‘The Dying Art of Disagreement’

‘The Dying Art of Disagreement’, an opinion piece by Bret Stephens in the New York Times is, as far as I’m concerned, required reading.

In it he examines how a disagreement between two people is handled in today’s society; how we’ve reached a point where in many cases two people of opposing beliefs are no longer having an actual conversation. At best one party will shout the other down whilst attributing political -isms or -phobias, at worst they’ll resort to violence.

More shockingly, a narrow majority of students — 51 percent — think it is “acceptable” for a student group to shout down a speaker with whom they disagree. An astonishing 20 percent also agree that it’s acceptable to use violence to prevent a speaker from speaking.

I’d be doing the piece a disservice by going on much longer. You should instead spend that time reading it for yourself. I’ll close with the following quote:

[T]to disagree well you must first understand well. You have to read deeply, listen carefully, watch closely. You need to grant your adversary moral respect; give him the intellectual benefit of doubt; have sympathy for his motives and participate empathically with his line of reasoning. And you need to allow for the possibility that you might yet be persuaded of what he has to say.

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