reason of anything as it enjoys to keep justifying freely any negative sense as existing thing while also justifying creations wills as an excuse that could make a difference on the ground

the issue u expose is more deep then u think, by never willing to admit that truth is freedom, u refuse to see the constant end of arguments being real while u insist on wills value to bring it to reality shape

truth is freedom value, mean that objective freedom is never subjective freedom, they are totally else

objective freedom is first the freedom from all subjective realities, free collectivity
subjective freedom is first the freedom from all objective realities, free individuality

true is the realisation of both extremeties freedom being related, then free individual sense is out of that reality while objective freedom fact is perceived

that is why it is impossible to admit else opinions especially if they mean that ur free sense is not true, evil as i call it

gods evil ways are making that worse while they mean to keep willing to abuse their powerful situations on such nothing till the last possible drop of possible mean
abuse is nothing to the abuser since it doesnt involve him, that is why as long as u can abuse u wont mean another way of being constant positive ends

any argument is leaning on absolute conception to exist, wether meaning absolute subjectivity fact or absolute objectivity fact
there cant b argument for relativity
while arguments are a useful way to reach to be in mind constant free sense, positive individual existence base

that is why noone can mean the truth
either u r true from what u realized alone then truth is u so cant b shared
or u admit in facts even with others realities to b a new nothing that u were for truth, but there u cant mean anything since u r being less then nothing existing
when meaning to become true, ones hold their breaths to an extreme level so they can b the true sense at least to themselves but they cant talk about

truth cannot b meant bc it is impossible to b beyond truth, so the meaner is hypothetically the only true while individual truth is the less true, n what is less never count when truth is exclusively the plus

that is why to me, the true sense of all those arguments is negative
so it means evil not truth

positively, negative means is to not b absolute
negatively, negative means to punish absolute possessors, as the way of relative right in relation to relative wrong

what unfortunately u do not accept, is that there cant b smthg more true then another but any is totally different from another by its freedom right sense out of being true



posted on Apr, 9 2012 @ 12:01 AM
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Great post, OP.

At the risk of sounding cliché, I think a lot of it has to do with fear. I hope I don't come off like a "self-acclaimed, supposed one who is claiming they have achieved an awakening" and is using the old fallback of "you just can't accept my ideals because you are afraid of them" because when used in that context, it generally sounds absurd.

However, what I do mean is this: I know I am generalizing here, but a lot of people I know seem to have an extremely tough time with swallowing their pride. As if... admitting that they are wrong or that their beliefs may be wrong would some how make them less of a person.

I try to steer away from a lot of the "New Age-y" stuff but I do enjoy the psychology Eckhart Tolle has to present. He often states that, like Jung, there exist an Ego that is not our true self, and that "the Ego insists upon itself by creating a false sense of identification".

This identification is all it has to survive, and like any specimen, its objective is to survive. Also, Tolle proposes that all forms of mental and physical negativity are manifestations of this Ego-ic mind.

So, the Ego builds its identification up nice and strong, giving itself titles like "I am a Christian." or "I am a Buddhist" or even "I am a spiritual master/awakened one/yadda". These titles just reinforce its own self.

Then, when someone comes along and says "Well, you couldn't possibly be an X because the statement Y proves that X is wrong which would consequently mean that no one is really an X." Of course, this would create a wave of disruption to come crashing in and cause the pillars of sand the Ego has so proudly sat itself upon to collapse, thusly making the Ego feel threatened.

And what does something do when it feels threatened? It retaliates.

Any way, who knows what is really going on. However, I hope this allows you all to take in another consideration.
edit on 9-4-2012 by ErroneousDylan because: Because I like seeing this green and italic text.



posted on Apr, 9 2012 @ 03:16 AM
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Originally posted by Jean Paul Zodeaux
reply to post by LesMisanthrope
 





By eliminating all absolutes (is, be, was etc.) from language, people don't feel their own assumptions are threatened.


Eliminating absolutes in language would be a disaster in certain areas, such as law. Further, assumptions, by definition,, is suspect and by its nature a thing that is constantly under threat. Assumptions are not based on proof, but are often accepted as true even without that proof.

That said, I like the idea of this E-Prime in many ways, and also like Silent Thunder's reply in terms of using what knowledge can be ascertained by using E-Prime as a method of internalization. Rather than impose a new form of language on people, let us all impose these expectations upon ourselves first, and do our best to live up to our own impossibly high standards and hope to offer our efforts as an example.

Of course, that is far easier said than done. Lord knows I find myself all too willing, all too often, to spiral down into the muck and mire of absurd arguments, and yet, I try...then again, trying is not doing...but then again, the only way I could have learned to juggle was by first trying, and at some point the doing finally took hold. I use juggling as an example because while I can do this, I still all too often descend into trying and then I wind up dropping all the balls.



Yes; eliminating absolutes from speech sounds like a task. It might be especially disastrous for a species of systematizers and definers. We'd never arrive to any conclusion. I was merely suggesting it as a better environment for meaningful conversation. (your "rather than impose" sentence was one of the best things I've read all day)

Absolutes are useful tools. When making an appointment or reservation, I use absolutes to avoid the prolonging of meaningless conversation. In conversation I consider valuable and worth the effort, I generally loosen my convictions and fall into using e-prime consciously. I'm trying to shift away from Aristotelean logic. Instead of getting trapped in a battle over semantics, I avoid absolutes, especially when discussing life over beers with a close friend, something I would consider valuable conversation. Of course, the discussion eventually leads to some metaphysical dead-end anyways, but that's surely one of the many beauties of discussing life. E-prime seems to bring back some youthful innocence to the discussion.

I think it gives me the confidence be more creative—sometimes more dangerous—and to push further. lt allows me to get away with more; the listener is liberated from my dogma, and can more easily discard my ideas at his discretion. For me, It's a better breeding ground for creative thoughts and new ideas. Conversation becomes fun again, youthful and innocent; and defending myself and my assumptions of truth become less necessary.

Maybe avoiding confrontation in discussion is as easy as putting a big 'maybe' on everything.

On a side note:

I learned about e-prime after reading The Metaphysician's Nightmare by Bertrand Russell, where a philosopher dreams about awaking in hell and killing satan by removing all usage of negativity from language. After awakening from this dream, he never again said "never" or "cannot", and believed that by doing so, he eliminated all negativity from discussion, and thus satan. I searched further on how language could affect thinking and found e-prime. I consciously practice it as often as possible, but usually revert to using absolutes for the convenience (as is obvious from any of my posts). Bertrand Russel had many essays on language and I'd recommend all of them for their value as enjoyable reading.



posted on Apr, 9 2012 @ 05:46 AM
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reply to post by silent thunder
 





In fact, when I am able to admit the truth of my opponent’s more reasonable views, it gets me enough trust with my opponent in most cases that he is willing to “crack the door” a little and let me into his mind, after which I am in a better positioned to convince him that his more extreme views are mistaken.


This is a really important thing ive learnt to.

Learning to utilize this will get you far.

Far easier done in real life than on an internet forum tho, with alot of close minded people.
edit on 9-4-2012 by CharterZZ because: (no reason given)



posted on Apr, 9 2012 @ 09:08 AM
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reply to post by silent thunder
 


You make some good points.

The problem on forums, though, is that most people are arguing, not debating. I don't think most people understand how to be respectful and open-minded in a debate. This is why we don't see it very often.

Another issue is that a lot of people use their political/religious/conspiratorial/etc. beliefs as a part of their identity. Thus, during an argument, they do not want to let go of a debatable tenet - even when a rational point is made about it - because they feel they are giving up a part of themselves.

This is why people become angry and this is when name-calling and group-bashing starts in. You are right, it is all fear.

Folks need to realize that a belief is a belief, not a definition... and a change in beliefs doesn't mean you have to redefine yourself as a person. On the contrary, it just means you are growing as a person because you are able to challenge your own beliefs and see the error in them!

Thank you for the insightful discussion topic.



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